Wire­less charg­ing firms speed up

Chinese reg­u­la­tors seek in­dus­try stan­dard as sec­tor looks set to boom

Global Times - Weekend - - TECH - By Ma Jingjing

China’s wire­less charg­ing in­dus­try is evolv­ing rapidly, with mar­ket play­ers ex­pect­ing the sec­tor to boom this year with the launch of the new iPhone se­ries.

Based on elec­tro­mag­netic field the­ory, wire­less charg­ing tech­nol­ogy trans­fers en­ergy be­tween two ob­jects via elec­tro­mag­netic in­duc­tion or res­o­nance. By do­ing this, it pro­vides an in­no­va­tive and con­ve­nient way to charge elec­tri­cal de­vices such as smart­phones, home ap­pli­ances and even elec­tric ve­hi­cles.

Af­ter it was un­veiled that wire­less charg­ing tech­nol­ogy would be used in the iPhone 8, 8 Plus and X in early Septem­ber, in­dus­try in­sid­ers be­lieve the sec­tor is on the verge of a boom and has ac­cel­er­ated in­dus­trial lay­out.

Xi­a­men Newyea Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy Co, es­tab­lished in 2014 in Xi­a­men, East China’s Fu­jian Prov­ince, is a high-tech firm spe­cial­iz­ing in wire­less charg­ing tech­nol­ogy re­search.

Al­though it was only es­tab­lished re­cently, the com­pany now owns more than 130 patents, with ap­pli­ca­tions in­clud­ing con­sumer elec­tron­ics, smart home ap­pli­ances and elec­tric ve­hi­cles.

Lin Gui­jiang, pres­i­dent of the com­pany and also a sci­en­tist of the Min­istry of In­dus­try and In­for­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy, told the Global Times on Mon­day that the com­pany has car­ried out re­search in wire­less en­ergy trans­mis­sion based on var­i­ous dis­tances as well as dif­fer­ent power lev­els.

On Septem­ber 22, Newyea launched 15-watt wire­less charg­ing chips. As for medium-power tech­nolo­gies, the com­pany has 24watt to 200-watt tech­ni­cal re­serves, which can be ap­plied to the smart life sec­tor such as smart small home ap­pli­ances, un­manned drones and self-bal­anc­ing ve­hi­cles.

In ad­di­tion, the com­pany’s 3.7 kilo­watt, 7.7-kilo­watt and 30-kilo- watt wire­less charg­ing sys­tems for elec­tric ve­hi­cles have al­ready re­al­ized in­dus­tri­al­iza­tion, Lin said, not­ing that wire­less charg­ing sys­tems of 100-kilo­watts or above will also en­ter trial op­er­a­tions by the end of 2017.

Shang­hai-based NewEdge Tech­nolo­gies is one of the few Chinese firms that is fo­cus­ing on sys­tem of chips (SoCs) de­sign for wire­less power and re­lated prod­ucts and ap­pli­ca­tions.

Es­tab­lished in 2013, the com­pany launched Qi com­pli­ant medium power wire­less charg­ing in­te­grated cir­cuit (IC) chips in June 2016, the first among the more than 200 mem­bers of the Wire­less Power Con­sor­tium (WPC), said Zhang Liang, a man­ager of the com­pany.

Backed by in­ter­na­tional giants in­clud­ing Ap­ple Inc, Sam­sung Elec­tron­ics, Qual­comm In­cor­po­rated and do­mes­tic com­pa­nies such as Huawei Tech­nolo­gies Co, Xiaomi and Xi­a­men Newyea, WPC’s Qi is the most widely adopted global wire­less power stan­dard.

The com­pany has also de­vel­oped low power IC chip de­signs, in­clud­ing 5-watt, 10-watt and 15-watt, Zhang told the Global Times on Mon­day.

In ad­di­tion to th­ese two com­pa­nies, many other start-ups are also evolv­ing at a rapid pace. The Shang­hai-based Chushan Tech­nol­ogy is one ex­am­ple, gain­ing three rounds of fund­ing since its es­tab­lish­ment in Oc­to­ber 2015.

Play­ing catch-up

De­spite th­ese com­pa­nies’ tech­no­log­i­cal achieve­ments, do­mes­tic firms are still try­ing to catch up with ma­jor semi­con­duc­tor play­ers in the US and EU, Zhang noted.

“As China has no wire­less charg­ing stan­dard yet, most Chinese firms adopt WPC’s in­duc­tive Qi stan­dard, which pow­ers smart­phones, ac­ces­sories and other elec­tri­cal de­vices. And those tak­ing part in the stan­dard for­ma­tion process are mainly semi- con­duc­tor giants such as Qual­comm and Me­di­aTek,” he said.

There are now two ma­jor in­ter­na­tional wire­less charg­ing stan­dards – WPC and AirFuel Al­liance. Both stan­dards are based on in­duc­tive charg­ing tech­nol­ogy and fairly short ranges, while AirFuel is not only used in smart­phones, but also in busi­nesses such as Starbucks by of­fer­ing charg­ing sta­tions, ac­cord­ing to a re­port on in­dus­try web­site an­droidau­thor­ity.com in Jan­uary.

Chinese com­pa­nies have their own tech­ni­cal route, for ex­am­ple, of­fer­ing di­rect cur­rent via wire­less charg­ing tech­nol­ogy as op­posed to al­ter­nat­ing cur­rent, said Zheng Jiatu, deputy man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of the China Elec­tric Ve­hi­cle Charg­ing Tech­nol­ogy and In­dus­try Al­liance.

Fur­ther­more, the Chinese reg­u­la­tor and in­dus­try play­ers are step­ping up ef­forts to de­velop a na­tional stan­dard of wire­less charg­ing tech­nol­ogy, ac­cord­ing to Zheng.

Fol­low­ing the dis­cus­sion of a na­tional stan­dard for elec­tric ve­hi­cle wire­less power trans­fer sys­tems in Oc­to­ber 2016, ex­perts and firms gath­ered in Yan­tai, East China’s Shan­dong Prov­ince to ap­prove the stan­dard in May, lo­cal news site ql1d. com re­ported.

In ad­di­tion, al­though some Western firms have taken the lead in terms of re­search and de­vel­op­ment, Chinese firms have done more to pro­mote the new tech­nol­ogy, Zheng said, not­ing China’s huge pop­u­la­tion gives it an ad­van­tage for the wide­spread ap­pli­ca­tion of wire­less tech­nol­ogy.

Com­mer­cial ex­pec­ta­tions

Al­though the tech­nol­ogy is rel­a­tively ma­ture, com­mer­cial ap­pli­ca­tions are rare be­cause of a lack of ap­pli­ca­tion sce­nar­ios at present, Zheng said.

The power con­ver­sion ef­fi­ciency of wire­less charg­ing is around 90 per­cent, sim­i­lar to the 93 per­cent and 94 per­cent of cable charg­ing, but the new tech­nol­ogy is more con­ve­nient be­cause peo­ple do not have to carry around their charg­ers with them, he said. Be­sides, smart­phone and other elec­tronic de­vice pro­duc­ers are will­ing to ac­cept a price of less than 20 yuan ($3) a wire­less charg­ing chip.

With the de­vel­op­ment of tech­nol­ogy used in In­ter­net-con­nected cars, smart cities, un­manned driv­ing and in­tel­li­gent park­ing, there will be a huge mar­ket in high power wire­less charg­ing in the fu­ture, he said.

Given the adop­tion of wire­less charg­ing tech­nol­ogy in the iPhone 8, mar­ket play­ers are pre­dict­ing that the com­mer­cial ap­pli­ca­tion of low and medium power wire­less charg­ing tech­nol­ogy will come this year.

“Wire­less charg­ing tech­nol­ogy doesn’t tar­get a spe­cific in­dus­try. Hence, the cross-in­dus­try ap­pli­ca­tion char­ac­ter­is­tic makes it pos­si­ble that the drive of any ap­pli­ca­tion in­dus­try can lever­age its large-scale uti­liza­tion,” Lin from Newyea said.

“An in­creas­ing number of do­mes­tic smart­phone man­u­fac­tur­ers such as Huawei and Xiaomi are fol­low­ing suit. Their flag­ship phones may be equipped with this tech­nol­ogy in 2018,” said Zhang from NewEdge, not­ing that the grow­ing us­age of re­ceivers will also drive the need for trans­mit­ters such as mo­bile power pack shar­ing.

On Septem­ber 21, Xiaomi ap­peared on the mem­ber list of the WPC un­der the ap­pli­ca­tion cat­e­gory of con­sumer elec­tron­ics, mark­ing the high-tech firm’s ex­pan­sion into the wire­less charg­ing sec­tor.

Ac­cord­ing to cal­cu­la­tions car­ried out by a re­search team at Tian­jin Polytech­nic Univer­sity, the global wire­less charg­ing mar­ket valu­a­tion for smart­phones, wear­able de­vices and elec­tric ve­hi­cles will reach $14.77 bil­lion by 2020, with a com­pound an­nual growth rate of 93.31 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to a doc­u­ment sent to the Global Times on Tues­day.

A Toy­ota FCV Plus ve­hi­cle with wire­less bat­tery is on dis­play.

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