Wireless charging for iPhones & iPads might finally be coming together for Apple

MIT researchers tackle wireless charging security

Wireless charging for iPhones & iPads might suddenly be coming together for Apple
Peter Sayer

Apple joining the Wireless Power Consortium in advance of the group's conference this week in London, combined with new research out of MIT designed to safeguard wireless charging, has to be encouraging news for iPhone and iPad users tired of being tethered.

Apple showing up on the Wireless Power Consortium's member list took place without any fanfare from the vendor itself, but the revelation did add strength to analyst claims that wireless charging could be coming to the iPhone 8 (or iPhone X) and other new Apple smartphones this year.

While Apple does already provide wireless charging for its smart watch, the company has been behind vendors like Samsung on the wireless charging overall. The Wireless Power Consortium, which counts the likes of Dell, HTC and Samsung among its dozens of members, promotes a wireless charging system dubbed Qi. 

"The success of wireless charging adoption from Apple’s competitors (such as Samsung with wireless charging integrated in to its flagship handsets since 2015) is something that Apple can no longer ignore," according to analysts at market watcher IHS Technology.  "IHS Technology consumer survey data shows over 90% of consumers want wireless charging on their next device."

More developments in wireless charging are expected to emerge at the Mobile World Congress event taking place in late February/early March in Barcelona.

Rob Rueckert, the managing director at Sorenson Capital, calls Apple’s decision to join the wireless charging consortium "a major step forward for wireless charging." Rueckert, who recently penned a piece about the importance of wireless charging to the Internet of Things, says: "So far, a lot of the major technology breakthroughs in wireless power have been made by younger companies.  In order for these technologies to become more mainstream, partnering with large consumer devices is essential.  I hope that Apple’s involvement here will accelerate the availability of true wireless power to the consumer."

MIT getting ahead of wireless charging security

Apple is very sensitive about charging systems for its products, as has been documented in the company's efforts to quash sales of counterfeit cables and chargers on Amazon. Not only are counterfeiters taking money out of Apple's wallet, but tests have shown that such devices can damage your Apple gear and maybe do worse harm to yourself or your home.

Researchers at MIT have built a chip that they say could block attempts to wirelessly juice up a phone or tablet's battery with a bogus charger by first requiring cryptographic authentication by the charger. A more efficient coil design within the chip is at the heart of the innovation. (Bonus: The chip also could balance the simultaneous charging of multiple devices even when the devices are different distances from the charger.)

mit secure charging Christine Daniloff/MIT

MIT researchers have built a chip that blocks attempts to wirelessly charge a device’s battery unless the charger first provides cryptographic authentication.

The researchers presented the chip last week at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference.

Sorenson Capital's Rueckert says "It's good to see MIT tackle some of the difficulties and limitations in magnetic resonance charging.   Efforts like these move the ball forward in getting us closer to true wireless power.   By moving charging and security to chip based technology, they are beginning to unlock some of the barriers that have kept resonance charging from being ubiquitous."

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