The global market for wireless power and charging in wearable applications is forecast to grow 3,000 percent this year compared to 2014, according to IHS Technology. The market research firm expects global revenue of wireless power receivers and transmitters for wearable applications to exceed more than $480 million in 2015, up from $15 million last year. By 2019, the numbers skyrocket to more than $1 billion in revenue.
“Growth this year will be remarkable for wireless charging in wearable electronic devices, even if in reality the overall penetration of wireless charging into wearables is relatively low given the billions of wearables that are shipped into the consumer market every year,” said Vicky Yussuff, analyst for wireless charging at IHS Technology, in a statement. “Still, interest in the use of wireless charging remains high on the part of wearable technology providers and device original equipment manufacturers. As a result, penetration is expected to escalate rapidly over the next five years.”
IHS analysts believe the Apple Watch will “spark growth,” but expects 2015 to be the year when many leading consumer electronics suppliers introduce wireless charging in their products, including smartwatches. Of the total number of wireless-charging-enabled receiver devices forecast to be shipped in wearable electronics in 2015, Apple Watch will account for more than 70 percent of the total revenue, estimates IHS.
The report, “Wireless Charging in Wearable Technology Report – 2015,” also finds that the Apple smartwatch will ship with Apple’s proprietary MagSafe inductive charging solution, and is expected to be released by the end of the second quarter in 2015. Although the smartwatch uses inductive charging, it’s not a “drop and charge” mechanism and requires the smartwatch to be physically tethered to the charger at all times when charging. IHS expects wireless charging receivers for wearables that allow charging over distances will overtake inductive or “tightly coupled solutions” by the end of 2017.
In a move expected to further drive adoption of wireless charging, two wireless charging technology standards groups, The Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP) and Power Matters Alliance (PMA) announced at CES 2015 their plans to merge and create an organization that will accelerate the global availability and deployment of wireless charging technology. The merger is expected to close by mid-2015.
“The ‘standards war’ narrative presents a false choice,” said Kamil Grajski, board chair and president, Alliance for Wireless Power, in a statement. “Consider that the typical mass-market smartphone contains a multiplicity of radio technologies (Bluetooth, NFC, Wi-Fi, 3G, LTE) each built around a vibrant ecosystem, whereas other devices are single-mode (Bluetooth headset). The A4WP PMA merger is in the same spirit: enable the market to apply technologies to their best use cases.”
“The key to volume economics is to combine best-in-class wireless power transfer technology with innovative cloud-based network services,” said Ron Resnick, president, Power Matters Alliance, in a statement. “The best-in-breed combination of A4WP and PMA assures decision-makers throughout the industry of responsible stewardship of these essential contributing technologies.”
To help speed up compliance testing and time to market, the Power Matters Alliance, a leader in inductive wireless charging technology, recently approved UL’s laboratory in Taiwan as its sole PMA testing facility in Taiwan. The first UL PMA-approved laboratory is located in Fremont, California.
“Today, wireless charging technology is becoming popular and significant in our society. A comprehensive certification program will surely guide manufacturers design and produce their products with better performance and user experience,” said Barry Yu, regional general manager for the Greater China consumer technology division at UL, in a statement. “This newly added testing capability in Taiwan has enabled our engineering team in Greater China to provide a more complete testing solution for consumer technology manufacturers. Our services range from product safety to wireless and interoperability performance, from product design review to training and consultancy,” Yu added.
PMA also announced that MediaTek’s MT3188 IC module was awarded the first PMA certification from UL Taiwan. In addition to MediaTek, many semiconductor suppliers have been beefing up their wireless charging product portfolios to meet the growing demand.
One of the newest products comes from Toshiba America Electronic Components, Inc. (TAEC). The company recently showcased its new TC7765WBG wireless power receiver controller IC for wireless charging of tablet devices at CES 2015 in Las Vegas. Managing the 12-watt power transfer necessary for wireless charging of tablets, and compatible with the Qi low-power specification version 1.1 defined by the Wireless Power Consortium (WPC), the TC7765WBG offers a comparable user experience to that of conventional wired charging for tablets, as well as smartphones and other portable devices, said TAEC. The TC7765WBG wireless power receiver controller IC is built with Toshiba’s mixed-signal process using a high-performance MOSFET design that is said to maximize power efficiency and thermal performance. It’s designed in the same size package as Toshiba’s 5-W wireless power receiver controller TC7763WBG – a WCSP 28 2.4- x 3.67- x 0.5-mm package.
When the TC7765WBG is combined with a copper coil, charging IC and peripheral components it creates a wireless power receiver. Combining the receiver with a Qi-compliant wireless power transmitter that contains a Toshiba wireless power transmitter IC such as TB6865AFG Enhanced version forms a complete wireless power charging solution, said the company.
Intel also announced at CES several new wireless charging collaborations including those with Hilton, Jaguar Land Rover, San Francisco International Airport and Marriott.
Other recent new product launches for wireless charging include Vishay Intertechnology, Freescale Semiconductor, and Integrated Device Technology (IDT). Vishay Intertechnology developed a new powdered-iron-based, WPC-compliant wireless charging transmitter coil for Qi wireless charging pads. The Vishay Dale IWTX-4646BE-50 provides high efficiency greater than 70 percent at a 19-V input voltage when tested using WPC-compliant transmitter and receiver chipsets and a Vishay Dale IWAS-4832FF-50 receiver coil with 2.7 mm spacing.
Designed for use in combination with Vishay’s WPC-compliant wireless receiver coils, the IWTX-4646BE-50’s high-saturation powdered iron is not affected by permanent locating magnets, said Vishay. As an alternative to larger ferrite-based solutions — which can saturate in the presence of a strong magnetic field — the IWTX-4646BE-50 offers a magnetic saturation of 50 percent at 4,000 gauss.
Freescale extended its wireless charging portfolio with the industry’s first 15-watt Qi-compliant wireless charging solution for recharging tablets, handheld medical devices and other larger devices. The device delivers 3x the power of popular 5-watt charging. The portfolio includes transmit and receive ICs (the WPR1516 receiver chip and MWCT1012 transmitter chip) in combination with enablement technologies to speed the creation of wireless charging systems, said Freescale. The company offers a production-ready reference design and evaluation boards, which includes two options for different power topologies, the WPR1500-LDO and WPR1500-BUCK. The MWCT1012 transmit controller IC is supported with the WCT-15W1COILTX reference design. The solution supports several major industry standards, including the Wireless Power Consortium (WPC) and the Power Matters Alliance (PMA).
IDT introduced a new family of magnetic induction wireless power transmitters for charging mobile devices such as smartphones and wearables. The P9235 and P9236 transmitters are compliant with the latest WPC Qi standard, while the P9234 is a PMA-compliant device. IDT is also introducing a proprietary-mode device, the P9231, which operates at up to 1 MHz of resonance frequency, allowing for a smaller coil. The company also offers the P9230 dual-mode transmitter, supporting both WPC and PMA standards. Together, the P923x family addresses all of the various WPC low-power coil configurations, said IDT. The transmitters span input voltages ranging from 4.0 V to 21 V and target applications requiring from 0.5 to 10-W of power. The devices also offer a high level of integration, including all digital and analog functions, which minimizes the number of external components while reducing overall system cost.