Wireless Power is now hitting mainstream consumer markets. Smithers Apex recently spoke with David Green of his presentation titled " The Growing Reach of Wireless Power".
As consumers are quickly adapting to wireless power, where do you see the industry going in the next 5 years?
David Green: Much of the buzz around wireless charging so far has clearly been around mobile phones – no surprise given the huge volume potential, and the fact that consumers understand the use case easily. As you say, consumers have adapted quickly and in fact we’ve found in our consumer survey that one in four mobile phone owners have used wireless charging and 98% of those say they want the feature on their next device. People are using wireless charging and enjoying the experience. So from this point, the industry has two directions to go – further improvements on mobile phones, and diversification across other applications such as wearables and laptops, or even markets like industrial and medical. That’s what will drive the market from the 200 million receivers shipping this year to over 2 billion a year in 2026.
What has been the biggest advancement/success you’ve seen in the industry recently?
David Green: The biggest success comes any time OEMs and suppliers/partners get wireless charging into the hands of consumers – from that point forwards the technology experience sells itself. By volume alone, the biggest success therefore remains the Samsung Galaxy smartphone range. In our consumer survey last year, the most desired improvement in wireless power was increased charging speed, so the fact that Samsung added an (albeit proprietary) option to go above 5W with an own-brand charger shows good intention too. However, 2016 has been a strange year for the wireless charging industry for advancements and success –awareness and demand from consumers has never been higher and there’s huge R&D effort within the industry, yet there’s been a general lack of new products released by OEMs for consumers to get their hands on. Expected launches of wireless charging on laptops and of resonant technology on any application have come and passed without firm commitment. The longer this ‘gap’ continues, the bigger the risk that consumers will simply move on to other technology and features.
What are some of the challenges facing the broad adoption of wireless power?
David Green: Success of technology comes down to two questions: is this technically possible, and who will pay for it? On the technical side, I think wireless charging is becoming increasingly application-specific. For example, in mobile phones that’s solving any interference issues and working for metal casing; for laptops it’s that final integration of the module into a production-ready device; for wearables it’s making form factor small enough – all whilst lowering cost and meeting regulation. As for the financial side, the biggest single factor is always consumer demand – without that then nobody gets paid! So for each application, getting wireless charging into OEM devices is key, regardless of which exact technology is used, to start building awareness and desire. It seems that everyone is poised to be second and third to the market, but nobody wants to take that risk of being first.
What are you looking forward to hearing about at this year WP summit?
David Green: Ideally I want to hear actions and launch schedules! I think it will be interesting to hear the latest technical progress on diversifying wireless power for niche applications, for example coil sizes for wearables and higher power for laptops or tools, plus an update on development and readiness of uncoupled technologies. However, this is a critical time for wireless charging in consumer applications at least, so I look forward most to hearing practical steps and solutions to get more consumers into the ‘wireless charging user’ category in 2017 and beyond.