Following yesterday's news of AT&T, Google and Starbucks joining the Power Matters Alliance, another wireless power consortium by the name of Alliance for Wireless Power has announced today the approval of its own wireless power standard. The new specification promises flexibility, simultaneous charging of many different devices and will offer power delivery over greater spatial distances than competing alternatives.
The A4WP is an industry consortium forged by Samsung and Qualcomm intended to primarily compete with Qi (pronounced "chee", the Chinese word for the flow of energy). Qi is a "power mat" based wireless power standard which can actually be found in some of Nokia's upcoming WP8 phones. Although considered wireless, Qi doesn't allow for freedom of movement -- the device must rest on a Qi-enabled surface (i.e. power mat) in order to charge.
Interestingly, Qi has been adopted by a number of industry players like HTC, Motorola and yes, even Samsung itself, but the company sees Qi as a intermediate step between corded devices and true wireless power. Setting itself apart from Qi's power mats, A4WP claims its technology is based on the concept of "spatial freedom".
Despite the announcement however, A4WP's standard, the physics of which are abstracted here (pdf), continues to remain a mostly non-descript secret. Although the organization points to vaguely worded benefits like "spatial freedom", users are left in the dark when it comes to facts, figures and other practical details.
Based on what the A4WP has revealed thus far, we probably shouldn't be expecting to charge our phones the moment we walk into a room -- at least, not just yet.
According to the press release, A4WP's specification, "leverages a loosely coupled magnetic resonance technology and provides more flexibility for charging applications to be installed into automobiles, furniture and other surfaces". Cars and furniture surfaces imply that we're still looking at relatively short distances -- certainly nothing comparable to Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.
However, short distances shouldn't be a surprise. Similarly, Intel has been working on their own resonance-based power solution, but the company says users must place their devices "about an inch or so" from their laptops to work. I'm certain we're all very hopeful to see greater distances than this, but remember to temper your expectations.
The technology also "takes advantage" of Bluetooth 4.0, although what that means exactly is unclear. Presumably, Bluetooth could provide a more feature-rich experience (insert imaginative ideas here) between devices and A4WP's power transmitter via bi-directional communication, but the only thing that's clear is we'll need to wait for more details to arrive.