Powermat joins the wireless charger fray

Powermat joined several companies offering products for charging portable gadgets without wires.

Powermat has joined a list of companies that promise to reduce the clutter from using a separate charger cable for every cell phone, MP3 player and other electrical device.

The company will start selling a product later this year that allows devices to be placed side by side on a power mat where they are recharged. The mat is plugged into the electrical outlet instead of each individual device. The idea is to let people to carry fewer cables when they're travelling, and avoid having to hunt around the room for multiple wall outlets to plug things in.

The basic set-up includes a mat that looks like an elongated mouse pad and one or more "receivers" that lay on top of it to charge the devices. Some of the receivers are sleeves that fit over the devices, others are dongles that plug into them and rest on the mat. There's also a docking station that holds any type of iPod.

The mat uses magnetic induction to transfer electricity to the device via the receiver, and the receivers contain a chip that tells the mat how much power is needed and when charging is complete.

Powermat is one of several companies showing wireless power products at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week. Some have already beaten it to market.

WildCharge already offers a power mat and sleeves for the Motorola Razr, Blackberry Pearl and Blackberry Curve, and it's expected to add more devices this week.

While Powermat uses magnetic induction, WildCharge uses conduction -- its sleeves have metal components that form a closed circuit with the device. It claims this gives it near 100 percent efficiency, while Powermat gets about 85 percent efficiency, said Powermat's Beth Harrison Meyer.

Powermat says it will support far more devices, however. As well as the phone sleeves and docking stations, it showed a receiver that plugs into portable game machines like the PlayStation Portable and Nintendo DS, and another that plugs into a laptop.

The company plans to offer five different mats for different situations, like home and office. The mats will be priced at about US$100 and the receivers $30, Harrison Meyer said. They will go on sale in September or October in the U.S., she said, and possibly earlier in Europe.

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