How WiFi Will Continue to Create a Better Mobile Experience
The history of the short-range wireless broadband technology, WiFi, is both long and interesting, more so than many consumers recognize. With its humble start in 1971, and a boost from trade regulators in 1985, WiFi has been expanding the experience of millions of mobile users over several decades. Unlike a cellular network, WiFi is interconnected by radio waves, offering the benefit of mobility to users. Until recently, though, the advantages of WiFi connectivity have been somewhat limited, albeit powerful in their own right.
The use of WiFi among mobile users creates more efficiency than a standard cellular network, given that accessing the Internet is less restrictive as devices move throughout a connected area. The higher accessibility of WiFi extends to data consumption on mobile devices as well, since it has no caps as cellular networks impose. The technology has proven to be faster in many scenarios and surprisingly less expensive to provide and access. The future power of WiFi adds yet another benefit – charging without being connected to a cable or a special charging station.
The Ability to Charge Over WiFi
A group of MIT researchers recently created a special type of antenna that provided a way for the electromagnetic waves traveling on WiFi signals to be converted to electricity. The device, known as a rectenna, uses a flexible radio-frequency antenna to capture this energy. Once connected to a two-dimensional semiconductor that is only a few atoms thick, the signal is converted to a voltage that could be used to charge electronic circuits or recharge batteries, including those in mobile phones.
The successful transfer of energy through this type of device shows promise for the future use of WiFi in practise. With flexibility built in, the device can be used to cover far larger areas than traditional cellular networks. This may provide the ability to charge mobile devices, with and without batteries, while they are connected to WiFi, without the need to plug in. Although the research is relatively new, mobile phone manufacturers like Apple have been working on this idea for several years. The company has a patent for WiFi charging already in place, pointing to a near-term shift in how mobile devices are charged.
The 5G Promise
While the research relating to mobile charging over WiFi is promising, there are infrastructure challenges in play. A technology specialist from Money Pug, a website used to compare mobile deals in the UK, shares that although obstacles exist, the investment from mobile carriers is promising. Many have been working to provide 5G networks – an improvement over current cellular networks many consumers utilize. Because of this innovation in cellular technology, the hardware and signal density needed for WiFi charging is already being developed and implemented.
The use of a rectenna for WiFi capabilities is necessary based on the MIT study, but it seems as though the expansion of 5G networks among mobile carriers is laying the groundwork for this to become a reality. To have enough power to individually direct wireless channels for charging, a base station is needed every 100 to 200 meters. Currently, 5G base stations are being built with this in mind, giving way to WiFi charging in the very near future.
Implications for Mobile Users and Other Industries
Mobile users may soon have a new experience on their hands, both literally and figuratively. WiFi charging means there is no need to concern one’s self with carrying around the right cable or being close to a charging pad that allows for wireless powering up. Instead, a connection to WiFi is all that’s needed to ensure use of a mobile device continues, with or without a battery in place. While this is promising, there are more far-reaching implications for other industries that rely on devices on a grand scale.
The sensors in connected devices that make up the Internet of Things (IoT) may have a longer life span and a better functional experience when charging over WiFi becomes a reality. This could have significant, positive implications for industries like construction and security, both on a consumer and business level. Similarly, wearable devices used in healthcare to monitor and help improve patient quality of life may benefit from WiFi charging capabilities. The impacts here are more powerful and potentially life-saving than an improved mobile experience.
WiFi charging is certainly on the horizon, particularly in areas where 5G cellular networks are already being implemented and built up. Over time, the ability to charge a mobile device, a sensor in a device, or a wearable device will be the norm, and likely, most will benefit from this widespread innovation.