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Wireless power creates opportunity for manufacturers and IoT

Though wireless charging might have once been limited to tech tradeshows or the latest Apple device, it’s now making inroads into mainstream life. There is an unexpected group set to gain from the spread of wireless charging — seniors. Wireless charging can greatly benefit seniors and the manufacturers that serve them.

The need for wireless charging

Today, the number of people aged 65 or older is 617 million worldwide, and according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, that number will top 1.6 billion by 2050, and does not even include those who have a disability or a physical limitation. In addition, an increasing number of seniors prefer to age at home, as opposed to moving to care facilities.

For older adults, performing daily tasks such as changing out a battery pack or reaching for a plug behind the sofa might become more difficult with age. Consider the following:

  • The balance and mobility many of us take for granted are difficult for some people. Wireless power technology can eliminate the need to replace batteries.
  • Limited dexterity or weak hands can make otherwise uncomplicated plug-devices hard to manage. Wireless power removes the need to fumble with USB adapters or cords, benefitting anyone who has limitations using their fingers, hands, wrists or arms.
  • As we age, being a little more forgetful is natural, and it can lead to undercharged phones or dead medical devices. Having wireless power on-hand ensures critical electronics are always topped off.

Wireless charging goes beyond convenience

Wireless charging is starting to appear in the real world. Qi charging pads that charge devices placed on them are becoming increasingly available in hotels, airports and restaurants.

Long-range charging that does not require contact between the charger and the charged device is also becoming available. Long-range charging sends energy over the air using technologies such as infrared light that enable energy receivers that are typically embedded in the device to be powered. This concept is similar to solar panels converting sunlight into electricity and can deliver energy over a distance  efficiently, safely and reliably to small devices.

Though long-range wireless power can’t power your TV, it can certainly deliver enough energy to eliminate the need to manually replace batteries or to require power cords.

Wireless charging also presents substantial opportunities for manufacturers, as well as significant health and safety benefits for consumers. Deploying a long-range wireless charger makes keeping vital electronics charged effortless.

Here are some examples:

  • Manufacturers sell millions of emergency call buttons or fall detection devices. Wireless power can eliminate the need for post-purchase service and also offers the opportunity to create sleeker, water-tight devices without the bulk of batteries. With plentiful energy available through wireless charging, manufacturers can add features such as two-way audio or geolocation.
  • For an elderly resident who lives at home, long-range wireless power can enable important home security devices. For instance, a smart lock might come in handy in a medical emergency. But without wireless power, the batteries in the lock need to be replaced every few months. With wireless power, batteries never need to be replaced, the lock is always functional and smart lock manufacturers may be able to expand their market reach.
  • Smartwatches can monitor user health and provide fall detection capabilities or even offer GPS functionality, creating peace of mind for families caring for aging parents. But a watch that is not charged might trigger a false alarm. Keeping devices always charged makes them always valuable. 

Safety in a pandemic

The advent of COVID-19 has only increased the urgency for wireless charging and introduced a new-found sense of risk to many daily activities.

For example, in a time of social distancing policies, it’s even more important for assisted living centers to keep tabs on their residents. A system that uses a pendant and connects to base stations can help locate a resident and provide a history of social interaction in case of a suspected infection. Wireless power helps with the flexible placement of these base stations, freeing facility managers from having to install them exactly where the outlets are. It keeps the pendants charged.

The pandemic has also created a need to sanitize door handles, elevator buttons and other high-touch surfaces. In this case, more than standard janitorial services are required, and there is an opportunity for touchless sanitation that uses wireless energy as the source that powers sanitation devices.

The future of wireless charging

For smart device makers, the opportunity has perhaps never been greater. The pandemic is forcing the adoption of touch-less, remote-access and all-digital solutions. This is a tremendous chance to step up, to be creative and to help people by providing more safety-boosting products. Long-range wireless charging has the power to enhance the usability of IoT tools and make things safer and provide people more autonomy.

All IoT Agenda network contributors are responsible for the content and accuracy of their posts. Opinions are of the writers and do not necessarily convey the thoughts of IoT Agenda.

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