Christian Long

Eric Giler: Demos Wireless Electricity

In TED Talks on April 10, 2010 at 9:53 pm

Reflection by JACKSON H.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Eric Giler: Demos Wireless Electricity

If you’ve ever used any electronic device (and by the fact that you’re reading this, I’m guessing you have), this is a groundbreaking advancement in power management. With the wireless transfer of power, electricity can now be sent anywhere in your home without the hassle of using bulky, tangling wires and cables. Even better, the technology used to transfer the electricity is able to be miniaturized so it can power your phone, DS, laptop, or what have you.

This in itself is an amazing innovation.

If this technology becomes commonplace, I won’t have to plug my laptop into the wall outlet. I would therefore get the enhanced performance and screen brightness that plugging in the device grants from anywhere in my room, without bothering to move the plug. My TV (and the game system and satellite TV receiver box connected to it) will be free of the power outlet constraints, and I can therefore reposition the whole assembly anywhere in the room, instead of having to put the TV right in front of a power outlet. The use of the technology that really appeals to me is in hotels. Why on earth do hotels only provide 1 or 2 additional power outlets? And even then, they hide a few of them behind chairs or desks. With wireless electricity, the power can be beamed straight through the walls.

However, the more I think about this technology, the more questions come to mind.

First of all, can something like this replace cables used to transfer data? I’d love to be able to dock my iPhone wirelessly (and charge it at the same time), but that might not be possible with the technology. Another important question pertains to the capacity of the technology. How much power can be transferred? It’d be a shame to find out that the limited capabilities of the wireless charger can only provide a small amount of power. Is the amount of power enough to run the device while it’s doing a high-demand task? How many devices can be powered at once from the same receiver? If I have to buy 1 transmitter for every 3 devices, then forget it. If I power more than one device, how is the power split among them, if at all? Is the power of the transmitter diminished if something is in the way? This might make “oh, put it in the walls, it’s unobtrusive,” an ineffective idea. Most of all, is the magnetic field generated by the device going to make my belt buckle fly across the room when I get near the transmitter? I understand that it operates on a magnetic field about as strong as the Earth’s natural magnetic field, but what about when I get close to the transmitter? I’d guess it to be a bit stronger. Finally, how will this affect “my” monthly electric bill? My guess is that when electricity sheds its oppressive wires, it will come at a price – literally. I’d love to be surprised on this point, though.

The inevitable salvo of questions about the capabilities of wireless electricity is, for the moment, outweighed by the amazing possibilities the technology presents. With this innovation, electric company executives, house designers, and consumers alike will all have to begin thinking in a new direction. Up until now, we’ve had to wear the leash of cables, but this advancement is comparable to finding an F-14 with the keys in the ignition: learning to use it will require some research, but once it’s up and running, there are few places you can’t go, and you can get there very, very fast.

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