WiTricity and Intel agreed Wednesday that Intel would begin building in WiTricity’s wireless charging chips into platforms powered by Intel chips.
Intel said last week that it hopes to design a completely wire-free laptop by 2016 using its Broadwell processor, wireless I/O like Wi-Fi and wireless charging. The two key technologies that the laptop would include would be WiGig, to transfer video and graphics wirelessly, as well as wireless charging.
Intel said at the time that it had joined the Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP), whose Rezence wireless power standard is supported by Witricity. Both companies are on the board of the group. Now, Intel has licensed WiTricity’s technology, which works on magnetic resonance—devices don’t need to physically touch a charging pad to charge wirelessly. And A4WP's new spec will triple the available power, making wireless charging a reality for more devices.
“As part of this licensing agreement, WiTricity will work with Intel to integrate WiTricity’s patented technology to enable efficient, high performance wireless charging solutions for computing devices powered by Intel,” the two companies said.
“We have overwhelming feedback from end users that they are frustrated with dealing with all the different wires and power adapters for their devices – phones, tablets & PCs.” said Sanjay Vora, an Intel vice president and general manager of user experience said in a statement. “At Intel, we have a vision to eliminate all wires from all of our platforms. This agreement is a major step in the right direction enabling our companies to work together to deliver the next generation of devices that eliminate the need for power cords.”
Neither Intel nor WiTricity were immediately available for further comment. But while the agreement is a significant one, there’s enough wiggle room to make the significance of this announcement fairly variable.
Rival Energous also supported Intel's move.
"Intel’s commitment to eliminate wires from their platforms is a great first step in the transformation from wireless to wire-free," the company said in a statement. "Energous Corporation’s WattUp wire-free technology takes the elimination of wires one step further by adding power at a distance, true mobility, software control and Bluetooth connectivity to the charging experience, charging mobile devices over the air, rather than being tethered to a pad. Energous, through its licensing partners, is on schedule to demonstrate the first consumer products incorporating WattUp wire-free charging technology at the 2015 CES show."
Intel builds reference designs for its hardware partners in the notebook, tablet, and smartphone market, but most of its larger partners ultimately build their own designs, buying their own components. Intel’s presence in the smartphone market is minuscule, although it has forged an early partnership with Lenovo—a company whose phones are virtually unheard-of in the U.S. smartphone market, but whose overseas presence has made it a rapid up-and-comer.
If Intel were to tie the WiTricity technology somehow to its chips—through integration, perhaps—the deal would take on much more significance. Without Intel’s confirmation, however, we can’t assume that will happen.
Intel does seem committed to the concept of wireless charging. If that’s true, then we can expect some fairly major changes in PC architecture over the next decade or so.
Updated on June 12 with a comment from Energous.