“Wires, wires, wires” or possibly “a nest of vipers” could serve as a description for the space beneath my desk, where my MacBook’s battery cable snakes through a spaghetti of others from my phone, my digital-picture frame keyring, my wife’s phone charger, and my plug-in iPod charger. I wish that all of it were wirelessly chargeable. And it may be…soon, with Qualcomm’s new eZone system.
This week at the CTIA wireless tech show Qualcomm demonstrated its eZone wireless charging technology that promises to revolutionize how we connect our gadgets. Of course we’ve discussed wireless power before, and the Palm Pre will come with a dedicated wire-free charger system as an option–but none of those options have been quite as elegant as what Qualcomm showcased.
A two-part system, the eZone is a charging pad that houses the main transmitting power technology, and a tiny receiver coil fitted inside portable gadgets after modification. If it takes off it will be relatively easy to incorporate the coil into future gadgets designs. In its current incarnation, the coils are housed in an external appartus, much like an external battery. The intention is for eZone to work as a universal system that can charge several items simultaneously, as it doesn’t have to make direct electical contact with the device it’s charing. And as an added bonus, Wi-fi and Bluetooth connections will still work while devices are charging, so there’s the potential for auto-downloading photos from your camera or wirelessly adding music to your iPod.
The FCC has been involved so that the device meets safety guidelines easily, and the short-range fields from the device work well even if you pop a phone on the charger upside down, or accidentally propped up on a pair of house keys. eZone uses “near-field magnetic resonance” technology to work, according to company specs. The electrical efficiency is a tiny bit low, at around 40%–but it’s currently a prototype model, the figures will rise in a marketable version and it’s still likely to be much “greener” than having numerous power-sipping wall-warts dotted about your home.
Qualcomm also notes that the tech is capable of charging beefier items like cordless drills, and is flexible enough to be integrated into furniture or even laptop lids–just flip your cellphone on top of your PC to top it up.
There’s just one problem, eZone is a prototype, a research project, a “technology demonstrator,” and Qualcomm hasn’t made any comment on when it will go to market with it. Too bad. I’d buy one right now. And, with that tangle of wires you have in your office, I know you would too.