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Discovering New Enhancements in Light-based Wireless Charging

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Wireless charging is a technology spreading in many electronic applications, such as consumer electronics, automotive and the Internet of Things (IoT). For low-power devices, wireless over-the-air (OTA) power transfer offers significant benefits, including the absence of cumbersome connecting cables and the reduction or elimination of batteries, which require maintenance to their replacement. Wi-Charge has made an important announcement about improving its technology to grow the industry and provide wireless charging for more devices and programs.

Wireless charging solution

Among the companies that offer solutions of this type, Wi-Charge stands out. Based in Rehovot, Israel, the company has developed a wireless charging technology based on infrared rays, thus differentiating from the classic inductive power transfer and RF charging. 

Wi-Charge has developed AirCord, a wireless power solution consisting of a transmitter and receiver that use a beam of light to charge different types of devices. According to Wi-Charge, unlike other technologies, where power decreases as the square of distance, with this technology the power is independent of distance.

Furthermore, power is supplied only to targeted devices, without spreading unwanted radiation into the surrounding environment.

Connected to the electricity grid (alternating or direct current), the wireless power transmitter (Figure 1) converts electricity into safe infrared beams, which deliver energy to the client devices.

On the other side, the wireless power receiver, which can be plugged into or embedded in a client device, converts infrared energy back to electricity. The receiver can then use this energy to charge an internal rechargeable battery or a super-capacitor.

The receiver sends back client device telemetry including battery status, usage stats, billing information and more.

A single transmitter can power multiple devices (which are automatically identified), while multiple transmitters can also be used in topologies for larger deployments, such as supermarkets, production floors, shopping centers, and restaurants.

Figure 1: AirCord wireless power transmitter (Source: Wi-Charge)

The Gen2 receiver

Recently, Wi-Charge announced a significant upgrade to its technology in an effort to advance the market and provide wireless charging to more gadgets and applications. Wi-Charge is advancing the realization of its goal of a wire-free world with the introduction of its Gen2 Receiver. The Wi-Charge Gen2 Receiver is a significant advancement for the sector that offers device manufacturers direct access and sets new norms in power, simplicity of integration, and form factor. 

According to Wi-Charge, the new improvements increase power while decreasing footprint to enhance the wireless charging capabilities and range of devices. With a footprint that is 30% smaller and delivers 40% more power than the previous version, the Wi-Charge receiver is now compatible with an even greater variety of devices and use cases.

According to Wi-Charge, the receiver has been improved with the following:

  • Complete charging solution: the Gen2 receiver now comes with a battery charger, a control interface, and an output voltage that can be customized. It can also send customer warnings and telemetry from the receiver to the transmitter, which can then send it to the Wi-Charge cloud
  • Increase in Power: the Wi-Charge transmitter can now power more devices with a single transmitter, as well as devices that need more power to run their features or have more power-hungry features overall
  • A reduced total bill of materials (BOM) for the client device. This is the result of simpler electronic integration, improved aesthetics, and easier mechanical integration into the original system (using less R&D funds).

“With the first-generation receiver these new enhancements were not existing, and everything was done on the customer side. Our second-generation receiver includes all those capabilities inside one package which is highly appreciated by our customers as it makes integration trivial and at a lower cost”, said Ori Mor, co-founder and chief business officer of Wi-Charge in an interview with EE Times.

Ori Mor, co-founder and chief business officer, Wi-Charge.

The working parameters of the Gen2 receiver, such as, for instance, the voltage level used to recharge the battery, can now be configured via software. That means the customer can simplify the design of the solution, saving time and reducing cost. With the previous generation receiver, Wi-Charge had to design the battery pack, and then integrate it with the customer’s PCBA which included the battery charger, the voltage converter, and the processor that would communicate over I2C how much battery was available inside the battery.

Eli Zlatkin, vice president,  R&D, Wi-Charge.

“With our second-generation technology, all those features are already inside the receiver. All you have to do is to wire it to the battery and configure it with the relevant parameters. That’s it, you just have to do the wiring and the mechanical packaging”, said Eli Zlatkin, vice president, R&D, Wi-Charge.

The new receiver achieves a substantial improvement in power, size, and cost. As Zlatkin pointed out, it is not that the power has been increased, but the efficiency.

“The power our Gen2 receiver gets from the transmitter is the same as before, but the efficiency is significantly improved. Previously, our lower power devices were providing 60 mW, whereas now they’re at 100 mW. And the higher power devices went from 250 to 330 mW, and all that was achieved using the same transmitted power level”, said Zlatkin.

These improvements have been achieved by using better and more efficient components, redefining the layout of the circuit, and better understanding how to use the controller. The module has not been designed for external integration, or as a plug-and-play device for consumer applications. It’s only for internal integration inside the device, by means of a small cheap connector that was not available with the previous generation.

Additionally, a network with multiple transmitters and receivers (see Figure 2) can be built, allowing the customer to prioritize a particular device over other types of devices. It can be thought of as a sort of quality of service (QoS) feature, where a certain customer might pay more for a higher priority in charging.

Figure 2: Wi-Charge network with multiple transmitters and receivers (Source: Wi-Charge)

For instance, if in the same network there are a smart lock and a toothbrush, it might be more important for the lock to have a full battery. Therefore, according to Wi-Charge, we could define a policy where the lock gets higher priority in charging than the toothbrush.

“For the next year, our focus will be based on wireless power advertising displays, smart locks, and other smart devices for access control in small buildings. We are already working on a commercial charging pad that you can place in meeting rooms or restaurants and a toothbrush charger. Additionally, we might also enter the electric shades, electric blinds, and industrial markets, as well. What we do with OEMs on the consumer side unfortunately can’t be disclosed. But it’s exciting,” Mor concluded. 

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