Freescale Platform Enables Wireless Charging of Tablets, Notebooks

The new offering, which will go on sale in the first quarter of 2015, will bring three times the power of most of today's wireless charging systems.


Freescale early next year will begin selling a 15-watt wireless charging platform that will enable users to more quickly recharge larger computing devices like tablets and notebooks, which company officials say will help the industry meet a growing demand as more similar sized products are coming to market.

The semiconductor vendor is announcing the system Dec. 8, saying it will bring three times the power of the more common 5-watt wireless charging solutions that are used for smaller devices like smartphones, feature phones, accessories and wearable devices, such as fitness and health care monitors and smartwatches. It will hit the market in the first quarter of 2015.

For systems like tablets, notebooks and e-readers, "using today's 5-watt wireless charging solutions would take a while to charge," Sujata Neidig, consumer business development manager for Freescale's microcontroller division, told eWEEK.

Freescale pointed to a typical tablet with a 4,000-mAh battery, which could take more than 8 hours to charge from a standard 5-watt USB port. With a 15-watt solution, that number could drop to just a few hours, officials said.

Wireless charging is taking on increasing importance as the number of mobile devices—from smartphones, tablets and notebooks to wearable systems and the billions of connected devices that will make up the Internet of things (IoT)—proliferate. Device vendors, component makers and service providers are introducing products and backing several standards consortiums as they look for ways to make wireless charging more ubiquitous, not only in the home but also in such places as coffee shops, retail shopping centers, automobiles and airports.

The interest can be seen in the three industry groups looking to create standards for wireless charging using a technology called magnetic resonance. The Wireless Power Consortium (WPC) is developing the Qi standard, while the Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP) is developing a wireless charging standard called Rezence, which is being embraced by the likes of Intel, Dell, Qualcomm and Samsung.

The Power Matters Alliance (PMA) earlier this year announced it is working with the A4WP to consolidate standards.

During their Intel Developer Forum in September, Intel executives talked about their effort to make the PC experience—from the wires that charge them to the cables that connect them to peripherals like monitors and keyboards—wireless starting next year. Part of that plan is to accelerate support for Rezence in a broad array of mobile products and throughout homes and businesses to ensure that essentially anything—from tablets to toasters—can be made into a wireless charging station by putting a Rezence-based wireless charging pad into or on top of them.

For its part, Freescale is a member of both the WPA and PMA, though its focus is on the Qi standard. However, with more than one standard in the market today, it makes sense for Freescale to ensure that it is touching as many customers as possible, which makes membership in multiple standards bodies a smart move, Freescale's Neidig said.

"Not everyone follows the same path, and we want to keep our options open for our customers," Neidig said.

Freescale in August unveiled its 5-watt programmable wireless charging integrated circuits (ICs) and reference designs—as well as software APIs—based on Qi that system makers can put into their products. Now the company is moving up the ladder with its configurable Qi-compliant 15-watt offerings, which include the WPR1516 receiver chip and WCT1012 transmitter chip, and which also support other standards.

The company is offering two receiver reference designs and a transmitter reference design, as well as an API that can be used to modify library functionality to give designers greater flexibility in their products. The reference designs also offer core software capabilities to make it easier for developers to adopt the Freescale technology.

The 15-watt solution is not only aimed at tablets and notebooks, but also at such systems as large-screen smartphones, handheld video game consoles, digital imaging products and medical equipment, according to officials.