Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Look, Ma -- No Wires!

This has nothing to do with running but it's fascinating stuff.

My wife and I have said, many times, how much we wish someone would come up with a way to recharge stuff without having to have wires running everywhere. It's moved from Sci-Fi to real life. I had seen the PowerMat charging system for cell phones, etc, but the technology is moving ahead very quickly. The following was in a report of the CES (Consumer Electronics Show) from TidBITS (#1009, 11-Jan-10)

Finally, we come to the blender. It was a perfectly ordinary blender, sitting on a black box. It whirred like all blenders do. Then I noticed that there were no wires attached to the blender. It ran, like the toaster that sat next to it, on inductive power. There have been inductive power pads around for a while for charging low-power devices like cell phones, but blenders and toasters are orders of magnitude more thirsty for electricity.

The magic in the black box comes courtesy of Fulton Innovation's eCoupled technology, which uses magnetic induction to create a current in receiving devices. eCoupled electronics communicate with the black box to tell it how much power it needs. Electronic devices within range of the box which do not communicate with it are somehow left out of the induction field. When I expressed concern that other devices would burst into flames while the wireless power was active, the presenter turned on the blender, put his cell phone down next to it, and offered to let me make a call.

I can't say that I have an engineer's understanding of electricity, but I was under the impression that magnetic induction is an all-or-nothing sort of thing. Fulton has apparently managed to create a power supply which can feed kilowatts to intelligent devices, without affecting other electronics within range. I think he probably could have cloned a cat, √° la Nikola Tesla in "The Prestige," and I wouldn't have been any more surprised by the demo.

Common implementation of ubiquitous wireless power would completely change our relationship with technology. Picture a laptop with a battery that never runs down, because it's constantly being charged. There isn't a single electrical device that couldn't benefit from this technology, and many would be transformed by it.

I can't say whether Fulton will be the company that succeeds in bringing inductive charging to the mass market, but it was immediately clear to me that this technology is the future.

Here are some web links to additional information. The Wikipedia article on inductive charging talks about the development of proximity transmission of electricity (versus the device having to actually be in contact with the power source as is the case with the Powermat and the above blender):

eCoupled Wireless Housing
Wikipedia Article on Inductive (wireless) Charging
Wikipedia Article on Wireless Energy Transfer

The techie/gadget-loving/geeky side of me sort of wishes I had gotten the Powermat. :-D This is really cool.

Run well, y'all,
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