FCC approves first 'contactless' charging device

By Ray Downs  |  Dec. 27, 2017 at 1:00 AM
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Dec. 27 (UPI) -- The Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday approved the first wireless, "from a distance" charger that doesn't need to make contact with the device to charge ts battery.

Energous, the California-based startup that developed the WattUp Mid Field transmitter, said the FCC certification "marks a significant milestone for the consumer electronics industry and paves the way for future wireless charging ubiquity" for a wide array of devices, including smartphones, tablets and more.

The WattUp powers devices by sending power via radio frequency energy at a distance of up to three feet, the company said in a press release. The WattUp is able to charge multiple devices at one time, provided they are within three feet, and does so automatically.

"Similar to WiFi, the WattUp ecosystem ensures interoperability between receivers and transmitters, regardless of the manufacturer, making the entire ecosystem flexible and accessible for consumers and manufacturing partners," the company said.

Martin Cooper, an Energous Board of Directors member, said the WattUp "represents an incredibly positive lifestyle change."

"This ground-breaking technology allows users to automatically charge their WattUp-enabled devices without having to remove them from their wrist or pocket, plug them in or place them on a mat to charge, freeing them from ever having to think about charging their devices again," Cooper said.

Matthew Reynolds, associate professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington, said contactless charging is a concept many companies have been striving to develop for quite some time because of the enormous consumer demand.

"There is an enormous pent-up consumer demand for a long-range wireless charging technology which would enable devices such as smartphones, tablets, fitness bands, and health sensors to operate continuously without having to be plugged in or placed on a charging mat every day," Reynolds told PC Magazine earlier this year. "But long-range wireless charging has been held back by safety, efficiency, and cost."

That could change with Energous' announcement on Tuesday. But while they are the first company to win FCC certification of contactless charging technology, other companies have similar products in the works.

Pi, another California-based startup, says it has already developed a contactless charging device and raised $3.5 million from investors as of September, according to TechCrunch.

Both Pi and Energous have plans to roll out their devices within the next year.

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