LAS VEGAS— Ossia may be the biggest idea at the Consumer Electronics Show that you’ve heard nothing about.
And probably with good reason. After all, in a show dominated with talk of self-driving cars and virtual reality headsets, the concept of charging your electronic devices without wires just isn’t that sexy.
But Bellevue-based Ossia is attacking a big opportunity, and CEO Hatem Zeine thinks his company’s Cota technology will simplify the charging of everything from smartphones to smoke detectors to wearable fitness trackers.
Really, any battery-powered device found around the home or office.
And here’s the wild thing: It does this without any wires. And without any pads.
By sending out a low-power signal from a base transmitter — a prototype I saw was about the size of a hotel ice bucket — it can charge multiple Cota chip-embedded devices up to six feet away.
That means it could charge your iPhone and your Fitbit and your Nest — at the same time. And Zeine says it can do this without perfect line of sight, meaning the charge can be delivered through walls or around objects.
It does this safely so “your body never gets any of that energy,” he says.
Zeine says his vision is to create a world where his 4-year-old son never knows what it’s like to have to search for an outlet to power a device.
“The key to the technology is that it frees you from the wires of charging devices,” he said. “What we are trying to do, and what we have achieved with the technology, is true remote wireless power.”
Zeine said that the “science is correct and the safety is correct” and it is now the opportunity to roll out the technology to the masses. At this point, Ossia has received seven granted patents and has filed more than 200 applications in the past 18 months. The personal charging station is equipped with more than 1,000 micro antennas that beam up to one watt of power.
“We are not talking about some day you will get this,” said Zeine, adding that it is going through FCC certification for the device. “There is a lot of credibility issues with wireless power. A lot of companies came out and claimed wireless power, I have been working on this for 15 years now.”
He admits that Ossia represents a big idea, adding that he feels lucky to work on an opportunity that “could change the way we live.”
Ossia is generating plenty of buzz at CES — a place where journalists desperately seek outlets to charge laptops, cameras and smartphones. When I stopped by the company’s two-story booth Wednesday, press and analysts were scrambling to get a look at the product.
Gizmodo’s Andrew Liszewski wrote a review of Ossia’s technology with the headline: “An iPhone charging in midair is the coolest CES demo I’ve ever seen.”
The company also made some news on Wednesday, announcing that it has received a $2 million strategic investment from electronics powerhouse Molex. It has raised about $27 million to date.
In an interview with GeekWire, Zeine said that they will partner with Molex to develop new devices that use its Cota wireless charging technology. The 35-person company also inked a partnership with KDDI, the Japanese telecommunications giant. That followed a deal earlier this year with Si-Ware Systems to embed the Ossia technology in new devices.
“I bet you will not find a single electronics device at CES that does not use Molex,” said Zeine, adding that the new investor will help with commercialization efforts. That alliance will certainly help, since Ossia faces a big challenge of not only gaining consumer acceptance of the personal charging station, but also convincing consumer product manufacturers of installing Ossia’s Cota chip in their products.
Zeine thinks that can be done, noting as an example how Bluetooth is now standard in many devices.
Ossia plans to release its first device later this year, relying on partners to sell and market the technology. The cost of the personal area charger will fall somewhere between $100 to $200, with Zeine adding that he’s received interest from home builders who want to embed the technology into new construction projects as a way to promise wireless charging.
There are multiple opportunities in front of Ossia. And Zeine said choosing where to focus efforts is the biggest challenge, since every business and home deals with battery charging.
“We are trying to be really careful of the challenges,” said Zeine, adding that he does not want to pursue the wrong path. “But I can say, most of our challenges are high-class problems.”
The former Microsoft engineer added: “We feel we are just scratching the surface. There’s a lot more we can do.”