Wireless charging: With WiGL, battery power is in the air

Finding just the right place to charge a smartphone is often a challenge, even in one’s own house, and plugging in usually means the device’s user isn’t straying more than a few feet from the wall outlet if they want to use that device while it’s charging.

Wireless charging pads can help, but are a bit of a misnomer since devices like smartphone and smart watches need to be on the pad to keep charging. What if there was a way to enable real wireless charging, untethered from a wall outlet?

Smart wireless power company WiGL (pronounced “wiggle”) may have a solution. The company recently completed an experiment demonstrating an ad-hoc mesh networking capability to allow wireless recharging of connected devices at distances of more than five feet from a power source. In this case, the power source would be one of a series of transmitters on a wireless grid LAN (WiGL), embedded in walls or deployed in other ways around an indoor space. Each transmitter would be equipped with cellular-like beam-steering to allow a device in movement around a room to continue receiving a power charge as its signal gets handed off from one transmitter to another.

Essentially, this renders the need to monitor device battery levels while inside the coverage area irrelevant, and device users would no longer need to impatiently check their devices every few minutes to see how close they are to being fully recharged. 

“If you have our technology around you, your charging time is irrelevant because the room you are in becomes the battery,” said Cherif Chibane, chief scientist and CTO of WiGL. “Our vision is that sending power of RF [radio frequency] will replace wires inside the home.”

Chibane further told Fierce Electronics that if true wireless charging capability becomes widely available it could influence battery design for many different kinds of devices--smartphones, smart watches, home theater equipment, IoT-connected sensors, smart lighting and other devices or appliances equipped with wireless connectivity. Such devices could have smaller, more energy-efficient batteries produced at lower cost.

WiGL’s method stays within FCC regulations for Wifi (2.4GHz at 1 watt) and provides a coverage area for a grid LAN of 8 x 10 feet in which devices could be moving around or stationary--a TV with wireless connectivity, for example.

Chibane said WiGL sees its business model as licensing its technology to other larger device and technology companies, such as Apple, whose iPhone is notorious for its power requirements, who would build their own charging solutions. After the successful demonstration, WiGL is now hoping to create evaluation kits for companies and users interested in the technology.

“We have met our initial objective, which was to prove to them that this works,” Chibane said.

The company started down this path a few years ago, when Chibane, who had worked for MIT on projects for the U.S. Department of Defense, was called on by his former DoD counterpart to discuss an idea for sending power over the air.

“My background was in wireless communications,” Chibane said. “I didn’t know that much about power at the time, but I knew a lot about the distance challenges this would involve because of the concepts of cellular transmitters.”

Chibane’s DoD pal is now the president and interim CEO of WiGL, Dr. Ahmad Glover.