We’ve all been there. You unpack from a trip and realize your charger is back at the hotel. Or your phone dies right as you Google your destination. “Keeping your cell phone charger around is a real annoyance,” said Marty Cooper, who built the first mobile phone in 1973.
This annoyance will just increase as we become increasingly dependent on gadgets that require charging – phones, watches, fitness devices, even glasses. “You won’t want to take all of them off and plug them in,” said Cooper.
Perhaps you won’t have to. Energous, a United States company, wants to eliminate the need for chargers by using radio frequencies to continuously charge phones. (Cooper sits on the board of Energous.) Using special receivers, devices would pull energy from the radio waves, charging them on the go, no wires needed.
Marty Cooper. Credit: Source.
Energous announced that it received approval from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for a miniature transmitter. This transmitter is not currently equipped to charge phones: The approval mainly extends to wearables (like hearing aids).
Currently, these devices need direct contact with the transmitter to work. However, the company hopes that in the next year or two, the transmitters will be able to charge devices a few inches away, and then further still.
Even as the technology advances, there are some roadblocks to overcome. For one, the technology needs to be embedded in the device, which means that manufacturers will have to agree to install the transmitter.
WattUp transmitter. Credit: Source.
Perhaps more importantly, whatever technology is invented to make batteries obsolete (other companies have proposed laser beams and sound wavesto externally charge phones), the FCC will need to approve it. The FCC ensures that all radio, television, wire, satellite and cable communications are managed properly and do not interfere with each other. This process will take time. Think about how long it took for the FCC to allow mobile communication devices to remain on during airplane take-offs and landings. Experts point to that example as an indication of how long it might take for approval of this sort of radio technology to charge batteries.
But while there are significant roadblocks, the new technology also marks a significant milestone. Said Cooper, “Energous is one large step closer to fulfilling its vision of bringing wire-free charging to consumers.”