Two standards groups backing wireless charging plan to merge

The largest group Wireless Power Consortium is still pushing its standard

Two of three groups aiming to establish a standard for wireless charging of mobile devices have agreed to merge with an eye to quicker adoption and economies of scale for the technology.

Interest in wireless charging technology has seen a surge as device makers try to make it easier for customers to recharge devices, without having to carry around power cables.

The groups are the Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP), backed by over 140 companies including Intel and Samsung Electronics, and the Power Matters Alliance, a 70-member group that has AT&T and Starbucks on its board.

They have agreed to merge their two organizations by mid-2015 and set up an as yet unnamed organization to "accelerate the availability and deployment of wireless charging technology on a global scale," according to a statement Monday.

The two organizations agreed in February to make their wireless power standards interoperable globally.

PMA has developed technology for inductive wireless charging with charging locations in venues such as select Starbucks and McDonald's stores, while A4WP has focused on wireless charging using magnetic resonance with a global product certification program under the Rezence brand. A4WP has typically claimed a larger charging area "beyond the mat" and capabilities such as simultaneous charging of multiple devices for its technology.

The merged groups are expected to aim to offer users a choice of both technologies. "The 'standards war' narrative presents a false choice," said Kamil Grajski, Board chair and president of A4WP.  "Consider that the typical mass-market smartphone contains a multiplicity of radio technologies (Bluetooth, NFC, WiFi, 3G, LTE) each built around a vibrant ecosystem, whereas other devices are single-mode (Bluetooth headset)."

"The A4WP PMA merger is in the same spirit: enable the market to apply technologies to their best use cases," Grajski added.

The groups had already proposed in February that A4WP would adopt the PMA inductive specification as a supported option for multi-mode inductive, magnetic resonance implementations, while PMA agreed to adopt the A4WP Rezence specification as the PMA magnetic resonance charging specification for both transmitters and receivers in both single and multi-mode configurations.

Both groups have strong competition from the Wireless Power Consortium, which has 217 members including Philips, Qualcomm and Nokia, and backs a standard called Qi. Some companies like Microsoft, Qualcomm and Samsung are members of more than one group, evidently wanting to hedge their bets. Microsoft joined PMA in April.

Under a letter of intent signed by A4WP and PMA, the boards of both industry groups will combine and will include AT&T, Broadcom, Duracell, Flextronics, Gill Electronics, Integrated Device Technologies (IDT), Intel, Powermat, Qualcomm, Samsung, Samsung Electro-Mechanics, Starbucks and WiTricity.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

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