Wireless charging: What are the risks?

October 16, 2017 10:12
Wireless charging is becoming popular, especially now that Apple has added it to its new iPhones, but there are issues and risks that users need to be concerned about. Photo: Bloomberg/HKEJ

Wireless charging is becoming a popular buzzword in the market, especially now that Apple has added it to its new iPhones, but what is it?

To discuss issues related to this technology and the impact of its application on the smartphone, Mickey Fong of Hong Kong Economic Journal’s StartUpBeat talked to Kelvin Wong, the co-founder of Neosen Energy, a local startup which focuses on building wireless charging systems.

Here are edited excerpts from the interview:

Q: Can you explain the Qi wireless charging technology that Apple adopts in its flagship smartphones?

A: There are several standards of wireless charging technology available in the global market. Among them, the Qi standard is most likely to be familiar to the public, as it powers a range of smartphones, accessories and products.

As one of its counterparts, the PMA (Power Matters Alliance) standard, has also struck deals to provide charging stations to businesses in recent years. Since 2014, PMA wireless charging stations can be found in over 40 Starbucks coffee shops in the US. PMA adopts a different expansion strategy compared with Qi, focusing on providing wireless charging devices in public venues such as airports, malls and coffee shops.

Since 2013, another alternative named A4WP (Alliance for Wireless Power) has emerged. A4WP supports a longer charging distance than the other two standards and is more flexible in the position and angle of the phone to be charged.

Despite the alternatives, Qi has now been established as the universal wireless charging standard, with the latest Qi standard offering up to 15 watts of power for compatible devices. In a recent milestone event, Qi was endorsed and adopted by Apple Inc., incorporating it in its newest generation of iPhones.

Q: Carrying a portable charger all the way can be a little troublesome. As a startup developing wireless charging technology, in which aspect of the market do the business opportunity lies?

A: We focus on hardware development, aiming to offer multiple-device wireless chargers compatible with both iPhone and Android smartphones, such that users will have no need to carry different charging cables.

Q: To your corporate clients, what would be the major uses of your products and solutions?

A: There are two types of major use cases. One is to be used in their consumer electronics products such as car chargers and desktop chargers. Another one is made as the built-in charger in the furniture. In Hong Kong, you may find our products applied in home appliances, as well as facilities in restaurants and hotels.

Q: For now, users would have to place their devices on the charging pad to get wireless charging, but what do you think it would be like in the future?

A: What’s coming up in the wireless charging technology is "resonant wireless charging", which can charge multiple devices over longer distances, at wide angles. While it is obviously more convenient than reaching for your charging cable, users may have concern about the radiation emitted by the wireless charging system.

Q: Can wireless charging be harmful to the human body?

A: If you installed a wireless charger at the ceiling of your flat and it was capable of charging all the mobile devices at home, you can imagine the power and the amount of electromagnetic radiation emitted by it.

We had run an EMC (electromagnetic compatibility) testing previously and found that without the appropriate shield, there may be adverse effects on human health when exposed to wireless charging. But the effect is minor since the power of the electromagnetic radiation is not high when charging smartphones and pads.

However, the power of the electromagnetic radiation will be multiplied for charging notebook computers (60-70 watts). And it increases with the distance between the charger and receiver.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Oct. 13

Translation by Ben Ng

[Chinese version 中文版]

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HKEJ writer