Look around you. Is your laptop’s cable plugged into your device to charge it? What about your smartphone – is it attached to a powering station? We live in a wonderfully wired world; from consumer devices all the way to industrial buildings, our ecosystem is one built on the backs of copper, zinc, silver and the variety of alloys that make up our cables.
Wireless power transfer is an area of innovation that aims to free the world from the tangles and complexity of cabling. Imagine a world where anyone can access power, from anywhere at any time. This is our vision at TransferFi – to unlock the possibilities of a wireless world using radio frequency (RF) wireless power network technology.
The whole world is moving towards wireless, with voice and data leading the way. Now, we are looking to truly untether humanity with wireless power. This carves a stronger path towards the realisation of Industry 4.0, as cable-free technology can be a powerful enabler for the growth of Internet of things (IoT). On average, more than 60% of the costs associated with an industrial IoT installation goes into cabling and installation. And that figure is increasing, because labour costs are constantly increasing. The inevitable cost for wiring is creating a barrier to digitisation, IoT and the dream of full autonomy.
Another reason we should be exploring wireless power technology is the time savings it offers. If you compare network cable installations back in the day, it would take a day and a half to wire the ethernet cable across a floor of office desks. Today, a wireless router takes less than 10 minutes to install. Let’s scale this example to an industrial setting. At times, cabling an entire commercial or industrial outlet could take up to two months of down time. In America where I used to work, an hour of factory production could deliver anywhere between US$1.6 – US$2 million worth of revenue.
Cabling and installation account for over 60% of the costs associated with industrial IoT
This is too huge to ignore, and an issue that we need to resolve if we want to improve commercial efficiency. Ultimately, the lengthy deployment time of traditional cabling severely reduces a business’ ability to operate, and on a higher level, hinders industries from adopting new IoT technologies.
Hence, we began our startup by asking the question – is there a way to reduce the large chunk of an IoT installation costs, by employing a new technology that requires less time, resources, and manpower? We attempted to answer this question through the creation of the world’s first long-range wireless power network. Our product is developed using our patented radio frequency (RF) technology, offering long-range wireless power networks to an array of industrial clientele.
Our RF-based wireless power network technology operates through a system similar to an everyday Wi-Fi connection. A special transmitter device transmits the patented radio frequency based power signal, while a specialist receiver is designed to receive that signal. The received signal is converted back into voltage, powering the device it’s connected to. This is all that’s needed to be truly untethered from electricity, free from the need for cables.
And it’s not just factories where the benefits can be realised. At TransferFi, one of our projects involves an installation within a commercial building. In this particular project, we working to integrate wireless power into temperature heat mapping systems, helping reduce cooling costs by 30-40% through a smarter and more granular management system.
Wireless power can reduce the cost of power distribution infrastructure by over 80%
There are other parallel innovations contributing to this vision of a wireless world. Magnetic resonance and induction are other such technologies, incorporated in wireless charging solutions, mostly found in small devices such as mobile phones or electric toothbrushes. Another area is optical wireless power using lasers which can travel long distances; although commercially, it is an expensive technology to generate. It is also hazardous, requires clear line-of-sight (LoS) link, accurate receiver focusing, and is very vulnerable to cloud, fog & rain. This is one of the reasons we have focused our efforts on developing RF technology instead.
On a larger scale, wireless power technology has the ability to reduce costs associated with distribution of energy. In one renewable power installation in Japan I came across, it is cheaper to collect charged batteries and transport them over to the demand side, than it is to install a distribution system with cables.
Wireless power technology can reduce the cost of distribution infrastructure by more than 80% or so. This allows more freedom for self-contained grids, and more control over power generation and distribution. Instead of creating large-scale renewable power plants, we can enable a future where small townships are powered by smaller renewable generation sources. This has potential to change power industry when it comes to distribution and would change the global economy in that perspective.
Given all the commercial benefits offered by wireless power, the biggest opportunity it offers is the access to power. According to the World Bank, 1 in 7 people today do not have access to power. Wireless power technology has the potential to bridge that gap. It offers the chance to unfetter us from cabling, allowing more freedom and flexibility to connect technologies and people to a future of power.
While wireless power will undoubtedly disrupt established electricity ecosystems, it does so in a way that provides an opportunity to ensure nobody goes unconnected. It will take time and investment to develop and deploy this technology on a global scale, but I honestly believe that in doing so we create the potential for a future where nobody, wherever or whoever they might be, is worried about access to power.
Energy Watch is committed to publishing pieces that offer professional insight and represent diverse opinions to encourage debate. Views expressed in this piece belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Energy Watch.
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