Wireless Power Consortium hits back at WiPower

The Wireless Power Consortium has hit back at claims that Qualcomm's rival WiPower technology is superior to the WPC-backed Qi technology, accusing the company of hyping up an as-yet unproven tech demo.

Qualcomm's Mark Hunsicker, leading the company's charge into the brave new world of wireless power, told thinq_ during an interview last week that his company's WiPower technology was the future of wireless charging - likening competing solutions such as Qi to the outdated technology used in electric toothbrushes.

"You see products on the marketplace today that require precise alignment, either using magnets or some sort of interconnection system to lock the device into the charging area. You look at the old toothbrush technologies, the electric toothbrushes: you get your toothbrush and put it precisely on a stand," he explained. "That's the same use case that tightly-coupled does today."

The Wireless Power Consortium, which is a conglomeration of multiple companies centred around an agreed technology standard known as Qi - which is incompatible with Qualcomm's WiPower technology - disagrees with Hunsicker's claims.

"It is not correct that the Qi standard requires 'precise alignment,'" WPC chairman Menno Treffers explained to thinq_. "Some Qi implementations require alignment," he admitted, "because that is a very low-cost solution. Other, more sophisticated, implementations have complete freedom of placement."

With regard to Hunsicker's other claims about the advantages of WiPower over Qi, Treffers remained unconvinced. "It is hard to comment on a demo when I don't know the technical details that matter most in real products. The field of wireless power has a history of great demos that came to nothing. The oldest example is Tesla in 1891," he explained, referring to a demonstration of wireless power transmission by Nikola Tesla in the 19th century - a tech demo which did not result in a practical implementation.

"The problem with demos is that key aspects remain hidden," Treffers claimed. "What is the efficiency in a real product; what is the standby power; are the emitted electromagnetic fields below regulatory limits; does it interfere with other products; what is the cost to implement this in a product?"

These are all questions that Qualcomm has yet to answer with a commercial implementation, but ones that the WPC has already addressed. With multiple products already on the market, and some key industry names signed up to the standard - including Nokia, National Semiconductor, Philips, ST-Ericsson, and Texas Instruments - Qi, Treffers claims, is an already proven technology.

With the wireless charging market expected to grow over the next few years as consumers seek more convenient ways of charging their multitudinous portable devices and car and furniture manufacturers seek to embed the technology into their products, the fight between the two standards is likely to intensify.

Eventually, however, the market will decide the victor - and a new era of cross-compatible wirelessly-powered gadgets will begin.