back to article Arms not long enough to reach the plug socket? Room-wide wireless charging is on the way

Researchers in Japan have developed a means of wireless charging that would enable electronic devices to be pumped with power anywhere within a room. The study, which appears in Nature Electronics, suggests the work could lead to electronics firms building small charging cabinets, and wireless charging rooms. The work even …

  1. TeeCee Gold badge
    Facepalm

    "...37 per cent efficiency..."

    Yippee! Just what we need, a new way to waste shitloads of power. But it's convenient, so we'll probably do it anyway.

    I wonder what "maximum efficiency" actually was...?

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: "...37 per cent efficiency..."

      Probably not good.

      Hypochondriacs everywhere will be overjoyed at this new opportunity to complain, though.

      1. Aladdin Sane
        Joke

        Re: "...37 per cent efficiency..."

        Any idea if it'll interfere with my COVID-19 vaccine?

        1. Dr_N
          Alien

          Re: "...37 per cent efficiency..."

          Only if you keep bats.

        2. DS999 Silver badge

          Re: "...37 per cent efficiency..."

          Any idea if it'll interfere with my COVID-19 vaccine?

          It'll work better, because that chip that Bill Gates snuck in will finally be able to turn on.

          1. Aladdin Sane

            Re: "...37 per cent efficiency..."

            Plans within plans

      2. b0llchit Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: "...37 per cent efficiency..."

        They, the hypochondriacs, will evolve to have their skin light-up in the darkness of the room when exposed to EM fields. And, 37% efficiency is very high in terms of biology! Plants don't get that high. Evolution solves the darkness-in-a-room problem for us humans.

        1. DS999 Silver badge
          Trollface

          Re: "...37 per cent efficiency..."

          Plants evolved with unlimited free energy being provided to them via the sun. If they had to pay for their power they would have decided to remain single celled organisms!

          1. ICL1900-G3

            Re: "...37 per cent efficiency..."

            A brilliant and perceptive comment!

            I thoroughly recommend Nick Lane's 'The Vital Question' for further discussion of this fascinating topic.

        2. HelpfulJohn Bronze badge

          Re: "...37 per cent efficiency..."

          Glowing skin is doable and possibly even easy.

          I think only ethics prevents its widespreading.

          Ethics and the fact that Suckyberg hasn't thought to monetise it.

          Yet.

    2. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: "...37 per cent efficiency..."

      Integrated device charging and central heating system.

      I really should be in marketing

      1. Ian K
        Flame

        Re: "...37 per cent efficiency..."

        "Integrated device charging and central heating system."

        Even better, make it a personal rather than central heating system. Each individual in the room gets their position tracked, and their very own zone of RF-induced heat.

        Plus, extra bonus from early systems while the bugs are still being worked out - return to the traditional Dickensian feature of occasional random spontaneous human combustion!

        1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

          Re: "...37 per cent efficiency..."

          "Even better, make it a personal rather than central heating system. Each individual in the room gets their position tracked, and their very own zone of RF-induced heat."

          Personal heating, wireless charging and food warming/cooking device - surely most of us already have the requisite transmitter in the kitchen - the microwave oven

    3. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: "...37 per cent efficiency..."

      I'm not sure if convenience will drive this at such low efficiencies, though I'd expect this to pick over time with different materials, frequencies, etc. But there may well be certain environments where this kind of power distribution makes sense.

      1. HelpfulJohn Bronze badge

        Re: "...37 per cent efficiency..."

        Isn't this sort of a Tesla thingy?

        Didn't he hypothesise this way back in the Dark Ages before TV and emails?

        I seem to remember the "Lensman" series of SF novels having "portables" powered by matching tuned circuits that used some form of resonance at a distance to supply wireless power at huge wattages so this ain't a very new concept.

        Physics in Reality doesn't make the good stuff easy.

        1. Charles 9

          Re: "...37 per cent efficiency..."

          I don't think the concept was used more than ephemerally. Having read that whole series in the past, I know portable electronics wasn't discussed very much. A lot of the tech in Lensman was of the "bigger and better" variety.

    4. DS999 Silver badge

      Re: "...37 per cent efficiency..."

      37% is fine for keeping your phone or wireless mouse/keyboard charged. Wasteful for a laptop but probably tolerable. Ridiculous to consider for a house in general let alone a factory floor.

    5. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: "...37 per cent efficiency..."

      Remember, that is based on a (Tokyo based) Japanese idea of a 'room'. For a typical USA room that's probably only 9 per cent efficient.

  2. Pete 2 Silver badge

    charging room, no bars

    > multidirectional, distributed currents on conductive surfaces built into the walls.

    So lining the walls with conductive material.

    It just means that reason your phone won't work is due to the lack of signal inside what is effectively a screened room. Or walk-in microwave oven.

    Though it will stay fully charged - just so long as the batteries don't explode.

    1. HelpfulJohn Bronze badge

      Re: charging room, no bars

      On TV this is called a "Faraday Cage" and even baboons know about them according to Walter.

      On assumes that the top of the walls and perhaps around skirting-board heights would be conductor-free to allow signals in and out and that there would be doors and windows, too. After ll, one need only allow charging from about coffee-table height to around should-height on a tallish man. All the rest of the room would usually be devoid of devices looking for charge.

      Would those gaps be sufficient for a clear signal?

      1. HelpfulJohn Bronze badge

        Re: charging room, no bars

        Corrigenda: "after all" and "shoulder-height".

        Sorry. :)

  3. Eclectic Man Silver badge
    Coat

    If you cannot reach the power socket ...

    ... why don't we just evolve into something with much longer arms?

    (HHGTTG reference, ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal.)

    I'll get my coat, its the one with the really long sleeves.

    1. DS999 Silver badge

      Re: If you cannot reach the power socket ...

      The human race (or at least those in the western world) would be better off if we evolved into something that could burn fat and turn it into electricity that comes out of our hands. Then the devices we hold so close all day long could be charged, and we'd lose weight while doing it!

    2. Martin an gof Silver badge

      Re: If you cannot reach the power socket ...

      Bugblatter Beast

      Don't you mean the Haggunenon?

      M.

      1. Eclectic Man Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: If you cannot reach the power socket ...

        I do.

        I sit corrected. However, I am referring to the event, documented in the first series, where our heroes and heroine decide to steal a ship from Milliways ("Marvin, what makes you think this is the flagship of an Admiral of the Space Fleet?" - "I know it is, I parked it for him."). When the Haggunenon Admiral evolves into a Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal. ("That chair is scratching its leg.")

  4. Tromos
    Joke

    "...how much power could be absorbed by a person in the room..."

    That would rather depend on if they were wearing a tinfoil hat.

    1. katrinab Silver badge
      Alert

      Re: "...how much power could be absorbed by a person in the room..."

      You probably don't want to have a tinfoil hat in proximity to one of these things.

      1. HelpfulJohn Bronze badge

        Re: "...how much power could be absorbed by a person in the room..."

        A tinfoil (or "silver paper") Faraday suit, perhaps? Neatly wired into the ground, of course.

  5. 45RPM

    When I was a kid I build a crystal radio, with an earpiece, and I could listen to any AM station that I chose. Its power source was the radio waves themselves - no batteries required.

    The air is already crackling with energy - and if it wasn’t then this planet would be lifeless and dead.

    As long as it has been properly tested, I’m not worried about the safety of wireless charging. I do have concerns about efficiency - in a warming world we need to be more prudent about our use of power, let’s not waste it - and particularly not because we’re too damn lazy to plug a wire in.

    1. Nick Pettefar

      `the differences in power are tremendous, FYI…

      1. 45RPM

        Orders of magnitude, of course. It will have to be carefully thought out - at the very least to prevent unwanted side effects (interference for a start). My point was that I’m not about to start wearing a tinfoil hat about this possible new tech.

  6. Nick Pettefar

    “Plug Socket” is an imbecile phrase/description. Are there any non-plug sockets pray?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Dictionary

      > Are there any non-plug sockets pray?

      Eye socket?

      1. Sam not the Viking Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Dictionary

        Respect.

        Aretha Franklin.

      2. Simon Harris

        Re: Dictionary

        And are rawl plugs plugs or sockets?

        True, you push them into a hole in the wall, but then you put a screw down the hole in the centre.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Eye socket?

        Aha! Just Socket-and-see ... I see.

      4. HelpfulJohn Bronze badge

        Re: Dictionary

        I've seen things plugged into those.

        See "The Six Million Dollar Man" for an example.

        Yes, I like old SF. :)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I have one in my shoulder joint

      1. Jan 0 Silver badge

        That one's quite virtual. Your proximal humerus has to imagine most of the socket.

    3. Aladdin Sane
      Coat

      Socket and see.

      Wait...

    4. AndrueC Silver badge
      Trollface

      Yes. It's what they use to plug ATM machines in so that you can use your PIN number. Afterwards you drive off in a car with a VIN number.

      1. Snowy Silver badge
        Trollface

        nho

        They are PIN (Personal Identification Number) and VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) there is no need for the extra Number

        1. Alister
          Facepalm

          Re: nho

          Yes, that was the point

      2. Simon Harris

        Are those the ATMs that you check are safe to use with a PAT test?

        1. Swarthy

          Only if you use them at 3AM in the morning. But avoid the ones in the Sahara Desert or Lake Tahoe.

          1. AndrueC Silver badge
            Happy

            At least you'll be safe from Koala Bears (although that's not actually a pleonasm). That is just wrong because they aren't bears :)

    5. AdaLoveseal

      Plus socket or...

      What, you'd rather call it a PowerPoint?

    6. Simon Harris

      I believe a plug-socket is what you plug a plug-top into!

      The first time I heard a mains plug referred to as a plug-top it took me ages to realise they meant the whole plug, and not just the cover you screw onto the top once you’ve wired it.

  7. WanderingHaggis
    Coat

    I used to make a joke about wireless power -- it is odd to see the joke becoming a reality. I feel like saying if it is only 10 watts the factory floor might not have too much use for it but if the joke become reality then ... I'll get my coat.

  8. theOtherJT Silver badge

    Never mind the humans....

    ...I'm wondering what effect this sort of thing will have on other electrical devices that weren't designed to have random electromagnetic fields projected through them. We've all experienced the weird noises that you can get when mobile phone signals randomly couple with speaker wires.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Never mind the humans....

      Worse if you live next door to one of these idiots. I've had my medium wave radio wiped out by plasma TVs in the past. This will get all kinds of random noise through a wall.

      Though this one could be useful. If the owner is in a block of flats then they'll be charging up their neighbours equipment too.

      One of those ideas developed in a lab with no thought of real world houses.

    2. Mike 137 Silver badge

      Re: Never mind the humans....

      Never mind the mobile phones either. Just try running a precision electronics lab (or indeed, possibly, storing archive tapes) near this. our lab already has serious noise problems arising from much lower power interference (e.g. every time the local pirate radio station powers up).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Never mind the humans....

        Sorry.

    3. Arthur the cat Silver badge
      Terminator

      Re: Never mind the humans....

      I'm wondering what effect this sort of thing will have on other electrical devices that weren't designed to have random electromagnetic fields projected through them.

      In my case I'd be worried about the specific electrical device implanted in me. I'm not supposed to keep my mobile phone in a shirt pocket because of it.

      Will nobody think of the cyborgs?

      1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

        Re: Never mind the humans....

        You need to relocate to Green Bank, West Virginia:

        https://www.popsci.com/achieve-radio-silence-west-virginia-town/

        "The town of Green Bank, West Virginia, sits at the heart of the National Radio Quiet Zone, where cellphones, Wi-Fi routers, and broadcast antennas are all but absent. For most, it is a throwback to a different era. But for an increasing number of new residents, it is a rare refuge from wireless technology. Welcome to the fringe of the electromagnetic age."

        1. JohnGrantNineTiles

          Re: Never mind the humans....

          With implanted devices such as pacemakers it's mostly magnetic fields that are the problem, because they're likely to put it into the engineering mode that's used when you have a check-up. As well as stopping it performing its usual function I suspect that drains the battery. And no, they're not rechargeable. You're told to keep at least 2 ft away from an induction hob (in a kitchen), and this system sound like a room-sized induction hob.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Frying Tonight

    as they said in Carry On Screaming.

    1. Arthur the cat Silver badge
  10. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
    WTF?

    Inverse square law

    Room wide charging isn't gonna happen. The laws of physics stand in the way.

    Waste of time, money and power. But some companies will try it, claim success and rake in the dough, until word gets around that it doesn't work as advertised. Then, all the pieces get dumped and we have more electronic scrap. Yay!

    Just plug your damn iPhone in.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Inverse square law

      But in this post-truth world little matters like laws of physics don't need to be considered.

      See also: Renewable power, Electric Vehicles.

      1. Ian K
        WTF?

        Re: Inverse square law

        So you're claiming what? That the laws of physics prevent renewable power, electric vehicles and this article's wireless charging system?

        Despite examples of all of them actually existing, and > 20% of the UK's energy having come from renewable sources last year?

        You might want to look at the differences between something being non-trivial to implement and actually physically impossible before banging on about post-truths.

    2. nemecystt

      Re: Inverse square law

      Inverse square law applies to a single point source. Multiple plates on multiple walls gives you quite a different result. Consider the electric field between the plates of a capacitor. Besides the fringing around the edges, it is uniform.

      1. Swarthy

        Re: Inverse square law

        I wonder if they are using a phased-array approach to further reduce the impact of the inverse-square gremlins. although I don't think that would work with multiple charge-ees, but I Am Not An Electrical Engineer.

      2. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Inverse square law

        So, you can cover your walls with inefficient radiators (where do these plug in?), or plug your iPhone into a wall wart. When you want to charge in a different room, you have to do it all over again? I've got a couple of genuine Apple chargers with cords in the office, living room, bedroom. I doubt I have more than $50 invested in them.

        I'll take a small inconvenience over a hugely expensive and inefficient infrastructure.

    3. This post has been deleted by its author

    4. ian 22

      Re: Inverse square law

      Where is Nicola Tesla when we need him?

    5. snowpages

      Re: Inverse square law

      If they are using low frequency magnetic fields rather than RF then it is worse - more like inverse cube law...

      Yes, just plug the phone in. Simple, Efficient.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Frequency? Effects OUTSIDE the room? Messaging IN ADDITION to power?

    Do the IEEE limits apply to cats and dogs (and goldfish) too?

    *

    Lots of questions.......few answers.

    1. lowwall

      Re: Frequency? Effects OUTSIDE the room? Messaging IN ADDITION to power?

      They don't emit effort to matter. Now if you keep Torpedo Rays as pets...

    2. FILE_ID.DIZ

      Re: Frequency? Effects OUTSIDE the room? Messaging IN ADDITION to power?

      Or like how I noticed there was nothing hanging on the walls, like photos or paintings and the such.

      With all that shit in the walls, I am reminded of a building that we did (network) cabling in. The building had a geothermal HVAC system, but it was weird in my experience with geoHVAC as it had pipping through all the walls (radiant system, I guess).

      Anyway, we were informed that we NOT to penetrate any walls or floors without consulting the on-site engineer to verify that we wouldn't penetrate the system. What a real PITA that job was.

      Wonder what this system would look like? And I can tell you that electricity probably bites a bit more than a liquid leak.

  12. Helstrom

    What's in your wallet?

    I'm curious about the impact of this sort of thing on other magnetism based dumb devices. Will this wipe out credit cards/hotel room keys/etc?

  13. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    Imagine

    Imagine you'll never have to plug your personal massager... oh wait.

  14. Wade Burchette

    A dream for the lazy

    Already we have a phone app for those too lazy to walk 5 feet to flip a light switch, or 30 feet to adjust a thermostat. Now people are trying to get wireless charging for those too lazy to walk 3 feet to their USB cable. A WALL-E style future surely awaits us.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Why?

    I have never had a wireless charging stand and am even less interested in a wireless charging room.

    I have 6' charging cords next to chairs I frequent. It allows me to use my phone while it's charging. It's close to 100% efficient. The cords are cheap. It doesn't increase the price of the phone or dictate the materials used in its construction. And given the cost of a wireless charging stand, I can't imagine how much a room would cost.

    No thank.

    1. Craig 2

      Re: Why?

      Just wind back 50 (ish) years and substitute "wireless charging" for "wireless phone". Now everyone has one. Just saying...

      1. Cuddles

        Re: Why?

        Not really the same. For communications, it's a simple choice between having a wire or having some kind of wireless system. Wireless phones mean you can carry a phone to places that a wire can't reach. For power, batteries mean you can carry your power source around with you, so there's no need for either a wired or wireless connection to be present at all times. So it's addressing an entirely different issue. In one case, it's a choice between having a phone that works or one that doesn't; in the other it's a choice between needing to actually plug your phone in once every day or two, or not actually plugging it in but still needing to spend enough time in a specific enclosed space.

        That last part is important. Wireless communications work because they (mostly) use broadcasts. If wireless phones only worked if you were sitting right next to the wire you'd previously have been using, no-one would ever have bothered with them. They became popular because you can actually use them anywhere within a reasonable distance from a broadcasting tower. This technology, on the other hand, only works in a dedicated enclosed space. That's not because it's still being developed, it's inherent to the whole idea. If I could wander around in the woods and have my phone charging all the time, that might be interesting. Even if I could have limited range charging to the bottom of the garden, like wireless landline phones, that could have some use. But if I have to be sitting in my living room anyway, where exactly is the benefit over just using a wire?

  16. jonathan keith
    Alert

    It's all fun and games...

    ... until the first thunder storm.

  17. Dr_N

    Repurpose as insect zapper?

    Could we use this tech to terminate mosquitos ?

    1. Ian K
      Thumb Up

      Re: Repurpose as insect zapper?

      And/or keep drinks hot?

    2. Martin-R

      Re: Repurpose as insect zapper?

      If you bumped up the electric field enough for it to actually zap them, not sure I'd want to go in the room myself while it was on... But maybe you could put an electric charge on the mosquitos and then a high enough magnetic field would deflect them all out a window?!

      1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        Re: Repurpose as insect zapper?

        But maybe you could put an electric charge on the mosquitos and then a high enough magnetic field would deflect them all out a window?!

        I would suggest deflecting them into a zapper, thus taking care of the next generation as well.

  18. Ian Johnston Silver badge

    Writing as someone with a doctorate in electromagnetism, it will be a cold day in hell before I knowingly spend time in a room with this level of magnetic fields in it.

    1. Dr_N

      You are Magneto and I claim my $5.

  19. Bryan Hall
    FAIL

    Inverse Square law anyone?

    Yet Another Product announcement designed to extract the most money from fools wallets as possible before going bust.

    "37 per cent efficiency is achievable anywhere in the room" - complete BS, in direct violation of the inverse square law power rule.

    1. Ian K
      Headmaster

      Re: Inverse Square law anyone?

      1) What is the geometry the inverse square law applies to?

      2) What is the geometry of the room and its emitters?

      3) Where should the apostrophe go in "from fools wallets"?

      1. Eclectic Man Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: Inverse Square law anyone?

        Re: 3) Where should the apostrophe go in "from fools wallets"?

        The correct place for the apostrophe is after the "s" in "fools" as "fools" is a plural as it lacks the indefinite article "a", and is in the possessive of "wallets".

        The phrase should be "from fools' wallets."

        I thank you.

    2. Simon Harris

      Re: Inverse Square law anyone?

      I’d explain how that only applies to point sources, but nemecystt already has, so scroll back up (or down depending on how you’ve sorted the posts) for an explanation.

  20. Kurgan Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Ham radio operators hate this

    We are already drowning in man-made radio interferences, generated by chinese crap power supplies, chargers, led lamps, usb devices, etc. What we need is another very powerful radio noise generator.

    1. Simon Harris

      Re: Ham radio operators hate this

      Don’t forget microwave ovens

      https://www.theregister.com/2015/04/12/strange_radio_telescope_signals_came_from_microwave_ovens/

      Wonder how many ‘space anomalies’ charging rooms will create.

  21. David Pearce

    Apple

    Apple already have problems with pacemakers

    https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT211900

  22. Potemkine! Silver badge

    Filling the air with more power seems so idiotic on so many counts...

  23. RustyDigital
    Unhappy

    Life-Threatening to those with Pacemakers

    This seems a complete non-starter from a safety perspective. Many people who are dependent on pacemakers could be killed by walking into a room where there are strong electro-magnetic fields. This should be banned.

  24. mark l 2 Silver badge

    These Japanese researchers would be better off trying to develop a longer lasting battery than making it slightly more convenient to charge electronic devices. With fast charging phones getting more popular it takes less than an 20 mins to get back to around 80% charge using a cable. So charging is hardly a major time consumer.

    1. Charles 9

      Ever thought we may be hitting the limits of capacity? Seems the only way to make it last longer is to make it bigger, which is a nonstarter for today's "thin is in" clieintele. It's like trying to cram a baker's dozen in an egg carton.

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