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The chip could be used in smartwatches that never have to be removed, letting users track entire days of activity
The chip is small enough to fit in smartwatches, which could let users track entire days of activity without ever having to take it off. Photo via Si-Ware.

The wireless charging we have today is barely wireless. Right now, if you are too lazy to plug a wire into your phone, the best you can do is place directly on a special pad, which charges your phone with a lot of inefficiently and heat. Oftentimes, it also means adding a bulky case. But a new chip from Si-Ware Systems could enable your phone to juice up without leaving your pocket.

The top image shows a device sending out low-powered beacon signals to the charger. The bottom image shows the charger returning focused streams of targeted signals back to the device.
The top image shows a device sending out low-powered beacon signals to a charger with a Si-Ware chip. The bottom image shows the charger returning focused streams of targeted signals back to the device.

The new system, which is based on the Cota technology developed by Redmond-based Ossia, can charge up to eight devices at once within a 30 foot range of a base station. The system works a little like WiFi, with one chip in the charging station and another in devices. And just like wireless internet, Cota can work through walls, floors and other household obstacles.

The radio frequency-based system is smart enough to send power only to devices that need charging, so while Si-Ware’s chip can only charge eight devices at once, it could keep many more powered up with proper automated management. The system can deliver up to 10 watts of power to a device as well, and Si-Ware claims it charges a phone at the same speed as a wired connection.

It’s a milestone for Ossia, founded by former Microsoft engineer Hatem Zeine.

Ossia CEO Hatem Mossia.
Ossia CEO Hatem Zeine.

“I want my 3-year-old to grow up and never know about charging devices,” Zeine, a trained physicist, told GeekWire last year.

But Ossia isn’t a fabricator, so they partnered to Cairo, Egypt-based Si-Ware Systems, which is building the chips that device manufacturers will be able to add to consumer devices using Cota charging. Si-Ware’s chips are small enough to fit into a AA battery, meaning they could be used to enable current devices like TV remotes, smoke detectors and flashlights to stay charged without manufacturers having to design new hardware with Cota built in.

The new tech could also mean a step forward for the Internet of Things. Instead of having to wire your house to provide power to all your new sensors, just set up a few Cota chargers and your Cota-enabled devices and you’ll have a smart house.

Of course, manufacturers still have to get on board with the technology. Samples will be ready for device manufacturer testing starting in the first quarter of 2016. According to Si-Ware, the receiving chip is a plug-and-play solution. With integrated power management systems, it doesn’t require extra engineering to make sure the battery is receiving the right amount of power.

Ossia is already working with KDDI, Japan’s second-largest wireless carrier with more than 40 million customers. Last year, the wireless operator was part of a $24 million funding round for Ossia. The company has also received funding from Intel as part of its estimated $30 million in total funding. It’s using the capital raised on partnerships like this one with Si-Ware to bring Cota wireless power solution to consumers.

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