Companies to Watch: Wi-Charge

Key points

  • Wi-Charge uses infrared technology to wirelessly charge devices, with use cases ranging from smartphones to IoT
  • Built-in intelligence means Wi-Charge can determine the temperature and charge level of devices, and prioritize the ones with the lowest charge
  • Other potential applications include the hospitality industry, smart home and retail

Introduction

Wi-Charge is an Israeli startup focused on solving the problem of wireless charging for mobile and IoT devices. Its technology is based on a central transmitting station that uses infrared (IR) technology to communicate with receivers and deliver energy up to 5 meters away. In addition, the transmitter is able to recognize devices and prioritize which one needs charging most urgently. The company provides charging modules for other companies to integrate, with different options on how much power each module delivers – for instance, a one-watt module is sufficient to power a smartphone, which typically requires half a watt to maintain charge.

Wi-Charge was founded in 2010 by Ori Mor, previously founder and CEO of Appoxee Mobile Technologies, and Ortal Alpert, previously at Mempile and ClickSoftware. To date, the company has raised about $18mn in funding from various angel and institutional investors, including Israel’s Terra Venture Partners.

Innovation spotlight

Wi-Charge has opted for IR for two main reasons:

  • IR creates a more focused, and therefore efficient, beam than radio frequencies
  • IR also allows it to deliver more charge per unit area than other technologies, while still meeting US and international safety regulations.

The proposition is based on a central transmitter that searches for receivers, which are currently available as removable cases for smartphones, but that could be integrated directly into phones and other devices. The receiver also communicates its own temperature and how much charge it’s carrying. When searching for a device to charge, the transmitter goes into low-power mode, and goes into standby mode when the device it’s charging is full.

Wi-Charge is also looking beyond smartphone charging to IoT applications and use cases. There are implications for industrial IoT, smart home and connected retail, among other industries – for instance, a retailer that uses electronic shelf labels could opt to install Wi-Charge transmitters to keep its labels charged, without resorting to batteries or wired charging. For big-box retailers, which can use up to 50,000 labels in a single store, Wi-Charge could therefore help save on wiring or battery servicing.

Another use case would be powering smart home devices, such as smart locks or video cameras, which are not always connected to mains power. Yet the company highlights that the hospitality industry has shown the most interest in the solution. Coffee shops are an increasingly popular use case, as Wi-Charge receivers can be integrated into tables; this means that customers aren’t limited to charging their phones at tables located by wall outlets.

Another use case that Wi-Charge is exploring is in airline lounges at airports, where travelers typically use wireless devices heavily while waiting for their flights. The company notes that this is also an opportunity for its customers to gather analytics data on users and their working or travel patterns, allowing the airline to tailor the services they offer in their lounges.

To promote its product offering, Wi-Charge has also set up a site, will-it-charge.com, to showcase the everyday objects it can power. These objects range from Qi chargers to iPhones to model trains.

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