Wireless options cut energy source cord clutter

Companies are trying to decrease cord need by developing wireless chargers.

by Mike Enright

With his laptop plugged into a nearby outlet as he ate lunch in Coffman Union on Tuesday, mechanical engineering junior John Dyste said he’s heard a little about wireless charging technology and said he thinks it makes sense.

“Why bother dragging all those cords and stuff around everywhere,” he said.

One company trying to cut the cords that people like Dyste rely on is Arizona-based WildCharge Inc. Headquartered in Scottsdale, the corporation makes the WildCharger pad, a charging pad less than one-tenth of an inch thick.

Once plugged in, the charger transfers energy to any mobile device – such as a cell phone or iPod – placed on its surface.

And according to company president Izhar Matzkevich, the pad can power up multiple gadgets simultaneously and do so with virtually no energy loss.

“The efficiency is basically 100 percent,” he said. “So it’s pretty much the same as a wired device.”

The pads come in two sizes: a 6-by-7-inch one that generates 15 watts of power and a larger 90 watt pad, which is big enough to power a laptop computer, Matzkevich said.

The pads cost between $40 and $100, depending on the power level.

But the technology is not without its limits. In order to be charged, devices must be touching the pad.

And while Matzkevich said the charger can easily be made compatible with all current technology, for most people to do so requires a special adapter for the pad, which will cost $15 to $20.

WildCharge plans to make its products available directly on its Web site this spring, he said, with chargers on store shelves soon after.

A fellow leader in wireless charging, but with a slightly different focus, is Fulton Innovation, maker of eCoupled technology.

Different than the WildCharge pad, eCoupled utilizes inductive coupling to charge devices sans cords, said director of advanced technologies Dave Baarman.

The technology is similar to that used in charging an electronic toothbrush, he said, but much more powerful.

And unlike WildCharge, Fulton’s immediate plans don’t involve making a wireless charging pad product, Baarman said.

Instead, the company licenses out its technology to businesses that make other products, which Fulton hopes to integrate wireless charging into, he said.

Some of their clients include office furniture designer Herman Miller and telecommunications giant Motorola.

In whatever form it arrives, many students seem to be looking forward to getting their hands on the new technology.

First-year student Christa Nicols said she wouldn’t mind getting rid of some of the many adapters in her life.

For her, a wireless charger would be very useful, she said.

“Especially in a dorm room, where you have like three outlets,” she said.

When asked how many outlets are in her room Nicols smiled and replied “not enough,” estimating that she and her three roommates share 12 to 14 outlets, all of which are used – and then some.

“I have to unplug the microwave to plug in my phone charger,” she said.

Although he probably wouldn’t buy a charger for his cell phone, Dyste said a charger pad works well for those kinds of devices.

What he would really like to see, he said, is wireless charging technology integrated into other products.

“Like if desks at the library had wireless (chargers) built in them, that would be nice,” he said.