For several years now, the mobile phone market has embraced wireless charging technologies with several well-established standards. Among them is the Qi standard, which Apple also used to support wireless recharge on the new iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X. Thanks to the new iPhone feature, the popularity of wireless phone charging will grow.
Until now, the possibilities of wireless charging devices have been limited: for the most part, they worked only if you put the smartphone on top of the device. Raise it a couple of centimeters - and that's it, the charging process is interrupted.
But can you really do that? According to a start-up based in California, Pi, the answer to this question is affirmative. The startup Pi, speaking on the hackathon TechCrunch Disrupt Battlefield, intends to change this. Pi is an American start-up that aims to reduce the limits of wireless charging, enabling devices to be recharged even at short distances. They united MIT graduates and developed a gadget called Pi Charger, capable of charging several devices at the same time, which are within a radius of 30 cm from the charger in any direction. Of course, this is not an ambitious task that other companies are trying to solve (for example, charging all devices in the same room), but still greatly increases the usability of the technology.
The appearance of the wireless charger is presented by quite an elegant and truncated cone. Placing it near smartphones or tablets, users will be able to recharge the battery. The range of Pi Charger is limited to 30 cm (12 inches). Pi engineers used the principle of resonant induction of the Qi standard, which is incorporated in new iPhones, and in many Android devices. The secret ingredient, according to co-founder John McDonald, is a beam-forming algorithm that allows you to safely guide the magnetic field to where the device is located. In the past, other companies had suggested charging wirelessly remotely, such as Energous WattUp.
The Pi Charger is less effective, but less invasive and more practical. Certainly, this is a step forward, compared to current pads that require you to lean the smartphone on them in order to be recharged. The technology was also shown live at TechCrunch Disrupt Battlefield 2017, where four devices were positioned about 30 centimeters from the Pi Charger, thus initiating the charging process thanks to the wise use of the magnetic fields.
Devices can be placed within a range of about 30cm from the wireless charger, but charging will be faster as they are placed closer to the charger. By placing up to 4 mobile gadgets around the Pi Charger, users can recharge them with a maximum power of up to 10 watts. However, during the presentation at TechCrunch Disrupt, Pi demonstrated charging of 4 smartphones and 1 tablet. According to the inventors, the increase in the number of energy-powered devices reduces the efficiency and speed of such charging, although interaction with more than 4 devices is allowed.
“What’s at the heart of this is this algorithm that lets us shape a magnetic field,” John tells me. “It’s an old idea… but, the real genius behind this — my co-founder Lixin [Shi] — he was able to reduce this problem that was so complicated that you’d need several minutes of compute time on the latest i7 processor to solve. He came up with these matrices that could prove that you could get to an optimal solution in just two clock cycles on a simple microcontroller,”reports TechCrunch.
All mobile devices that support the Qi standard are compatible with the Pi Charger. Among such smartphones are Samsung Galaxy S8 / S8 Plus / Note 8, iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X. For gadgets that do not support Qi technology, special cases are provided.
By the way, the first 314 users will receive a discount of $ 50. At the moment, the company has already received $ 3.5 million of investment and plans to introduce their Pi chargers to the market in 2018 at a price that fluctuates around $ 200. Wireless charging is, therefore, facing a new evolutionary step, with the first fruits to be seen starting from 2018.