Wire-free electricity promised for mobile devices

A microchip company has claimed to have solved the "last wire" dilemma, and early next year aims to deliver a conductive pad that...

A microchip company has claimed to have solved the "last wire" dilemma, and early next year aims to deliver a conductive pad that can power computing devices resting on top of it.

The "last wire" dilemma refers to the need to regularly charge a mobile-computing device by plugging into an electric power source. On Monday, Californian company MobileWise previewed its "wire-free" electricity technology.

An early design of the technology resembles a thick rubber place mat. Metal "connectivity points" span the surface of the pad and deliver power to laptop computers, mobile phones or other devices placed on the surface.

MobileWise chief executive officer Andy Goren said its potential uses are diverse. One obvious benefit is that the pad, which has a single power cord that plugs into the wall, could replace the multitude of chargers required for individual devices because it can power any number of devices that fit on top.

Computer and handheld device maker Acer has committed to releasing a number of "next-generation" mobile computing devices in the first half of next year that will ship with a wire-free power supply based on MobileWise's technology, said Acer chief technology officer Arif Maskatia.

Acer would not disclose which devices would first ship with electricity pads, although a demonstration of the technology featured Acer's soon-to-be-released TravelMate Tablet PC.

Samsung has also announced a partnership agreement with MobileWise to use the technology in future Samsung products, as have Japanese manufacturers RF Technology and Hanrim Electronics, which will produce the pads for device makers.

The base is safe to human contact and emits no harmful radiation, the company claimed. It will only distribute power to devices placed on top of it that include a special microchip developed by MobileWise that sends information to the pad, such as how many watts are required to power the device.

MobileWise has developed a chip that can be integrated into the chipset of any device so it can draw power from a pad. It has also developed the reference designs for pads of various sizes, which will be customised and built by licensees of the technology. They are expected to cost less than $200 and will be available early next year.

However, the pads will also work with some devices that do not ship with MobileWise's chip. It is working with manufacturers to release adapters that can plug into existing computing devices. Some potential adapters that will be released include replacement mobile phone batteries, as well as small adapters that plug into a device's power input jack.

Rob Enderle, research fellow with Giga Information Group, could see only one drawback. "The problem is that people aren't going to want to buy the mat unless there are devices that work on them," he said.

MobileWise said the technology could also transfer data, and could someday replace a notebook docking station that is used to distribute electricity as well act as the connection point to the Internet and peripheral devices. The company is also looking at other markets, including toys and household appliances.

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