The Charging Tech Uniting Apple, Samsung and Other Phonemakers | WSJ Tech Behind

The Wall Street Journal
14 May 202406:27

TLDRThe video explores the technology behind wireless charging, which uses electromagnetic induction to transfer power from a transmitter to a receiver. It explains the safety measures taken to prevent overheating and the development of the Qi standard by the Wireless Power Consortium, which includes over 350 companies. The Qi2 update, based on Apple's MagSafe design, improves efficiency and charging speed with the use of magnets for better alignment. The technology is also being adapted for higher power applications like kitchen appliances through the Ki standard. The goal is to make wireless charging as ubiquitous as Wi-Fi, with a vision for widespread adoption by 2025.

Takeaways

  • 📡 **Wireless Charging Technology**: Wireless chargers use electromagnetic induction to transfer power from a transmitter to a receiver, similar to induction cooking but with added communication for smart charging.
  • 🔋 **Safety Measures**: To ensure safety, wireless charging systems include measures to prevent power from escaping as heat, which could be dangerous.
  • 🔧 **Early Challenges**: One of the initial engineering challenges was to prevent accidental heating of objects like a paperclip placed on the charging pad.
  • 🤝 **Qi Standard**: The Qi standard, released in 2010, includes a communication protocol that adjusts power transfer based on discrepancies, ensuring safe and efficient charging.
  • 📈 **Qi Ecosystem Group**: The Wireless Power Consortium, led by Vuori, comprises around 350 companies working to standardize wireless charging for smartphones and other devices, ensuring safety and interoperability.
  • 🔌 **Higher Power Levels**: Wireless chargers are evolving to use higher power levels for faster charging, with Qi2 designed to adapt to higher wattages in the future.
  • 🧲 **Qi2 and MagSafe Design**: Qi2, based on Apple's MagSafe, uses magnets to align coils for more efficient and faster charging.
  • ⏱️ **Charging Time**: Wireless charging typically takes longer than wired charging, but advancements like Qi2 aim to reduce this time.
  • 🔄 **Alignment Issues**: Users often struggle with aligning their devices correctly for optimal wireless charging, an issue that Qi2's design helps to mitigate.
  • 📱 **Universal Charging Standard**: Qi2 brings different smartphone manufacturers, including Apple, under a single universal charging standard, facilitating widespread compatibility.
  • 🏗️ **Ki Standard for Appliances**: The consortium is also working on the Ki standard to remove cords from kitchen appliances, handling high power levels up to 2.2 kilowatts.
  • ☕️ **Ki's Benefits**: The Ki standard not only provides efficient power transfer but also keeps surfaces cool, avoiding heat-related issues.

Q & A

  • What is the fundamental principle behind wireless charging?

    -Wireless charging operates on the principle of electromagnetic induction, which is the same technology used in induction cooking but with an added communication channel to make the devices smart.

  • How does the wireless charging process work?

    -Electricity is supplied to the wireless charging pad via a wire, which is then converted into a magnetic field by a coil. This magnetic field induces a current in the coil within the phone, which is then used to charge the battery.

  • What was one of the main challenges engineers faced when developing wireless charging technology?

    -One of the main challenges was avoiding the heating up of objects accidentally placed on the charging pad. Engineers had to find a way to prevent the magnetic field from overheating foreign objects that could potentially melt a phone case or cause a fire.

  • How did the Qi standard address the issue of foreign object detection in wireless charging?

    -The Qi standard relies on communication between the transmitter and receiver over the power signal. If there's a discrepancy between the power sent and received, the charger either reduces power or shuts off entirely to prevent overheating.

  • What is the role of the Wireless Power Consortium (WPC) in the development and standardization of wireless charging?

    -The WPC is a group of about 350 companies that work on technologies to standardize the way all smartphones and other mobile electronic devices charge wirelessly. They also certify that products brought to market are safe and compatible with each other.

  • What is the Qi2 standard and how does it improve upon the original Qi standard?

    -Qi2 is the Wireless Power Consortium's biggest update since 2010, based on Apple's proprietary MagSafe design. It uses magnets to ensure the transmitter and receiver coils align precisely, increasing efficiency and making charging faster. Qi2 currently works at 15 watts and is designed to adapt for higher wattages in the future.

  • What are some limitations of wireless charging compared to wired charging?

    -Wireless charging can take longer than wired charging, with even fast wireless chargers often taking twice as long as their wired counterparts. Users may also struggle with aligning their device correctly on the charging pad.

  • What is the potential impact of Qi2 on the wireless charging ecosystem?

    -Qi2 brings Apple and other smartphones to the same universal charging standard, enabling a universe of widely compatible accessories and public chargers. This gives companies confidence to deploy infrastructure, leading to a significant growth in wireless charging deployment and usage.

  • What is the Ki standard and how does it differ from Qi2?

    -The Ki standard is a new initiative by the WPC to remove cords from kitchen appliances. It deals with higher power levels, up to 2.2 kilowatts, which is equivalent to the power of two microwave ovens running simultaneously. It adapts the same technology used in wireless chargers and induction cooktops for higher power applications.

  • What are the benefits of using the Ki standard for kitchen appliances?

    -The Ki standard allows for direct power transfer to appliances like kettles, enabling rapid heating with high power levels. Additionally, the surface remains cool to the touch, eliminating heat on the surface or the bottom of the appliance.

  • What does the future hold for wireless charging technology according to the script?

    -The technology is expected to become more widespread, with the Qi2 standard potentially enabling a level of ubiquity similar to Wi-Fi. Wireless charging could play a bigger role in people's lives, with products adopting the Ki standard likely appearing on the market around 2025.

  • How does the Qi certification ensure the safety of wireless charging products?

    -The Qi certification involves hundreds of tests aimed at preventing issues like overheating and overvoltage. Products that have been certified for Qi are tested to ensure they work safely together and are compatible with other Qi or Qi2 certified products.

Outlines

00:00

🔌 Understanding Wireless Charging Technology

This paragraph explains the inner workings of wireless chargers, which use electromagnetic induction to transfer power from a transmitter to a receiver. The technology is akin to induction cooking but includes a communication channel for smarter device interaction. Safety measures are crucial to prevent power leakage as heat. The process involves electricity being converted into a magnetic field by a coil in the charging pad, which is then converted back to electricity in the phone's coil to charge the battery. Early challenges included avoiding heating up of foreign objects, which was addressed by a decade-later solution involving communication between the transmitter and receiver to regulate power flow. The Qi standard, released in 2010, was a significant development in making wireless charging safe and efficient. The Qi2 update, based on Apple's MagSafe design, improves alignment and efficiency for faster charging, with potential for higher wattages in the future.

05:03

📡 Expanding Wireless Charging Applications

The second paragraph discusses the expansion of wireless charging technology beyond smartphones. It introduces the Ki standard, aimed at removing cords from kitchen appliances by adapting the same wireless charging technology used in induction cooktops. The challenge with Ki lies in handling high power levels, equivalent to two microwave ovens running simultaneously. The technology allows for direct power transfer to appliances like kettles, with the added benefit of a cool surface, indicating no heat transfer to the countertop. The Ki standard is set to launch later in the year, with market availability expected around 2025. The ultimate goal is to achieve the same level of ubiquity for wireless charging as Wi-Fi, making it an assumed presence in everyday life.

Mindmap

Keywords

💡Wireless Charging

Wireless charging refers to the process of transferring electrical energy between a power source and an electronic device without the need for a physical connection. In the context of the video, it is the main theme as it discusses the technology behind charging smartphones without cables. The technology uses electromagnetic induction to transfer power from a charging pad to a phone, turning the magnetic field into electricity that charges the phone's battery.

💡Electromagnetic Induction

Electromagnetic induction is a process where a changing magnetic field generates an electric current in a conductor. It is the fundamental principle behind wireless charging, as mentioned in the video. The technology involves a transmitter (charging pad) and a receiver (phone), where the magnetic field from the transmitter induces an electric current in the receiver's coil, thus charging the battery.

💡Safety Measures

Safety measures are critical components or protocols designed to prevent harm or damage during the operation of a system. In the video, safety measures are discussed in the context of preventing heat generation that could be dangerous if power were to escape. The development of wireless charging technology involved creating safety mechanisms to avoid overheating objects placed on the charging pad by mistake.

💡Foreign Object Detection

Foreign object detection is a feature that allows a device to identify and respond to the presence of unexpected items between the transmitter and receiver of power. In the video, this technology is highlighted as a solution to the challenge of avoiding heat generation from foreign objects like a paperclip placed on the charging pad. If a discrepancy is detected in the power transfer, the charger reduces power or shuts off.

💡Qi Standard

The Qi standard is a set of specifications developed by the Wireless Power Consortium (WPC) that allows electronic devices to be charged using inductive coupling. The video explains that Qi, released in 2010, was a central part of the wireless charging standard that enabled communication between the transmitter and receiver to ensure safe and efficient power transfer.

💡Wireless Power Consortium (WPC)

The Wireless Power Consortium (WPC) is a group of companies that collaborate to develop and promote the Qi wireless charging standard. In the video, it is mentioned that WPC has around 350 member companies working on technologies to standardize wireless charging for mobile devices. The consortium also certifies products to ensure they are safe and compatible with the Qi standard.

💡Qi2

Qi2 is an update to the original Qi wireless charging standard, introduced by the Wireless Power Consortium. The video discusses Qi2 as a significant advancement that includes features based on Apple's MagSafe design, using magnets to ensure precise alignment of coils for increased efficiency and faster charging. Qi2 is designed to work at higher wattages, although the higher power levels are not expected to be released until at least 2025.

💡Alignment

Alignment in the context of wireless charging refers to the precise positioning of the device on the charging pad to ensure optimal energy transfer. The video mentions that users often struggle with alignment, which can affect charging efficiency. The introduction of Qi2 and the use of magnets help to address this issue by ensuring the transmitter and receiver coils are correctly aligned.

💡Efficiency

Efficiency in the context of wireless charging pertains to how effectively electrical energy is transferred from the charging pad to the device without loss. The video emphasizes the importance of efficiency as phones become more powerful, requiring faster charging times. The development of Qi2 aims to improve efficiency, allowing for faster and more reliable wireless charging.

💡Ki Standard

The Ki standard is a new wireless charging specification being developed for higher power applications, such as kitchen appliances. The video describes Ki as an extension of wireless charging technology to eliminate cords from appliances, handling power levels up to 2.2 kilowatts. The standard is expected to launch late in the year of the video's release, with products becoming available around 2025.

💡Ubiquity

Ubiquity in the context of the video refers to the widespread availability and use of wireless charging technology, similar to how Wi-Fi is taken for granted in many places today. The goal expressed in the video is for Qi2 to enable wireless charging to become as common and accessible as Wi-Fi, implying that it would be available everywhere and accepted as a standard feature in public and private spaces.

Highlights

Wireless chargers use electromagnetic induction to transfer power from a transmitter to a receiver.

A communication channel is added to the induction process to make devices smart and safe.

Safety measures are crucial to prevent power from escaping as heat and causing damage.

The 1996 prototype phone could charge wirelessly, showcasing early innovation in the field.

Engineers faced challenges in avoiding overheating of objects mistakenly placed on the charger.

The Qi standard, released in 2010, includes foreign object detection to enhance safety.

Vuori chairs the Qi ecosystem group, working with over 350 companies to standardize wireless charging.

Qi certification ensures products are safe and compatible with other certified devices.

Wireless charging technology doesn't require a physical connection to work.

Nokia's Lumia 920 was the first major smartphone with Qi charging.

Wireless charging can take longer than wired charging, but technology is improving.

Qi2, based on Apple's MagSafe design, uses magnets for precise alignment and faster charging.

Qi2 is designed to adapt for higher wattages for future faster charging capabilities.

The Qi2 standard brings Apple and other smartphones to a universal charging platform.

The Wireless Power Consortium is expanding to other applications with the new Ki standard for kitchen appliances.

Ki standard deals with high power levels, aiming to remove cords from kitchen appliances.

The Ki standard is set to launch late this year, with products expected around 2025.

The goal for wireless charging is to achieve ubiquity similar to Wi-Fi.