The battle to become the industry standard for wireless charging has entered a new phase, with the Wireless Power Consortium announcing a partnership with testing specialist TÜV Rheinland to open an independent testing compliance lab in Taiwan for Qi products.
Qi, for those who don't know, is the Consortium's proposed standard for wireless charging technology. Using hidden antennas and clever circuitry, it allows portable devices such as smartphones and games consoles to be charged simply by placing them on a suitably-enabled surface.
Although current Qi products are largely limited to obtrusive mats that get wired into the mains, the Consortium is already looking towards integrating its technology into furniture - for a meeting table that can charge attendees' devices, for example - and even into cars for on-the-go top-ups as users travel from place to place.
It's not the only company investing in the technology, however: semiconductor giant Qualcomm has its own standard, known as WiPower, which it claims offers several advantages. "We have a technology at Qualcomm that permits an area to be charging itself," Qualcomm's Mark Hunsicker explained to thinq_ during an interview earlier this year. "What that means is that you can actually take the device to be charged, you can just throw it down - or place it down - in that general area, and therefore it'll be charging immediately."
While Hunsicker claimed that such flexibility was unique to WiPower, the Wireless Power Consortium begged to differ. "It is not correct that the Qi standard requires 'precise alignment," WPC chairman Menno Treffers explained to thinq_ shortly after Hunsicker's interview. "Some Qi implementations require alignment," he admitted, "because that is a very low-cost solution. Other, more sophisticated, implementations have complete freedom of placement."
The WPC's chief advantage over Qualcomm's WiPower is industry acceptance: while WiPower has yet to make it to market, the WPC has over 90 companies signed up as licensees of Qi including Nokia, HTC, Verizon, Sony Ericsson, Samsung, LG, Panasonic, Motorola, Texas Instruments - which recently unveiled an ultra-small Qi receiver - and ST-Ericsson.
As Qualcomm races to get its WiPower technology out into the market, WPC is extending its lead with the first independent Qi testing centre. Designed for companies producing wireless charging devices which they wish to see branded with the Qi logo - which guarantees interoperability between manufacturers, with any receiver working with any transmitter - the centre will allow manufacturers in both Taiwan and abroad to receive both Qi and regulatory compliance testing in a single place.
"We’re excited to work with TÜV Rheinland to help quickly certify more Qi products, speeding their time to market," claimed Treffers in a statement to press. "The need for a facility such as this is a testament to growing demand for Qi-compatible devices and a reflection of the many companies racing to compete in the expanding wireless charging industry."
"We’ve been impressed by the strong demand for Qi product certification,” said TÜV Rheinland Taiwan's general manager Uwe Halstenbach. "We look forward to ramping up our testing to help companies quickly usher in a new wave of Qi-enabled electronics to even more consumers."
With Qi gaining ever more traction in the wireless charging market, WiPower - which will not include Qi-compatibility at launch - is going to have an uphill struggle to gain back lost ground.