Intel Takes Steps Toward Wire-Free Future

The chip maker talks about wireless docks that will connect devices to peripherals and hardware to wirelessly charge systems.

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Intel officials at the Computex show in June broached the idea of "wire-free" computing, a vision of a world where computing devices do not have to use cables to hook up to displays, keyboards or mice, and where they don't need to be plugged into a socket to recharge.

The chip maker recently gave a peek into some of the work being done to meet that goal, which is expected to be among the issues discussed at the Intel Developer Forum next month in San Francisco.

In a blog post Aug. 20, company officials talked about the company's efforts to create smart wireless docks to enable laptops or other computing devices to automatically wirelessly link with monitors or projectors in an office, and hardware that will enable systems to charge automatically without having to be plugged into electrical sockets.

The moves are a natural evolution in an increasingly mobile and wireless world, according to the chip manufacturer.

"We’re living in an age of ubiquitous wireless connectivity," Intel blogger David Angell wrote. "With improvements to cellular technology, global navigation systems, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, we’re able to work smarter and communicate faster. The next logical step in the progression of wireless technology is to further untangle users and completely change the computing landscape."

Intel for the last several years has made an aggressive push to become a larger player in a mobile world that has been dominated by devices—particularly smartphones and tablets—powered by ARM-based systems-on-a-chip (SoCs) developed by the likes of Qualcomm and Samsung. However, the chip maker's efforts go beyond just trying to catch up to ARM in mobile chips.

Intel has pushed to transform PCs into lighter, more powerful and more mobile devices. The company introduced the idea of the thin and light Ultrabook, which, while not as successful as executives had predicted, have helped fuel the development of emerging form factors, such as two-in-one devices that can be used as either a traditional notebook or as a tablet. The company also is continuing to work to drive down the prices of these devices, and CEO Brian Krzanich has argued that these new form factors—along with such issues as Microsoft's ending of support for Windows XP in April—has helped rejuvenate a struggled global PC market.

Now Intel officials are looking to make these devices the centers of a growing and increasingly wireless mobile world. They have talked about using the emerging WiGig standard as the basis for much of the company's wireless efforts, and initiatives like the wireless docks also fall into those efforts. Embedded in the blog post is a video that visualizes the kind of wireless world that Intel envisions.

It's a world where wireless monitors and other peripherals turn on the minute a person walks into the room with their laptop, and then automatically connects to the laptop, where the user can dictate and send emails using only their voice, and where data can be wirelessly transferred from one device to another.

"How many minutes do you waste each day trying to find the right display adapter?" Angell wrote in the post. "You shouldn’t have to be an A/V tech to give a boardroom presentation. By developing smart wireless docks featuring USB 3.0 speeds and high-definition video capabilities, Intel is paving the way for proximity-based peripheral syncing that will make these kinds of inconveniences a thing of the past."

When those devices need to be recharged, they simply are put on a tablet or into a dish and recharged wirelessly through a technology called magnetic resonance. Intel is basing its wireless charging efforts around a standard called Rezence, which is being developed by an industry group called Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP).

The group, which includes such vendors as Dell, Qualcomm, Samsung and Fujitsu, is one of three vendor consortiums working on standards for wirelessly recharging electronic devices. Another group, the Power Matters Alliance (PMA), in February said it would work with the A4WP to enable interoperability between their respective standards.

The other group, the Wireless Power Consortium, has created the Qi standard that is in use in more than 400 products, according to group officials. Qi-enabled smartphones currently are available from the likes of Samsung, Nokia and Sharp, and Qi charging stations can be found worldwide in such places as offices, hotels, airports and coffee shops, they said.