Webinar: Practical considerations for long-range wireless power

25 July 2018

This July 18, 2018 Webinar featured Wi-Charge CEO, Victor Vaisleib and CMO Yuval Boger.

They discussed the different methods for delivering wireless power and what to consider when evaluating wireless power options. Specifically, the Webinar:

  • Provided a framework to map the requirements of wireless power systems
  • Presented two practical use cases of wireless power
  • Discussed power, range, safety and other important considerations
  • Described the Wi-Charge IR-based wireless power technology

The full recording is below, followed by the transcript

Yuval Boger (CMO): Hello everyone, and welcome to the Wi-Charge practical wireless charging webinar. My name is Yuval, I’m chief marketing officer for Wi-Charge. And I also have with me Victor Vaisleib, CEO of Wi-Charge. Hey Victor.

Victor Vaisleib (CEO): Hi Yuval. Hi guys.

Yuval: Excellent. So, in this webinar we’ll cover some ideas that we have about practical wireless charging, cover some use cases as they relate to the wireless charging. During the webinar, you should feel free to send me questions via the chat window. We’ll have a Q&A session at the end, but we’ll try to answer them as we go. So, let’s get started.

I think the first question is, “Why use wireless charging?” And we see three reasons why people want to consider wireless charging. The first one is keep devices charged. Everyone’s got a phone, lots of people have “battery anxiety”. They worry about their battery running out, where is the nearest charger, what can I do about it, and so on. With wireless charging, there’s an opportunity to keep your devices charged without thinking about it, without having to actively manage the battery. We sometimes say that’s it like a water well. Many years ago, there were water wells and the family had to manage the water supply in their home. They had to think about how much water they had. They had to go to the water well. And today you just got to kitchen, you open the faucet and water’s there. And it would be great if you didn’t have to think anymore about battery charging, it was just there.

The second reason people look at wireless charging is to eliminate battery replacement. Your battery operated devices, and replacing batteries is both a pain for the consumers and sometimes limiting the functionality of these devices. So, we speak for instance, with smart door lock vendors that say, “Wow, I wish our door lock could also make a small video recording. Anyone that approaches my door, maybe there was a three second recording that’s made and uploaded to the cloud. But I can’t do that because I’m battery-limited.” And, “Wow, if I had endless power supply wirelessly, then I could add all these features that people really want.”

And the third reason that people want to wireless power is to eliminate power cables. We see that for instance in smart buildings. Smart buildings are smart because they have all these sensors, but the sensors require power to be delivered to them. And many sensors, there are many wires and then there’s a lot of installation costs, and complexity involved, and if there was wireless power then you wouldn’t need to spend all that money.

But wireless charging and wireless power means different things to different people. For some people it’s as simple as charging a toothbrush without a wire. For others, it’s charging a phone. For others, it’s, “I want to charge a Tesla. I want to charge an electric vehicle.” And, “How do I charge it? Do I charge it on a pad, do I charge it in a room, do I charge it from space?” So, we want to start making some sense of all the wireless charging options. And to do that, we’ve created a framework to help explain how we see the wireless charging world. And Victor, maybe I can turn it over to you to start talking about that framework.

Victor: Thanks Yuval. People have been talking about wireless power for, I think, slightly over a decade now, and I think there is still a lot of confusion about the very basics of what wireless power is. So let me probably just make sense of two things.

First, when we say wireless charging and wireless power, we use them interchangeably. I prefer the term wireless power when we talk about technology and I will talk more about wireless charging when we speak about applications and user experience. But essentially, they’re the same. The second is, I think it was not stated clearly enough. It’s almost obvious, but the two key parameters for wireless power are power and distance, believe it or not. The reason why these two are the things you need to look at in wireless power are as follows. These are not just technical parameters, but actually they determine much of the application and the user experience later one. So, let’s go over them one by one.

Let’s start with power. So, power is not just some number expressed in Watts. Power actually determines what devices or what kind of application you can support. Here, since most people are not familiar with Watts and don’t know how to map devices to Watts, I provided here some scale that basically places, representative device categories into their appropriate power bracket. I don’t have here anything of the really high power. So, no electric vehicles here. No atomic submarines, anything like that. Everything on the list here are small electronic devices. By the way, you can notice that even within that categories of small electronic devices, we have a lot of discrepancy between devices in terms of their power consumption. For example, a laptop computer will take about 1000 x more power than a wireless mouse. So, in terms of wireless power, those two devices will demand vastly different approaches. In any case, power represents the types of devices that can be supported.

Yuval: So Victor, when you say peripherals, could you give some example of the peripherals and smart home devices?

Victor: That would be the classical keyboards, mice, remote controls, stuff like that. I say smart home, I’m referring to smart devices that will be connected to the cloud, and do some fancy things. Then peripherals will include also all the dumb devices that don’t do that much. They just perform one function, and don’t do a lot of number crunching.

In terms of distance, distance really stands for the charging user experience, or use case. And here, if the distance, the supported distance is very short, we’ll be talking about charging on a pad. The user would need to place the device on a pad. As we move further out to longer distances, we’ll be able to create a desktop environment, then we’ll be able to charge devices anywhere in the room. And finally, if we have even greater distance, we’ll be able to entertain some outdoor applications. But, in any case, what I want you to understand is power and distance largely determine the application and the user experience. That’s why those are the two most important parameters.

Now, let’s look at two representative examples of devices and how we place them on this map. So first, probably the most obvious example for wireless charging would be a phone. That’s absolutely the killer app for wireless power. So, if we’re taking the representative phone, it will be in our case an iPhone X. All of them are pretty much the same to each other. Charging the phone, to charge it you need power levels that start from, you can argue whether it’s half a Watt or a watt, but that would be the absolute minimum to get any kind of battery charging, and all the way up to 10 Watts in fast charging. But we say for our purposes, reasonable paces or reasonable speeds of charging states when you are delivering at least two or three Watts as a minimum. And of course, we would like to see the device charges wherever we put it. So, we will be looking at a distance of several meters from a transmitter that is placed in a single spot to support really, a kind of background charging without requiring the phone to be anywhere.

So, let’s see how it looks on the map. It would be fair to place a fairly wide silo around the phone where we see that phone requires anywhere in the range between one Watt and all the way up to 10 watts. In terms of user experience, we would appreciate very much a phone that charges anywhere in the room. That would be very, very useful, but as we know, we also have the charging pad use cases. They will be less useful. I think many people use charging pads. We know what they’re good for. The reason I’m showing the silo a little bit washed out on the edges, is because the usefulness of a charging pad is, of course, lower than the usefulness of phone charging anywhere. So, that’s one.

The second example we’ll take will be of a smart device. In this case, a smart door lock. What’s interesting about that, as opposed to a smart phone, typically the power requirements will be lower. In the case of a smart door lock, one tenth of a Watt, 0.1 Watts, will typically be enough to keep it do what it’s meant to do. In terms of distance that we need to support, that will be determined pretty much by where the nearest wall outlet is, because that where we’ll plug the charger, the wireless charger. So, it could be two meters. Probably in some cases it could less, it could be more, but that’s the representative distance. If we see it on the map, it occupies a smaller silo. It’s meaningless to charge something like a smart door lock on a pad. It’s not very meaningful to charge it outdoors, either. So, it’s more confined to a room environment, as it should be.

Now, while we have those two examples in front of us, the smart phone and the smart door lock, we can now discuss technologies and their applicability to perform various charging functions and support the various applications. So, we start with the obvious. We start with what’s available on the market. Magnetic induction has been around for quite awhile. We know that magnetic induction supports, of course, many types of devices, because it actually inductive charging spans the entire scope of small electronic devices all the way to notebooks, probably even beyond that. The limitation is of course, the very, very short distance that magnetic induction supports. For that reason, they’re confined today to the pad’s use case and the only applications that at least I’m aware of that inductive charging supports is personal mobile devices; so smartphones, tablets, sometimes smart watches but that’s about it. I think I never saw even a serious attempt to do any smart home device like a smart camera or a smart speaker or a smart door lock, certainly, using inductive charging simply because those applications typically need significant distance in order to be meaningful. Because there is no person behind them to periodically drag them to the charging pad.

So that’s what we have today on the market and this marginal support of personal mobile devices and total lack of support of smart devices of any other kind actually created a void into which quite a few companies attempted to enter and deliver a technology that will allow significantly longer charging distance in order to occupy or at least entertain those silos where you can charge either smart home devices or personal mobile devices anywhere in the room. The natural first stop, I think, for any company that tried to do long distance wireless power was of course RF.

RF is a natural choice because you know it’s served so well the communication space, I think they’re many commoditized components available for RF. There is a lot of engineering talent available for RF, and it just seems to be a very logical conclusion if it does so well in communications, it probably must do very well also with wireless power. Well, unfortunately, as some people discovered very quickly, and some others it took them years to come to this realization. It turns out that the very properties that made RF so well adapted to communication actually crippled RF when it comes to wireless power delivery. RF is a technology that when you try to pack it into a tight beam and send it over to some distant point it’s a technology that tends to disintegrate very quickly. In fact, it turns out that delivering RF beams over distances beyond one meter is almost impossible. We’re talking about practical implementations for electronic devices here, not some huge antennas and dishes.

Similarly, when you’re trying to crank up the power level, you basically discover that going beyond .1 Watt or something in this range, makes you violate the applicable safety standards for radio, which is also quite unfortunate. Eventually, you end up with a fairly humble envelope of potential performance, which certainly has much longer reach than magnetic induction, but the reach is limited and also the power level that you can support is really small. So I would say, it can probably very marginally support some of the smart home applications. It can support, very neatly, peripherals like wireless mice or keyboards in a desktop environment, applications that don’t require anything beyond a meter. But to really get to a meaningful support of the vast majority of smart home applications and personal mobile devices, that turns out completely outside the the realm of RF technology.

Fortunately for us, we understood that early on, and we looked for a technology that would cover powering both mobile devices and smart devices anywhere in the room. Those distances that it at least covers 10 meters of distance and can potentially go to 10 Watts and beyond. And we discovered a very nice thing. Basically, infrared. If you take a look at it it’s like kind of an unlikely choice because in the space of communications, it’s not very highly regarded. But it turns out that infrared has two magnificent properties that make it very well suited for a wireless power.

First, you can pack a very tight beam of infrared power and carry it over to fairly long distances. Think of a laser pointer for example, for a device that can carry a small beam without disintegrating over long distances. You get a sense of what infrared can do. You cannot do anything like a laser pointer with RF technology, it fills the entire space very quickly. So infrared, we have basically the capability of covering long distances without losing shape, without disintegrating, and delivering all the power to the client device.

The second thing, which is even more attractive is that now while RF is man-made radiation, was invented basically 100, 150 years ago and before that there was no RF in the universe or almost no RF. In fact, it turns out that it’s quite harmful to all forms of life and that’s why safety limits kick in at such an early point. Infrared, on the other hand, has been with us all along. It’s about half of the solar energy heating the Earth is infrared. So basically, when forms of life on Earth developed, they developed bathing in infrared, so we’re very much adapted to infrared biologically. That’s why infrared exhibits roughly 100 times more relaxed safety limits than radio. The summary of that is that we found infrared to be not the most suitable but fundamentally, the only suitable technology to get us to a solution to boost mobile devices and smart devices and to cover ranges of 10 meters and even beyond that.

Yuval: So just to summarize why we think we infrared is good. With infrared, we’re able to deliver a focused narrow beam of light directly from the power transmitter to a very small receiver. Infrared is natural light and because the beam is so small and focused then 100% of the beam reaches the receiver. Well, if 100% of the beam reaches the receiver that means that 0% of the beam reaches other objects or people or animals or pets in the space. Where you look at other technologies, they’re usually man-made radiation, the beam diverges quite significantly. That means that if you have a small receiver such as the one you’d like to embed in a phone, the receiver can capture only a very tiny fraction of the energy. That’s very inefficient, not only inefficient but you don’t capture a lot of this energy. As Victor alluded to, if you’re trying to crank up the energy on the transmitter’s side, you very quickly run into safety limits. Only a tiny portion of the energy reaches the receiver, such as the phone, and all the remaining energy is wasted or worse, hits people, object, pets, or other things that you didn’t intend to bathe in radio frequency radiation.

In terms of what Wi-Charge can do today, very quickly. We have units that we now work with partners to integrate into devices. At present, Wi-Charge can deliver up to three Watts for a device so that’s plenty to charge a phone, to operate smart home devices, and do a lot of other things. We can do at least five meters (or about 16 feet) and we’ve seen much more in our lab. Our chargers, our power transmitters can work with multiple devices so not just the one device at a time but multiple devices. Because infrared is natural light and a completely different frequency than WiFi or cellular communications, an infrared power delivery does not create any interference with existing communication networks or communication devices. Where we are in our progress is we have units that we provide to data partners and we expect that in the next couple of months, you’ll start hearing announcements about third party vendors that are creating products powered by Wi-Charge to alleviate either the battery problem, the wiring problem, or just keeping devices charged. So at this point, I’d like to open the floor for questions. I do have a couple of questions that I’ve already received and Victor, maybe you can address them. You’ve touched on it a little bit but talk to me about safety. Is the Wi-Charge product safe? Can I use it in my home? Do I have to worry about anything when I use the Wi-Charge product?

Victor: Yes, it is safe. So let me answer on a completely different level than the arguments of natural radiation and so on. Well, simply put, we devoted the year 2017 to complying with all applicable safety regulations. In the case of infrared, by the way, the world is pretty much harmonized. There is a single set of standards, which you need to comply with and infrared sources are classified in a way that you need to … for a consumer device. The state of the art is being considered what is called a Class I product.

Class 1 product is something like an optical mouse or a laser printer. These are all Class 1 devices. They pose no risk. They need no precautions when you use them. They’re completely safe. That’s the level we achieved as well. We achieved that both versus international standards and with the FDA, which we approached as a separate process and received their clearance as well.

So right now, our technology, the devices we’re starting to promote with customers is basically cleared on the world-wide basis from the standpoint of safety.

Yuval: And if I understand correctly, Victor, the reason it’s FDA clearance is because our products use light and I think the FDA is the agency that’s responsible for testing light-based products. If our product was using radio frequency, for instance, then we would need to go to the FCC.

Victor: Yes, exactly. In the United States, there is split jurisdiction between the FCC and the FDA with respect to radiation-emitting products. The FCC got the privilege to regulate all communications and also to administer the safety of radio-emitting products. With respect to every other product, it’s still the FDA.

Yuval: Now, we mentioned that we can do three Watts at about five meters, and that’s, of course, a lot more than we’ve seen with other technologies, but can it go even higher? I mean, can we expect five Watts, seven Watts, ten Watts? I mean, where do you think the limit is, or what do you expect to happen in the next couple years?

Victor: Well, we tend, as practical people, we often only see the next immediate target in front of us. So I would say everything up to ten Watts seems to me achievable, within I would say, two years, three years maximum. In terms of distance, we’re not that focused on that, but we … I know our record so far was 100 meters. Had we focused on that, we’d probably pushed that envelope even further.

It’s difficult to say where the absolute limit is because every time we conquer a new horizon, we see new ways to extend it a little bit further. So it’s hard for me to say. I would never expect our technology to charge an electric vehicle. That seems to me beyond the reach, but I would not be very surprised if it was going to be 100 Watt technology within five to ten years.

Yuval: Now what does it mean to integrate with Wi-charge technology? So I’m a device manufacturer in an example, and I want to add functionality to my battery-operated device. What do I need to do other than call us up? What do I need to do in order to integrate Wi-charge into my product? How does the receiver look like? Is difficult integration? Is it simple? Talk to me about that please.

Victor: Okay, so first of all, I think what you mentioned is very important. It better be a battery-operated device because the way wireless power works, in most cases, it needs to be wireless charges. So what you actually do with the power we provide wirelessly is you charge a battery, a local battery on the device. Now once you get our hardware, the receiver we have is a small slab, about five centimeters, two-inch long. And the integration is basically, it’s a two-wire system. You have a plus and minus. It serves like an unregulated power source. The integration is fairly simple. You only have the plus and minus wires to integrate, so it’s easy as integrating a battery basically.

And the charger, the transmitter, is a standalone device. So basically, there’s even no integration there.

Yuval: Very good. So if Wi-charge delivers a focused beam of flight from the transmitter to receiver, does that mean that it requires line-of-sight? Does that mean that it requires the receiver to see the transmitter? And, if so, is that a problem?

Victor: To answer that, maybe you can go back to the slide number 13. So yeah, the performance I mentioned here is all line-of-sight performance. And it turns out that wireless power … We’re very keen on delivering all power, or the bulk of the power, to the client device, and not waste it along the way. And that’s why basically line-of-sight is very important. When you’re trying to do wireless power that is non line-of-sight, you’ll typically be able to support significantly shorter distances and significantly lower power levels because, as you know, because of non line-of-sight, you’ll have to waste much more energy into the surrounding. Your safety limits will kick in much earlier in the process.

So I would say, non line-of-sight is possible in principle, but the performance envelopes of all technologies, by the way, not only infrared, will have to move down by at least one square, one notch on this chart. And it will become very borderline for infrared to deliver meaningful performance, and certainly for other technologies, it will be completely unworkable. So is a problem? Yeah, line-of-sight is a bitch, but I don’t think we or anyone else has any solution right now to the safety problem without line-of-sight.

Yuval: So you’re basically saying that even for radio frequency, that notion that you can bounce off walls is technically correct, but when you bounce off walls, some of the energy is absorbed, some of the energy is scattered in all kinds of directions, so you lose the vast majority of energy, regardless of which technology you use, if there’s no line-of-sight between transmitter and receiver. Is that about right?

Victor: Exactly. When you bounce off walls, you typically lose 90% of the energy on that bounce. By the way, very similar numbers for infrared and for RF. And eventually, this will cripple your ability to deliver meaningful power. Because now that lost power became a safety problem for you. So that’s why it’s very easy to speak about non line-of-sight wireless power, but it’s almost impossible with existing technology to actually achieve it. So we don’t even try to prefunct it. Maybe in five years we’ll figure out how to do something non line-of- sight. Maybe not. But as of today, I think it’s not a realistic possibility.

Yuval: So it’s more about delivering meaningful energy levels. I mean, it’s technically possible, but it’s not useful if you don’t have line-of-sight. When do you expect beta partners to be able to integrate Wi-charge technology, and when would you expect Wi-charge enabled products to be on the market?

Victor: So we started integrating our technology already. There are some ongoing projects. And I believe we will see a few announcements, I hope by CES. And products in the market, we’ll see them certainly within a year from now. Hopefully sooner.

Yuval: Excellent. So, I think that’s all the questions I received thus far, so I think we’re going to wrap it up. A couple of interesting places for the audience: One, we put up a nice demo site with will-it-charge.com that has a couple of one-minute demos. You can see a phone charging; you can see a wireless speaker. You can see other devices being charged. Also some reviews that third parties have done of our product. Corporate site is, of course, Wi-charge.com where you could submit a partnership request or ask us questions or just sign up for our wireless insights. And then of course, lots of social media that we support.

So thank you very much, Victor. Thank you for all these people that have participated in this webcast.

Victor: Thank you all.


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