The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently approved a wireless charger for small devices such as smartphones, tablets and watches. The device, named WattUP®, was developed by Energous Corp. Martin Cooper, who is generally recognized as the inventor of the cell phone and is one of the company’s directors, recently said, “[t]his ground-breaking technology allows users to automatically charge their WattUP-enabled devices without having to remove them from their wrist or pocket, plug them in or place them on a mat to charge.” Devices to be charged may be placed up to 3 feet from the charger, and multiple devices may be charged simultaneously.
Wireless chargers may be authorized under either Part 15 or Part 18 of the FCC’s rules. Part 18 allows somewhat higher power but prohibits the exchange of information between the device and the charger.
I expect to see many uses for wireless chargers in the near future. Such devices are ideal for charging Internet of Things (IoT) devices, and the technology also has great potential for medical devices as well as automobiles. In fact, Mercedes has been working with Qualcomm to develop wireless chargers for electric cars for some time, and it expects to introduce wireless charging as an option on certain plug-in hybrids this fall. Most other electric vehicle manufacturers also apparently aim to introduce wireless charging mats for their cars soon.
While FCC emissions and SAR (specific absorption rate) limits presently permit wireless chargers to operate only at relatively short distances, I expect that, as more and more devices are introduced, experience and technological developments will allow devices to operate at greater distances.
Steve Kaminer is an attorney with the Alliance Law Group. His practice focuses on communications law including broadcasting and wireless issues, as well as matters relating to electronic equipment regulated by the Federal Communications Commission.