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Samsung, Qualcomm Team to Advance Wireless Charging

Samsung, Qualcomm Team to Advance Wireless Charging
Wireless heavyweights Samsung and Qualcomm have joined forces with five other firms to form a coalition that will work to address an array of issues surrounding wireless power chargers.

The Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP) is seeking to develop a new wireless charging technology that will enable users repower a broad range of devices in cars, on tabletops or in airports, for instance, and to charge multiple devices at once.

The group is looking to develop a global industry specification for the technology that will win the blessing of standards bodies and certification and testing groups.

"Samsung has spent more than five years on this technology," Joonho Park, a senior vice president at Samsung who oversees the company's standards team, said at a launch event for the A4WP here at CTIA's Wireless 2012 conference. "Wireless power truly brings the product differentiation that is the focus [of why] Samsung's really going after this technology."

In addition to Samsung and Qulacomm, the A4WP also counts Ever Win Industries, Gill Industries, Peiker Acustic, Powermat Technologies and SK Telecom as founding members.

Park said the alliance will work to develop a certification for the wireless charging technology by the end of this year or early 2013.

Wireless chargers have already seen considerable interest both from established players like Samsung and upstarts looking to carve out a niche, with Powermat among the most prominent. But like most young technologies, the wireless charging segment does not have a set of specifications that are broadly agreed upon across the industry.

From a user's perspective, the idea is alluring, particularly at a time when people are juggling a growing number of mobile devices. Users could simultaneously charge their smartphones, tablets, e-readers or other devices simply by laying them on a desktop enabled with a charging transmitter, for instance.

The advent of wireless chargers "follows a very natural trend that we've been witnessing in the past decade or so to increase the wireless capabilities of devices," said Jason dePreaux, a research manager at IMS Research. "The power cord is really the last remaining aspect that is physically tethered to the device."

Edward Tiedemann, senior vice president of engineering and a fellow at Qualcomm, emphasized that the new alliance is hoping to attract broad industry participation and engagement in what he said will be an open process of developing the wireless charging standard.

"The key aspect of this is to develop the ecosystem," he said.

Tiedemann said that the new group will be organized around three core missions. The first will focus on developing the technical standards for wireless charging devices, including work with domestic, regional and international standards bodies. Then the group will also reach out to the testing certification and regulatory authorities, Tiedemann said, noting that those groups are commonly different from the standards-setting bodies. Finally, the A4WP will work to gin up industry adoption of its wireless charging specification through a technical marketing and communications program.

The standard will set parameters for features such as the signaling protocol, modes of operation and minimum requirements for minimum power delivery, Tiedemann said. But he insisted that the group will not seek to micromanage the ecosystem, affirming that the standard will not define aspects such as the form factor of the chargers, battery requirements or antenna specifications.

Kenneth Corbin is a Washington, D.C.-based writer who covers government and regulatory issues for CIO.com.

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