Is it time to say goodbye to charging cables?

Starbucks already offers wireless charging, based on the PMA's standard, at its Silicon Valley...

Starbucks already offers wireless charging, based on the PMA's standard, at its Silicon Valley branches through a partnership with Duracell Powermat. (PRNewsFoto/Duracell Powermat)


, Last Updated: 11:31 AM ET

A new partnership agreements could mean that wireless charging organizations stop competing with each other and finally work together to bring consumers the full benefit of keeping their phones, tablets and other devices full of juice without carrying cables.

The Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP), championed by Samsung and Qualcomm and the Power Matters Alliance (PMA), which counts Google among its members, have signed an agreement that would see the two organizations' wireless charging technologies move towards compatibility and away from competition.

Although a small first step, this should be celebrated by consumers as good news. On paper, wireless charging is a brilliant idea. It's a technology that enables a wireless power connection to be made between an electricity power source and a battery-powered electronic device. It means that every time a phone, notebook or camera is sitting on or near a wireless charging pad, its batteries are being automatically topped up.

However, the reality is not so great. There are currently a host of competing orgnizations, each with a slightly different form of the technology and each competing to become the de-facto standard -- think Betamax verses VHS, or Blu-ray verses HD DVD.

A host of companies from Starbucks to McDonald's can already see the customer benefits of building wireless charging plates into their stores' tables and furniture, but by choosing one form of the technology they are discriminating against consumers whose devices support another.

For example, in the US, McDonald's uses PMA wireless charging points, but in Europe it is currently testing the QI standard, a different technology supported by different device makers.

Of the new agreement, Kamil Grajski, President, Alliance for Wireless Power, said: "This announcement delivers a compelling message for the industry to commit and deliver wireless charging devices now. Between the organizations, A4WP and PMA membership consists of the key players necessary to drive industry consolidation and establish a commercially viable globally interoperable wireless charging ecosystem."

According to research and analysis firm IHS Technology, only 25 million wireless charging units, be they transmitters or receivers, shipped in 2013 but, as demand for the service grows and competition is replaced by cooperation, that figure is expected to jump to 1.7 billion units by 2023.

As well as charging mobile devices, wireless charging pads could revolutionize home design and even the way electric cars are recharged.

Instead of fitting plug sockets in a kitchen, wireless plates could be built into a work counter that would automatically power any device, be it a tablet, a food processor or a microwave oven, sitting on it.

Using wireless resonance charging, which is capable of delivering a charge without making a physical contact with a battery or device, cars could be recharged from pads built into city streets.