MWC 2013: Duracell Powermat seeks ubiquity with wireless charging wherever you go

A whole new wave of mobile devices will be hitting our stores over the coming months having been unleashed here at MWC, but while design, features and performance may vary between each device, there is one common theme we can expect to run through so many of these new products – poor battery life.

Rarely do we expect our smartphones to last much over a day if they are being used regularly, yet for Duracell Powermat, who ITProPortal met on Monday, this isn’t such a bad thing. Our constant thirst for mobile power has opened up a gaping hole in the market ready to exploited by wireless charging companies, and the progress of Powermat suggests it may be the group best placed to capitalise on a growing tech trend.

Starting with its more typical products for use at home and in the office, Powermat is preparing to launch a completely wireless charging pod for the iPhone 5 (below), which will arrive in the UK towards the end of 2013, Scott Eisenstein, VP of External Relations told ITProPortal. Bundled with a phone case which is needed to transfer the power, and a back-up charging source if the main mat runs low, it is likely to prove a popular bundle among users of the Apple smartphone not exactly known for its long life. Pricing details have not yet been disclosed.

Already available, however, is the Duracell Powermat for iPhone 4, 4S and the Samsung Galaxy S3, which can be bought online for around £65. Eisenstein said the most popular consumer smartphones had been targeted for the first Powermat products, but confirmed the technology was in place for a rollout to all other major devices.

The team was also keen to show off its forthcoming charger for Apple’s Macbook Air and iPad. The mat in question was strikingly compact and portable, and had the ability to know how much power was needed for specific devices – omitting between five and 50 watts for tablets up to laptops.

But Eisenstein said the key differentiator between Duracell Powermat and its rivals was the open PMA standard it has adopted, allowing it to partner with all manner of different organisations. This has spawned the production of ‘Wireless Charging Spots” throughout the US, with global implementation in the pipeline. “In order to really reach people, you need to be able to charge throughout your day,” Eisenstain said. “Right now, you put another app on your phone and you can’t even make it past lunch time. And people don’t want to just charge in their office or in their home, they want to be out and about and still be able to charge.”

The charging spots (right) - small circles barely protruding from a table’s surface - start powering a device (sporting a Powermat case) as soon as it is laid down, enabling easy charging on the go. The spots can already be found in locations including 17 Starbucks outlets across Boston, Westfield Shopping centres, Jay-Z’s 40/40 Clubs and at Madison Square Gardens in New York.

In the future, Duracell Powemat wants its charging spots in everywhere that sees heavy human traffic during the day, such as coffee shops, hotels, gyms, universities, and salons. With the power being free to use, premature phone deaths on a busy day could soon become something of the past.

The group is also planning to remove the hassle of requiring the charging case to use the spots, as small wireless charging cards (WiCCs) can be slotted in alongside NFC chips, filling up the real estate left between the chip and the battery. Incorporating this connectivity with little adaptation to a phone’s inner hardware is an appealing proposition for handset manufacturers, and the technology could be included in phones from US carriers as early as this year.

Speaking to Duracell Powermat, it is clear the group is striving for dominance reaching levels of near ubiquity, and given the story of the original group, you couldn’t argue against its ambition. Originally known as just Powermat before merging with consumer heavyweights and Duracell owners Proctor & Gamble in 2011, Eisenstein described how its team of just 50 people working in the small town of Abu Ghosh near Jerusalem produced tech that “kicked the butts” of larger firms – including Proctor & Gamble itself.

Now the small Israeli outfit has the assistance of such a sprawling organisation, it believes anything is possible. “It’s a great combination of technology and reach,” Eisenstein said. “It’s a perfect marriage and we’re just starting to see the benefits now.”

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