Freescale wants to make wireless charging cheaper, more ubiquitous

The company has offered reference designs to cut the cost of building charging stations for smartphones

With the introduction of three new reference designs, Freescale Semiconductor wants to cut the cost of wireless charging and offer the technology for tablets and power tools, the company said on Thursday.

Though wireless power is still in its infancy, the technology has massive potential for use in many consumer applications, according to Freescale. The company's vision of the future includes the ability for users to charge their devices in cars, coffee houses, airports and other public areas.

"Anywhere where there is a battery, there is really a potential for wireless," said Randy Ryder, product manager at Freescale.

For wireless charging to become ubiquitous, costs have to come down and one of Freescale's new reference designs, which is aimed at smartphones, was created to help make that happen. The design, for a transmitter, is aimed at cutting the bill of materials and lowering overall system cost by about 10 percent to 15 percent, according to Ryder.

The company is also working on lowering the cost of implementing wireless charging on smartphones, either by integrating the technology into the battery or the phone, and a related product will be available next year, Ryder said.

Freescale is also introducing an integrated wireless charging platform for tablets. The related reference design consists of two main components: a transmitter mat and a receiver embedded inside the back cover of the tablet.

The last of the new reference designs shows how wireless charging can be used by high-capacity, single- and multicell battery packs. Target devices include power tools and handheld radios.

The reference design charges four Li-Ion battery packs simultaneously to deliver a total of 120 watts of power, according to Freescale.

The reference designs are meant to show makers of charging stations and devices how the technology can be implemented.

"We already have a lot of alfa customers that are evaluating all three reference designs ... I think the mobile phone market is really the one that has the highest level of activity. That is also where the volumes are," said Ryder.

All three reference designs are compatible with the Qi standard, which the Wireless Power Consortium (WPC) develops.

The Qi standard and the WPC are about to get some competition. Recently, Samsung Electronics and Qualcomm joined forces and formed the Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP), which also aims to lower the cost of wireless charging.

The A4WP announcement was interesting, but the companies haven't proved themselves in the market and have not shown that a supply chain is in place, Ryder said.

In the end, for wireless charging the become ubiquitous, vendors have to converge on one standard, according to Ryder.

"To gain the true benefit of wireless charging you have to have interoperability, so that any one smartphone works on any charging station," said Ryder.

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