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    Wireless Charging for Wearables - A Race Toward the Unknown

    • 4 min read

    Wireless Charging for Wearables - A Race Toward the Unknown



    Although it feels that nowadays the onus for wireless charging is placed on smartphone compatibility, more and more devices have started to integrate Qi charging capabilities. If anything, the focus on wearables and household appliances seems to make a lot more sense for some industries for more practical reasons.

    First of all, there’s a lot more to wireless charging than giving your phone a quick juice boost whenever you take a break. The technology itself may have been advertised this way in the past but this is quickly changing on a daily basis. It does seem that consumers are wising up to the immense potential that wireless charging has and so the market has begun to adapt.

    Whenever the discussion reacheswireless charging for wearables and auxiliary appliances, the conversation quickly moves over to practical items like headphones or earpods. If rising trends are to be believed, the overall utility of next-generation wireless chargers will have to take other appliances, tools, and gadgets into account.

    Many are those who would, for instance, want to charge up power banks, media players, andeBook readers provided that technology allows it. Far from being a priority for the manufacturers, this is definitely something many large companies are taking into account when designing their flagship devices at this moment in time.

    Seeing how consumers are quite used to rotating through their phones and wearables every couple of years or so, the sooner the change in technology happens the better. You also have to take into consideration the changes in design that go with implementing new charging systems, however remote or peculiar they might be.

    The architecture of complex charging systems

    While some might be inclined to think that whatever technology we build into smartphones could also be used as a charging system for smaller devices, the reality is quite different. Perhaps the main reason why Qi charging systems cannot be made universally compatible is because of temperature concerns.

    You see, inductive charging causes the charging device to raise its core temperature. While this isn’t much of an issue with phones or tablets, a smaller device or accessory might suffer some long-term damage if charged too frequently. This is the case with hearable devices like AirPods, Galaxy Buds, or Pixel Buds, each sharing roughly the same limitations.

    It goes without saying thatthe matter of wireless charging for wearables revolves around practical implementation more than design or aesthetics. At the moment, all data points toward the usage of a flexible antenna that can adjust to the extremely tight and narrow design of most hearable devices on account of their diminutive size.

    The overall design of a Qi charging system for wearables would have to incorporate an RF component because the antennas can be printed on flexible substrates. This means that you could technically attach them to onboard chips. In this way, you gain an RF charging implement without changing the industrial design of the charging system or the wearable device.

    Moving on to the distance between receivers, there seems to be an issue withhow RF charging behaves with regard to interferences. For instance, an AirPod setup would not receive a steady charge if you keep it inside the case due to the limited range of RF components. Furthermore, you’re gonna have a lot of metal inside the device, which also affects the power levels required for an optimal charging speed.

    Is NFC a good idea?

    At this point, one has to ask whether not NFC would provide a more stable, high-frequency solution for charging such a compact device. The thing you need to understand about NFC is that the high-frequency operation also lends itself to a much better overall performance, charging-wise or not.

    The conversation then reaches data transfer capabilities to the extent that people actually want an NFC-ready device to also use it to transfer data. Although not quite valid when talking about wearables like headsets and AirPods, there is no reason why an NFC implementation shouldn’t also involve a data transfer potential.

    So in a way,this isn’t just about wireless charging for wearables but about a multi-purpose application for a practical and useful technology, many of us already use nowadays. From card readers to handheld smart devices, we already employ NFC for various reasons, which is why it would make perfect sense to further its reach in the coming years.

    Having talked about NFC as a high-frequency charging technology, we should also point out its strengths as a potential battery saver. You see, both RF and NFC have higher data capabilities than pretty much any other similar technology. In the event that your battery is dying for whatever reason, you want an assembly of components that won’t deplete it any further.

    Data rates aside, the issue then becomes saving battery life without losing efficiency. Not just that but we can also expect suchlow-consumption devices to also have smaller requirements with respect to charging distances. This is precisely what makes NFC such an asset when talking about small wearables for obvious reasons.

    If certain rumors are to be believed, future smart devices might very well employ NFC for wireless charging purposes. Until that happens, groundbreaking steps have to be taken by diminutive devices like smartwatches, AirPods, and various handheld or wearable devices. The list is likely to also include office appliances at some point but that’s neither here nor there.

    While not as power-hungry as smartphones, they may hold the key to establishing a universal NFC wireless charging standard for future manufacturers to adhere to. For the time being, however, NFC is far from enjoying a ratified form or the platform to use it. All we have for now is a huge potential that more and more manufacturers are trying to make use of…with mixed results.