Standards wars are par for the course in the technology industry: CDMA v GSM, Blu-Ray v HD DVD, VHS v Betamax. When it comes to wireless power, there are three players in the field – but according to one, the war should be over far sooner than most people expect.
Last month two of the three players in the wireless power field, the Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP) and Power Matters Alliance (PMA) signed a deal for interoperability between their two standards. But the biggest grouping, the Wireless Power Consortium (WPC), thinks it's too little too late and that it will win the war.
"Some of the research we've seen suggests the market should have decided by 2018, but I think it'll be closer to 2015," John Perzow, VP of market development for the WPC, told The Register. "We sold 20 million devices last year, double the previous years' sales, and the adoption curve is rising."
Perzow said the competition may be working fairly closely together, but they are still lagging far behind the WPC's Qi (pronounced chee) standard, which has 200 members and 400 products shipping with compatible hardware, and that number is growing.
On Monday Microsoft and Samsung joined the group as board members, giving the WPC feedback on how the standard should develop and is deployed. The two companies are also making a significant financial contribution to the WPC as part of their involvement.
A key reason for the move is that the two tech giants get the point of wireless power, Perzow said, namely that it isn’t just about eliminating power cables, but about enabling phones and tablets to communicate with new devices and using personal systems in new surroundings.
"Cars are going to be an early adopter and brands like Audi have already signed up to Qi," he said. "You can already use Bluetooth to stream music to your car for example, but in a couple of blocks the phone is out of power. By putting a wireless power charger in there you can make the phone your entertainment hub for the trip."
Hotels were another vertical sector likely to benefit from wireless power he said. Many hotels now supply power connectors, but when Apple or others change their standards replacing the cords, it's a substantial cost. In addition, hotels could configure their wireless chargers to offer new services to the phone user while it's charging.
All this requires one standard to rule them all, and many in the market aren’t going to make a decision until the standards war is settled. All that's going to take time, but Perzow said the WPC's lead in partners and hardware leaves it ideally positioned to either drive others out of the market or force them to accommodate the QI standard. ®