Nearly three years after Energous debuted its wire-free "power-at-a-distance" charging system called WattUp, the Federal Communications Commission has now approved the technology. Specifically, the FCC certification is for the company's first-generation WattUp Mid Field transmitter, which powers up devices at a distance of up to three feet away (via Engadget).
The news marks the first FCC certification ever for a wire-free charging system, which Energous said will open up "a tremendous opportunity for the electronics industry." The company mentioned that the WattUp Mid Field transmitter could be used in the future by "nearly any small electronic device," including smartphones, tablets, smart watches, earbuds, wireless keyboards and mice, smart speakers, and more.
Next, Energous will demonstrate the WattUp technology at CES 2018 in January. CEO Stephen R. Rizzone mentioned that the system's ability to charge both wire-free and via a traditional mat system will give WattUp an edge on the market.
"Older wireless charging technologies have received limited adoption over the past 15 years, and are confined to contact-based charging only. The FCC certification of Energous' power-at-a-distance wireless charging transmitter is a major market milestone. It opens up options, outside of just contact-based charging, to Wireless Charging 2.0: an ecosystem where devices can be charged both, via pad and at a distance," said Stephen R. Rizzone, president and CEO of Energous.
"Untethered, wire-free charging -- such as charging a fitness band even while wearing it -- is exactly what consumers have been waiting for. We are now in a position to move our consumer electronics, IoT and smart home customers forward at an accelerated pace."
WattUp is able to charge any battery-operated device using a technique that Energous likens to Wi-Fi, as long as the device has one of the company's receivers. A WattUp Power Router (a "transmitter") emits energy using a radio frequency signal delivered by miniature antenna arrays and custom control chips. Devices with a WattUp "receiver" (consisting of multiple miniature antennas) are then able to convert that RF signal into battery power.
Following the debut of WattUp at CES 2015, speculation pointed towards Apple possibly working with Energous on implementing the receiver technology directly into future iPhones, or at least helping the company build a MFi certified WattUp iPhone accessory. Once rumors of wireless charging in the 2017 iPhone lineup began swirling, Apple and Energous were again tied together, but eventually Apple opted for inductive wireless charging on the iPhone 8 and iPhone X.
Energous doesn't have any consumer-available products for purchase yet, but it's expected that the company will announce more news about its WattUp device at CES, which runs January 9 through 12 in Las Vegas.