Fragmented wireless charging field thins as organizations unite

Power Matters Alliance and Alliance for Wireless Power join forces to combat Wireless Power Consortium

Two rival consortiums defining wireless power standards have merged specifications, narrowing the field of organizations competing to define how mobile devices are charged when they are not plugged into power outlets.

Instead of competing with each other, the Power Matters Alliance (PMA) and Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP) have agreed to join their separate specifications to create a unified standard. The specification, called Rezence, will be pitted against another specification created by a competing wireless power standards organization called Wireless Power Consortium, whose Qi standard is used in many mobile devices and electronics today.

With the battle for standards so fragmented, some top mobile companies like Qualcomm and Samsung have joined all the wireless charging standards organizations, including WPC, to work on emerging wireless standards. The goal of the companies was to ensure their products supported the wireless charging standard that ultimately wins out.

Qualcomm has developed a technology called WiPower based on standards established by A4WP, which allows users to wirelessly recharge smartphones and tablets without placing them in direct contact with charging pads. However, devices need to be placed on a surface with a built-in wireless charging source.

But the WPC remains the largest wireless power standards organization, with 200 members. WPC's Qi standard has been used in smartphones, tablets, cars and other electronics. Outside of Apple, most mobile phone makers support the Qi standard.

Interest in wireless charging technology is growing as device makers try to make it easier for customers to recharge mobile devices. Organizations that are not consumer electronics firms are also interested in wireless charging. At International CES this year, Audi showed wireless charging capabilities in its cars. McDonald's has tried out Qi-based wireless charging stations, and coffee chain Starbucks is putting wireless charging capabilities based on PMA specifications in its stores.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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