Powercast’s Ubiquity uses RF to charge devices wirelessly

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power generation unveiled Ubiquity wireless power transmitters, which use radio frequency (RF) energy to charge devices over a network.

The Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based company demonstrated the Ubiquity transmitter, an ultra-low-cost RF power generator, at CES 2023, the major tech trade show in Las Vegas this week.

If this sounds a bit crazy, passing electricity through the air to power an electronic device seems impossible. Nikola Tesla, a pioneering broadcaster, tried to do so in the early 1900s without success. Since then, technical barriers have hindered efforts to do the same.

But Powercast started the idea of ​​using radio frequencies, providing its own power when making a connection between a transmitter and a receiver, back in 2003. The company says it shipped more than 10 million devices with more than 100. client. The company has 79 patents. I wrote about wireless power in early 2008, but all we got were inductive charging devices.


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Powercast’s Ubiquity demo module.

Designed to be an economical RF wireless transmitter, the company says, Powercast has lowered the barrier to entry where true RF wireless power can become ubiquitous with multiple RF transmitters covering every home.

“The vision of Powercast is to see a low-cost RF transmitter in every room in every home,” said Charles Goetz.
CEO at Powercast, in a statement. “Like a Wi-Fi router, a home will need multiple RF transmitters to provide sufficient RF coverage where a convenient, contactless, ‘set it and forget it’ becomes a reality. So we’ve cut costs and are sharing our Ubiquity design through a low-cost $5 reference design or an embeddable module, allowing manufacturers to easily incorporate RF transmission capabilities into their own product to accelerate indoor RF transmission.”

Powercast’s wireless power over network architecture has two sides. It has a transmitter that sends RF through the air and it has a receiver embedded in the terminals to pick up that RF from the air and convert it to DC (direct current) for data transmission and power. for devices.

On the transmitter side, Powercast Universality will come in many forms, all of which can charge RF-enabled devices and communicate data back and forth with them throughout the home.

Manufacturers have two options for turning their own products — such as home appliances, TVs, game systems, computer monitors, or AI-powered home assistants — into universal RF transmitters. variable. A licensable reference design allows manufacturers to integrate only the necessary electronics into their own circuit boards for a bill of materials (BOM) cost of $5 or less.

And it also has an easy-to-integrate embedded module that contains all the electronics and
necessary hardware. Manufacturers will add additional power supplies and antennas. Powercast will work with manufacturers to design antennas that best fit their specific product dimensions.

Powercast also made a stand-alone Ubiquity transmitter that combines its embeddable module with an antenna to show at CES. Powercast will manufacture this portable speaker-sized transmitter.

On the receiving side, manufacturers can embed Powercast’s tiny Powerharvester PCC110 receiver chip and a small antenna into their terminals for about $1 to allow them to work with RF transmitters – Powercast standalone Ubiquity or RF transmission products created with Ubiquity can embed a module or reference design.

Popular standalone RF wireless transmitter.

This wireless over-the-air power delivery architecture can charge low-power devices with reliable, continuous background trickle charging. Examples of terminals include TV remotes, electric toothbrushes, keyboards and mice, game controllers, earbuds, headphones, smartwatches, fitness bands, machines hearing aids, watches, electric shavers, home automation devices and more.

Jason Gill, Powercast’s director of R&D, said in a statement: “The volume is on the consumer electronics market, but it’s also price-sensitive. To meet these manufacturers’ demand for a sustainable, ultra-low-cost wireless charging solution, our engineers perfected the design of Ubiquity, a highly efficient antenna that can transmit power at the same time. just transmitted data. Manufacturers can create eco-friendly, RF-powered ecosystems using rechargeable or battery-free batteries, both of which eliminate disposable battery electronic waste and the hassle of replacing batteries. battery replacement.”

The Ubiquity transmitter can output up to one watt (3W EIRP) and automatically charge multiple RF-enabled devices that enter its charging zone – no charging mat needed. Power-hungry devices charge faster within a few feet of the transmitter, while ultra-low power devices like IoT sensors can charge within 120 feet.

“The far-field wireless generator semiconductor market will soon witness a strong growth trajectory
with the majority of revenue coming from the consumer market,” Phil Solis, research director at IDC, said in a statement. “On the receiver side, the consumer market will be the largest segment by 2024 and account for the majority of revenue by 2025. Low-cost solutions are needed to enable multiple devices in the home to benefit. from a wireless power source.”

The Ubiquity reference design is likely to be licensed in February 2023. The Ubiquity module and transmitter is expected in June 2023.

How it works

A transmitter sends RF energy through the air to a receiver chip embedded in a device, which converts it to DC to recharge the battery or power the device directly. This remote charging technology works like Wi-Fi, where powered devices automatically charge when within range of the generator.

Regulations in the United States and Canada limit the amount of electricity that can be transmitted. According to Part 15 of the FCC, power is limited to 4 watts of EIRP, and Powercast broadcasts EIRP to about 3 watts.

A tiny Powerharvester receiver, embedded in systems or devices, captures RF energy sent through the air from a dedicated transmitter, such as Powercast’s Powercaster or PowerSpot, or from predictive RF sources such as UHF RFID reader or NFC POS reader. The embedded Powerharvester then converts the RF to DC to power that battery-free device directly or recharge the device’s battery.

The company says charging is safe. A typical cell phone user will receive more RF power from their mobile phone than from a properly installed Powercast transmitter. Charging devices can penetrate walls.

Typical inductive charging solutions such as charging pads and electric toothbrushes require the power source and the receiving device to be very close to each other for efficient power transfer, often in the millimeter range, essentially zero distance. . These types of solutions often require special alignment and charging pads or brackets. Powercast’s RF-based technology provides distance to power one or more devices and does not compete directly with inductive charging technologies.

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