Wireless charging firms speed up market layout

By Ma Jingjing Source:Global Times Published: 2017/9/28 23:29:28

Chinese regulators seek industry standard as sector looks set to boom

A Toyota FCV Plus vehicle with wireless battery is on display. Photo: CFP

China's wireless charging industry is evolving rapidly, with market players expecting the sector to boom this year with the launch of the new iPhone series.

Based on electromagnetic field theory, wireless charging technology transfers energy between two objects via electromagnetic induction or resonance. By doing this, it provides an innovative and convenient way to charge electrical devices such as smartphones, home appliances and even electric vehicles.

After it was unveiled that wireless charging technology would be used in the iPhone 8, 8 Plus and X in early September, industry insiders believe the sector is on the verge of a boom and has accelerated industrial layout.

Xiamen Newyea Science and Technology Co, established in 2014 in Xiamen, East China's Fujian Province, is a high-tech firm specializing in wireless charging technology research.

Although it was only established recently, the company now owns more than 130 patents, with applications including consumer electronics, smart home appliances and electric vehicles.

Lin Guijiang, president of the company and also a scientist of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, told the Global Times on Monday that the company has carried out research in wireless energy transmission based on various distances as well as different power levels.

On September 22, Newyea launched 15-watt wireless charging chips. As for medium-power technologies, the company has 24-watt to 200-watt technical reserves, which can be applied to the smart life sector such as smart small home appliances, unmanned drones and self-balancing vehicles.

In addition, the company's 3.7 kilowatt, 7.7-kilowatt and 30-kilowatt wireless charging systems for electric vehicles have already realized industrialization, Lin said, noting that wireless charging systems of 100-kilowatts or above will also enter trial operations by the end of 2017.

Shanghai-based NewEdge Technologies is one of the few Chinese firms that is focusing on system of chips (SoCs) design for wireless power and related products and applications.

Established in 2013, the company launched Qi compliant medium power wireless charging integrated circuit (IC) chips in June 2016, the first among the more than 200 members of the Wireless Power Consortium (WPC), said Zhang Liang, a manager of the company.

Backed by international giants including Apple Inc, Samsung Electronics, Qualcomm Incorporated and domestic companies such as Huawei Technologies Co, Xiaomi and Xiamen Newyea, WPC's Qi is the most widely adopted global wireless power standard.

The company has also developed low power IC chip designs, including 5-watt, 10-watt and 15-watt, Zhang told the Global Times on Monday.

In addition to these two companies, many other start-ups are also evolving at a rapid pace. The Shanghai-based Chushan Technology is one example, gaining three rounds of funding since its establishment in October 2015.

Playing catch-up

Despite these companies' technological achievements, domestic firms are still trying to catch up with major semiconductor players in the US and EU, Zhang noted.

"As China has no wireless charging standard yet, most Chinese firms adopt WPC's inductive Qi standard, which powers smartphones, accessories and other electrical devices. And those taking part in the standard formation process are mainly semiconductor giants such as Qualcomm and MediaTek," he said.

There are now two major international wireless charging standards - WPC and AirFuel Alliance. Both standards are based on inductive charging technology and fairly short ranges, while AirFuel is not only used in smartphones, but also in businesses such as Starbucks by offering charging stations, according to a report on industry website androidauthority.com in January.

Chinese companies have their own technical route, for example, offering direct current via wireless charging technology as opposed to alternating current, said Zheng Jiatu, deputy managing director of the China Electric Vehicle Charging Technology and Industry Alliance.

Furthermore, the Chinese regulator and industry players are stepping up efforts to develop a national standard of wireless charging technology, according to Zheng.

Following the discussion of a national standard for electric vehicle wireless power transfer systems in October 2016, experts and firms gathered in Yantai, East China's Shandong Province to approve the standard in May, local news site ql1d.com reported.

In addition, although some Western firms have taken the lead in terms of research and development, Chinese firms have done more to promote the new technology, Zheng said, noting China's huge population gives it an advantage for the widespread application of wireless technology.

Commercial expectations

Although the technology is relatively mature, commercial applications are rare because of a lack of application scenarios at present, Zheng said.

The power conversion efficiency of wireless charging is around 90 percent, similar to the 93 percent and 94 percent of cable charging, but the new technology is more convenient because people do not have to carry around their chargers with them, he said. Besides, smartphone and other electronic device producers are willing to accept a price of less than 20 yuan ($3) a wireless charging chip.

With the development of technology used in Internet-connected cars, smart cities, unmanned driving and intelligent parking, there will be a huge market in high power wireless charging in the future, he said.

Given the adoption of wireless charging technology in the iPhone 8, market players are predicting that the commercial application of low and medium power wireless charging technology will come this year.

"Wireless charging technology doesn't target a specific industry. Hence, the cross-industry application characteristic makes it possible that the drive of any application industry can leverage its large-scale utilization," Lin from Newyea said.

"An increasing number of domestic smartphone manufacturers such as Huawei and Xiaomi are following suit. Their flagship phones may be equipped with this technology in 2018," said Zhang from NewEdge, noting that the growing usage of receivers will also drive the need for transmitters such as mobile power pack sharing.

On September 21, Xiaomi appeared on the member list of the WPC under the application category of consumer electronics, marking the high-tech firm's expansion into the wireless charging sector.

According to calculations carried out by a research team at Tianjin Polytechnic University, the global wireless charging market valuation for smartphones, wearable devices and electric vehicles will reach $14.77 billion by 2020, with a compound annual growth rate of 93.31 percent, according to a document sent to the Global Times on Tuesday.

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