Wireless Power Is Coming

Companies like Energous and Ossia are developing ‘true’ wireless charging that works over the air so you can power up at a distance. But don’t throw away your charging cable just yet.

Mobile World Congress is one of those events that make you realize the thin line between civilization and barbarism is the width of a single charging cable.

Anyone who’s attended MWC (or any massive trade show) is familiar with the creeping dread caused by watching your phone’s battery power seep away over the course of a very long workday. Tweet by tweet, photo by photo, text by text, the percentage points tick away, until you’re scrambling in your bag for a battery pack amid a tangle of chargers and cables or searching the packed halls and press lounges for a free plug point—an oasis in the desert.

Imagine you never had to seek out an outlet, carry a backup battery, or stuff an array of cables into your bag again; that all your devices were being charged continuously, no matter where you went. Someday you may not have to imagine it—because companies like Energous and Ossia are working to make it a reality.

Nikola Tesla first envisioned a wireless power transmission system in the early 1890s; he even attempted to build an experimental station, Wardenclyffe Tower, which he hoped would be the first in a worldwide wireless system. Today, phones, smartwatches, and other devices sometimes come with inductive charging coils, which let them charge wirelessly through resonant inductive coupling. But this method relies on direct contact between the device and a charging pad—hardly the untethered future Tesla imagined.

That’s where Energous and Ossia come in. Both focus on developing “true” wireless charging that works over the air (OTA) so you can power up at a distance. This is the wireless charging we were promised over a century ago. Could our dependence on cables or tethered charging solutions finally be coming to an end?

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