Skip to main content

Digital Trends may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site. Why trust us?

Wireless power over distance creeps closer to your home at CES 2020

This story is part of our continuing coverage of CES 2020, including tech and gadgets from the showroom floor.

I’ve been excited about wireless power over distance since the first live demo I saw five years ago. It felt a little bit like magic, as interesting technology innovations can do from time to time. There were already a number of players in the space back then, though few that could, or would, show you a working demonstration.

In the years since, I’ve seen many prototypes, watched panels power devices a few feet away, and been told repeatedly that the first consumer products were imminent. I’ve listened to clever scientists and inventors explain the technicalities. I’ve heard enthusiastic marketers talk up products that were about to change all of our lives. But they simply never materialized.

I remained optimistic that we would see wireless power over distance before too long, but that enthusiasm has been tempered and dulled slightly by the slow progress.

Concerns around safety, regulatory approval from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), low efficiency and high power loss — these are just some of the reasons that wireless power over distance still feels … well, distant.

Simon Hill/Digital Trends

I’m wary of saying that it’s about to arrive again, but CES 2020 feels like tangible progress. In fact, it’s the first year where I’ve managed to find a working product you can actually buy. Powercast sells a wireless transmitter on

Amazon for $100

. The company announced a Wireless Charging Grip for Nintendo Switch Joy-Con Controllers at the show and it will go on sale in the next couple of months. As long as you leave the controllers within a couple of feet of the transmitter, they’ll stay charged up.

While the amount of power that’s being sent is low and the distance is short, Powercast has still managed to achieve something that has proved elusive for most of the companies vying in this space by delivering a product to market.

Ossia Cota Home
Simon Hill/Digital Trends

Ossia’s new design

I met with Ossia again to see its new reference design, the Ossia Cota Home, a kind of power router for the home or office that’s capable of sending power several feet. Ossia CEO Mario Obeidat told me that the technology is ready to go into homes and it’s working with several partners, including phone case maker Spigen, to create a consumer product. The partnership with Spigen was announced at CES last year, and is apparently still on track to bear fruit in 2020. Spigen may sell a phone case bundled with a transmitter for somewhere around $100 or so.

He also told me that Ossia has been working on a project with Walmart and hopes to trial e-ink price tags with the retail giant. These price tags could be powered and updated simultaneously via Ossia’s ceiling tile. Because the new tags are e-ink, the power would only be needed to make changes, so it could be transmitted in very short bursts.

Obeidat seems unconcerned about some of the new players joining Ossia and Energous in this space.

“Delivering meaningful power at real distance — 10, 20, 30 feet, because of our efficiency,” says Obeidat. “That’s where we have differentiated ourselves from others.”

I also met with Wi-Charge at the show. It has technology that employs infrared light to send focused bursts of power to devices like cameras in hard-to-reach places. One example was a smart faucet from Hansgrohe with a small display on it that’s capable of turning on automatically when it senses you and lighting up the water. Wi-Charge is a good fit for an environment like that where wiring could be complicated and potentially dangerous.

The company also has a PowerPuck, which is a circular device that can be plugged directly into an outlet or screwed into an existing light fitting. The PowerPuck automatically detects receivers and can deliver up to 2W to up to three devices simultaneously — think security cameras and smoke alarms.

There’s potential for Wi-Charge to increase the power it delivers, and it’s fairly efficient compared to radio frequency technology. It’s also safe, because we’re accustomed to a lot of infrared light from the sun. While a Wi-Charge spokesperson told us that smartphone charging is possible, he said the big barrier is infrastructure. The issue of having to have transmitters everywhere and receiver technology built into devices is an obvious hurdle.

GuRu wireless power over distance
Simon Hill/Digital Trends

A robotic solution

The last demonstration I went to see was from GuRu, a newcomer to the scene with a clever solution to the distance problem. First, the CEO showed me a standard-looking transmitter sending a few watts of power a couple of feet to light up a bulb and charge a smartphone. GuRu’s technology is directional and beams can be focused on specific targets.

More impressive was GuRu’s robot, which looks like a robot vacuum cleaner, but has a transmitter on top. This is a clever way of getting around the fact that the power delivery drops significantly at longer distances. The idea is that the robot can go around your house at night while you sleep and charge up all your gadgets, from controllers to phones to tablets to cameras, so everything is ready to go the next morning.

GuRu is still awaiting FCC clearance, but it looks to be a major player that could make a splash in the near future.

“We’ve been fairly stealth,” CEO, Florian Bohn told me with a smile. “But now we’re ready to signal that wireless power over distance is here and it’s ready.”

With regulatory approval out of the way or pending, and plenty of working prototypes, the next step is to get transmitters on sale and persuade manufacturers to integrate receivers into devices. There’s still a long way to go and questions to answer on the efficiency, particularly at a time when we’re growing more conscious of our power usage, but wireless power over a distance is creeping closer to our homes.

Follow our live blog for more CES news and announcements.

Editors' Recommendations

Simon Hill
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Simon Hill is an experienced technology journalist and editor who loves all things tech. He is currently the Associate Mobile…
1More’s true wireless ANC earbuds are a preview of what’s coming to CES 2020
1more true wireless anc in ear headphones ces 2020 tws

CES 2020 is still a few weeks away, but we're already getting a preview of what's in store for us when we arrive. 1More's new True Wireless ANC In-Ear Headphones are a great example. It's the company's first true wireless earbuds to offer active noise cancellation (ANC), a feature that is rapidly becoming a must-have option for products that want to compete with the best the category has to offer.

But the True Wireless ANC In-Ear Headphones go beyond mere ANC. They're also the first true wireless earbuds to combine ANC with a multi-driver architecture, according to the company. That setup uses one dynamic driver and one balanced armature to produce sound that is good enough to be considered for THX Certification.

Read more
CES 2020: This could be the year your robot vacuum gets a security camera

I’ve raved about the increased quality of life I’ve enjoyed over the past several months thanks to how robot vacuums save me time from cleaning and free me up to focus on other things. Not everyone has the time, or even the patience, to clean their home on a regular basis, which is why robot vacuums are so helpful. The models we’re getting nowadays are incredibly sophisticated, to the point that operating one is simple as a voice command away -- or even a tap of an on-screen button in a mobile app.

Even better is the fact that prices have declined steadily to give more people the ability to buy them. The inevitable reality is that they’ll continue to become sleeker, more powerful, and smarter, resulting in a more efficient cleaning routine. However, in order to reach the next evolutionary milestone, it looks like they’ll need to be outfitted with cameras -- and that's what we expect to see at CES 2020. When you look at all the improvements that A.I. brings to the table, it's easy to see that the future of these small appliances will include full autonomy. 
First line of defense
With these future innovations, we can expect a time when robot vacuums will become the first line of defense when it comes to protecting the home. In the smart home space already, there’s this trend of devices becoming multifunctional -- with the Google Nest Hub Max being the perfect example. At the core of it all, it’s still a smart display, but one that leverages its built-in camera to act as a home security system. When you’re away, it acts as a Nest Cam to detect motion and even faces.

Read more
Nomad and Aira have created the Apple AirPower wireless charger we always wanted
nomad and aira beat apple airpower to the punch with base station pro

Nomad and Aira have done what Apple couldn't -- together, the two companies have created a wireless charging pad that can charge multiple devices at the same time but is flexible enough to charge anywhere from one to three devices at once. It's called the Base Station Pro, and pre-orders will be landing in November.

It's more than reminiscent of Apple's ill-fated AirPower wireless charger, which was intended to charge multiple devices from a single charging pad. The project was mired in development angst and was eventually canceled in March 2019. Citing issues with creating the software required to communicate with multiple devices, and hardware problems with the charging coils themselves generating interference, it was assumed a wireless pad that could charge multiple devices at once was unlikely to surface in the next few years. After all, if Apple couldn't do it, who could?

Read more