• Wireless Power
  • Fast Charging
  • Connected Devices

One Wireless Power Technology Takes an Important Step Forward

Neil Strother
Jul 11, 2019

Connectivity 5

People have been waiting years for the delivery of electrons wirelessly at a distance greater than a few centimeters. Currently, wireless charging or wireless power typically means using an inductive technology standard such as Qi. This is common among smartphones but requires very close proximity (up to 4 centimeters) to a charging plate or a stand.

The Charging Dream

The holy grail of wireless power is more akin to charging a device over the air, similar to how Wi-Fi or Bluetooth works: no plate and no wires. The power is transmitted from a beacon and received by a chip in the device. That holy grail is one step closer with the recent FCC approval of Ossia’s Cota wireless power technology. I have seen a demo a couple of times, and it is promising. The FCC approval allows Bellevue, Washington-based Ossia to sell its Cota transmitter and receiver for the first time in the US.

While the approval is a milestone for Ossia, it comes with significant limits. The technology, which transmits in the 2.4 GHz range, is only approved for use in commercial, industrial, and business settings. The charging distance allowed is up to only 1 meter. Though an improvement over the Qi standard, it is still not in the tens of meters range like for Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. Eventually, the Cota technology could be useful for industrial Internet of Things applications, where charging a battery in a small device like a remote sensor presents a challenge. But with the current range limit of 1 meter, it is hard to imagine many use cases that initially make sense and that will scale.

The approval is important to Ossia’s future. It is worth noting the company has met the FCC’s rigorous safety standard for Specific Absorption Rate (SAR). The SAR limits specify the safe levels at which radio frequency energy can be transmitted without harming the human body in the process.

Ossia’s Rivals

Ossia is not alone in the pursuit of wireless power. Companies like Energous and Powercast have won FCC approval for their solutions. But the power levels they use are low by comparison, and neither has gained much market traction so far.

Additionally, the AirFuel Alliance is a standards organization working to promote its wireless power technologies. One is AirFuel Resonant, which features spatially free charging of multiple devices at a short range of up to 50 millimeters. The other is AirFuel RF, which delivers wireless low power at distance ranging from a few centimeters to a meter.

For now, Ossia seems to have the edge in what both people and the market truly want: safe wireless power at longer distances. While the ultimate goal remains elusive, the outlines of a time when the technology is widely available are in much closer focus today.