Engineering 101

Wireless charging expecting a boost from the smartphone industry

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“The way consumers charge their smart devices is about to drastically change,” asserted Antoine Bonnabel, Technology and Market Analyst and part of the Yole Développement’s Power and Wireless team. According to the ‘Wireless Charging Technologies and Markets 2018’ report, the wireless smartphone charging systems market is expected to surpass one billion units per year by 2024.

In this new technology and market report, the market research and strategy consulting company, Yole Développement (Yole), focused on consumer and mobility market differentiators, as well as industrial, medical, and military markets where separate differentiators are important. The company analyzed the ecosystem and details the competitive landscape in the future of wireless power transfer and wireless charging.

In addition, 2018-2024 market forecasts have been provided for each market segment, along with estimates for the requisite wireless charging components. Moreover, Yole offers a deep analysis of the physical and technological concepts of inductive and resonant charging, and explores the physics and technologies behind their defining elements.

Wireless charging has seen substantial industry interest over the past several years, from its association with smartphones to its integration in Starbucks coffee shops. However, the market for wireless charging will remain highly uneven and consumer-oriented.

“As an example, consumer charging is expected to surpass 1.2 billion receivers in phones by 2024,” commented Bonnabel. “In parallel, wireless charging for EV/HEV will not see a similar market acceptance before 2022, and only then as an option for high-end cars.”

The general consumer market’s need for wireless charging is very recent, and linked to the prevalence of consumer electronics such as smartphones, earphones and smartwatches. These devices require frequent charging, which ‘surrounds’ the user with power cables. Because it is still an ‘early’ market need, consumer wireless charging could have been a slow technology push. However, adoption happened faster than expected thanks to a very peculiar market situation: technology integrators crave new differentiators, and wireless charging is a perfect example.

In the smartphone industry, as well as in consumer services and the automotive market, a slightly interesting capability can become a strong differentiator with tremendous financial repercussions. For instance, when a new set of emojis is enough to motivate a new smartphone purchase, the possibility of wirelessly charging the phone in a coffee shop can have the exact same effect.

Technology developers and integrators have combined forces to push wireless charging implementation, not just creating a new market but also educating it very quickly.

Wireless transmitters can now be found in furniture, airport terminals, and restaurants, while mats able to recharge multiple devices from the comfort of one’s home are in development. In light of these innovations, the general electronics industry is motivated to move towards wireless charging-compliant solutions. Down the road, what is today a hypothetical could become the standard, with phone manufacturers like Apple bringing ‘cordfree’ devices to the mass market.

In other mass markets, wireless charging’s presence is definitely the product of a ‘technology push’ approach. This is especially true for electric vehicles, where wireless charging will in the mid-term be limited to an option for high-end PHEV and EV cars, without much traction for general consumers.

But, is the industry ready for mass production? At Yole, analysts are quite confident with the future. The apparent technical complexity of putting a smartphone into a strong electromagnetic field has efficiently been handled by technology developers. In just a few years a complete industrial chain focused on mobile phone inductive charging has coalesced.

Milan Rosina, PhD, Principal Analyst at Yole, explained: “It is interesting to note that the value chain for inductive charging is quite similar to the one in development for resonant charging. Indeed, even if the physical mechanism is different, the technological content is quite similar: consisting of inverters, rectifiers, drivers, buck converters, and coils.”

In fact most industry players are reportedly developing products for both technologies, offering component samples for 6.78MHz resonant charging, and at the same time semiconductor components for 105 to 205kHz inductive charging. Infineon Technologies, for example is following this path.

Though still nascent, the industrial chain is already consolidated, with large semiconductor corporations offering best-in-class electronic components. Player diversity is mainly on the integration side right now, with wireless charging popping up in diverse new systems ranging from cars to furniture.

Source Yole Développement (Yole)

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