Humavox has a new approach to wireless charging that it hopes will change the world. While Nokia, Google and others have focused on magnetic induction, Humavox’s technology uses radio frequencies (RF) to transfer energy instead of data.
The inspiration for the technology came from CTO and Co-Founder Asaf Elssibony.
“Asaf, my partner [and good friend], got injured during his military service and he had a stimulator on his spinal cord to control the pain. It had to be surgically removed every three to four years, not because the implement didn’t hold up but because the battery was dying,” CEO and Co-Founder Omri Lachman told eWEEK.
“We starting hearing more about wireless charging and we thought, ‘Wouldn’t it change everything … if the implement could be charged forever?’” Lachman continued. “We wanted to solve real problems for real people.”
The pair began working, “completely in stealth mode,” and incorporated Humavox in 2010. A first area it decided to concentrate on was hearing aids, an industry valued at $15 billion annually.
Many hearing aids, said Lachman, have batteries that need to be changed once a day to once a week, by people generally 63 and older, who often are intimidated by technology, have poor eyesight and lack the manual dexterity to manipulate a tiny battery.
“If wireless charging technology can’t fit in most smartphones, there’s no hope for things like hearing aids,” said Lachman.
Humavox’s technology uses a transmitter and a receiver, the latter of which goes into a device and is thinner than a SIM card and roughly the size of a child’s pinky nail.
“Another distinction about us is that we’re not a product company. We make technology,” said Lachman. “We want other companies to be able to harness the technology … for their own products.”
The sky’s the limit for potential applications, but should companies need ideas, Humavox has three crude-ish devices it shows off.
One, a cylindrical box with a window on the side it calls a jewelry box and uses to demonstrate how users might take off, for example, a smartwatch and a glucose monitor and throw them both into the jewelry box at night and close the lid. (Through the window one can see the devices’ lit charging symbols.)
“There’s a handshake that occurs between the devices,” Lachman explains. “The Nest brain acknowledges it has to charge two devices running on two types of batteries.”
Nest is what Humavox calls the physical case that acts as a charging station, though it can take any form. Humavox can manufacture a Nest for a customer or pass on the application note and let them do it themselves.
The lid isn’t necessary, but can be included as a protective measure.
“It’s not emitting energy in a loose way but in a very regulated way. There’s nothing here that could be disturbing to anyone,” said Lachman. With a smile he added, “People like to call all devices ‘smart’ these days, but this really is a very smart process.”
Can Humavox Take Wireless Charging Mainstream?
A cup-like demo device—with or without a lid—suggests how a driver and passenger might drop a Fitbit or smartwatch into a car’s cupholder to charge during a drive, and a thin standing box suggests a charging receptacle that could fit in a car or a plane’s armrest. Or in a glove box. Or in a slot in a coffee table. The box itself can also be charged, and then used to wirelessly charge a device—for example, for the person with a hearing aid or glucose monitor who can’t risk the battery running out while traveling.
This ability to “cut the cords” is another Humavox distinction, says Lachman. Even if that means reducing them down to one. Instead of having USB cords to charge a phone, a smartwatch, smart glasses, and whatever else so many of us will soon own, a person could have a single cord, attached to a single Nest recepticle, that can simultaneously charge everything. (The charge time is the same as when the device is charged via USB cord.)
Nokia offers a line of wireless charging “pillows” that seem to do something similar—a phone lays down and wakes up “refreshed.” But Lachman dismisses this.
“The issue with magnetic induction is that it’s limited. From a user experience you’re being asked to do stuff. The magnetic coils have to be perfectly coupled for it to work. You can set down your phone to charge overnight and you wake up and realize it’s only 30 percent charged, because you didn’t line it up perfectly.”
He adds, “At the end of the day it comes down to user experience. We’re mimicking user habits.”
Humavox is having conversations with various types of companies, including major semiconductor companies, working to arrange licensing- or royalty-based deals. In 2015, a device will come out in the hearing aid space featuring the technology.
Humavox technology could work for smartphones and finally bring wireless charging into the mainstream mobile device market. But that’s for the mobile vendors to decide.
“We focused where we did because we wanted to prove a point and solve a real problem,” said Lachman. “But hopefully now [companies] see they can include wireless charging in their whole portfolio, and not just one type of device.”