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True Long-Range Wireless Power for the Smart Home Is Almost Here

Neil Strother
Aug 07, 2020

Guidehouse Insights

Long-range wireless power might be ready for the smart home. That’s the message percolating from a couple of vendors that have been promoting this technology for several years.

“It’s no surprise that home builders are turning to a novel technology to strengthen their appeal to tech-savvy buyers: wireless power,” writes Ori Mor, cofounder and vice president of R&D at Israel-based Wi-Charge, in a recent Forbes article. Mor notes how long-range wireless power is very attractive to home builders: “I've seen that by integrating long-range wireless charging from the start of construction, builders are hoping to entice a new generation of eco-conscious, innovation-driven homebuyers.”

Long-range means charging devices in the 30-foot range indoors, not the more common charge plate technology dominated by the Qi standard that was made popular for powering devices like smartphones. Qi transfers electricity using inductive charging over a distance of up to 4 centimeters. By comparison, long-range wireless power can travel over several pathways, including ultrasound, infrared, and radio frequencies.

Investments in Long-Range Wireless Power Show Promise

A long-range wireless technology making some noise is Ossia’s Cota. The US-based company announced a significant strategic investment in March 2020 with Saint-Gobain, a French multinational active in the construction, transportation, infrastructure, health, home, and industrial sectors. The investment is expected to help bring Cota to market, leveraging Saint-Gobain’s breadth of products, including consumer applications. Ossia views its Cota technology as similar to Wi-Fi, but it sends electrical power instead of sending data. This power can be provided to multiple devices at the same time as people move their devices around a house. The investment from Saint-Gobain followed Ossia’s announcement at the CES trade show in January (pre-pandemic) of its Cota HOME, a small transmitter (about 12 inches by 12 inches) that can power multiple devices, including those on the 5G network, automatically and simultaneously.

The Market Still Faces Challenges

While these vendor moves are promising, one of the challenges Wi-Charge and Ossia face is a lack of market traction in homes. The pandemic could have been a great time for people to invest in this new technology. However, infrastructure was not in place to support it, sales and marketing efforts have yet to materialize, and demand from interested consumers and home builders is almost nonexistent as of mid-2020. As Mor notes, home builders will need to understand the limits of wireless power and how it is useful for lower power devices but not for wirelessly charging a TV. And there is the pricing hurdle. New technology is normally more expensive at the start before economies of scale kick in and it becomes more affordable for mass adoption.

The long-range wireless market for homes is still in wait-and-see mode. If a home builder is installing true wireless power somewhere in the world, it is under the radar. The technology might be ready, but the market is still searching for early adopters. It is easy to be fascinated by the potential here, as I’ve been for years. But true wireless charging in the home needs a catalyst to move from the lab into everyday usage. Could that happen in 2021? Maybe, but it might be like waiting for a COVID-19 vaccine… a longer wait than we’d like. For more on this topic, see the Guidehouse Insights report, The Smart Home as a Test Bed for the Wireless Charging Industry.