Oxford company Metaboards is developing wireless charging technology that was once looked to for the sci-fi dream of an invisibility cloak.
Now Nedko Ivanov, CEO of Metaboards, imagines a wire-free world built of metamaterials, in the next level of ‘smart home’.
Metamaterials have properties not found in natural materials
Metamaterials are the basis for the technology. These are compound materials such as plastics or metals made up of geometric structures that have properties not found in natural materials.
Ivanov said: “The current roadblock for wireless technology becoming a mass market is the very poor user experience. There is very much a one to one relationship between the charger and the charging device, and the device needs to be very well aligned. Consumers started the question what’s the benefit of doing that, compared to plugging the phone into the wire as opposed to plugging it into the coaster.”
The challenge is to create a ‘seamless’ multi-device wireless charging user experience.
“The wire is always there as an alternative”
As Ivanov said: “The wire is always there as an alternative and it’s always going to charge your phone faster, so unless the user experience is there, the current solution is not going to take over.”
Now Metaboards has a proven concept, and although there are still a few wrinkles to iron out, the technology works.
But he admitted: “The cost has been proven but there’s a long way from that to being ready to be shipped in mass volumes.”
The plan is to license the technology and the hope is that products will be manufactured and sold by next year.
The metamaterial charging technology uses electromagnetic fields, so an important part of development is meeting safety standards that mean people can use the chargers every day.
Wireless technology could change our world
But the fact is that metamaterials have the potential to solve the wireless charging problem, to charge multiple devices without their needing to be arranged in a particular direction.
Wireless technology has come a long way, and Ivanov said: “If you remember the old days when you’d need to plug into the modem, to your computer and plug into your phone line? Then this would never take off.”
But now we have Wi-Fi, and Ivanov has the concept of a wire-free environment.
The Metaboards CEO said: “You can have your walls, floors, your TVs, your wall sockets, everything would charge through a wall, part of the smart home experience, with many different devices being charged at the same time without alignment.”