The Wireless Charging Future, Writ Small: Qi Capabilities Invading Your Ikea Furniture

It seems only a matter of time until wireless charging is ubiquitous, with the largest looming question more about which technologies will become most widely-used as opposed to whether wireless charging will become a Real Thing. For its part, Qi wireless charging is going to be loaded up on Ikea furniture soon.

Wireless charging makes sense in a number of scenarios and applications, from juicing up your devices at a Juice Stop to keeping things charged in your living room to IoT application. (How else will you keep that chip in that smart water bottle powered up?)

Ikea has latched onto this trend by rolling out the Ikea Wireless charging collection. Clearly, Ikea has an eye for the future of the smart home. The meatball-making furniture company will start off by putting Qi charging technology into "bedside tables, floor and table lamps, as well as desks." For now, Ikea will bake Qi into one or two design collections per year, but at some point it will try to hit closer to 10 collections annually.

"Through research and home visits, we know that people hate cable mess. They worry about not finding the charger and running out of power," said Jeanette Skjelmose, Business Area Manager Lighting and Wireless Charging.

You have to admit that it makes sense. My Ikea couch (inexpensive, sturdy, firm but comfortable, removable and machine-washable cushion covers, highly recommended), for example, is currently draped with various charging cables—usually a minimum of two or three at a time. The ability to charge all those devices simultaneously without cables would most definitely be a welcome "daily life" sort of improvement.

However, Qi presents some limitations. Your devices essentially have to be touching the charging surface; it's wireless, yes, but that doesn't mean you can sit there with your iPad on your lap and expect it to be charging up.

There are multiple promising wireless charging competitors to Qi that do offer that much-needed range. Rezence is one that specifically looks like it could make a dent in the living room, as well as longer-range solutions such as Energous' WattUp.

Ikea chose Qi because of its already-large deployment and "worldwide support." Dozens and dozens of smartphones have Qi inside, and surely more are coming all the time. However, perhaps the Swedish company should have taken a cue from Samsung and incorporated the "multiple standards, users can pick" approach.  

Ikea Wireless charging collections will launch first in Europe and North America in April 2015, but it will be coming worldwide at some point thereafter.

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  • SchizoFrog
    The problem with Qi is that it is currently too week to be effective in the real world. Devices even state that you shouldn't even have a sticker between the device and the charging plate... a sticker! So the moment you put your phone in to a case connections drop all the time, if they connect at all. Yet, most people use kind of case with their phones. Until Qi is made much more practical and every day friendly it will remain just a novelty that is quickly losing appeal.
  • Scraper
    SchizoFrog, I use a Qi charger. I have an Otterbox. It connects and actually charges faster than the USB cable. It can be fidgety finding the sweet spot, but after a week of use it's quite easy to set it down on the sweet spot every time. I think it just depends on the charger and the device.
  • SchizoFrog
    Scraper, I am glad it is working for you but even to suggest that you have to find a 'sweet spot' is not good enough for me. I should just be able to plonk the phone down on the plate and not have to worry about it.
    As for the Otterbox, maybe the hard shell like cases are a little better but again, I should be able to use any case, with any device and not have to worry.
    I have a new Lumia 735 and have tried the official DT-601 as well as a couple of third party chargers and unless my phone is in direct contact (as in not in ANY case) connection is dodgy at best and sometimes it fails all together. Even if I spend time finding a sweet spot and making sure it is connected, the connection is intermittent and often fails.
    I'd even like to think that I have a bad device but after reading multiple reviews of both various phones (including high end devices such as Samsung's S5) and of various chargers I have seen that many other people have had the same experience that I have and have just given up on Qi.
    I can only feel that it is not a good start for the Qi standard and unless they get things sorted soon they will never be taken seriously.
  • joanenne
    ?This is very cool. Skim the wikipedia article on inductive charging for a good read. The applications for charging medical implants, electric cars... the fact that the electronics can be completely enclosed if you don't need to plug in and that there's less wear and tear from connecting and disconnecting cables.

    In case anyone is just looking for a wireless charging mat, there are many reasonably priced and well reviewed ones on Amazon. I have a business that makes solid wood standing desks and I'm seriously thinking about playing around with an inductive charge station / standing desk prototype. Time to get out the router :)

    Erector Desk Standing Desk
  • jasonkaler
    @joanenne not sure how well it will work with implants as the maximum gap between sender and receiver is about 4mm

    @Scraper, As far as charge times goes, you're just using a poor USB device.
    Qi delivers a wax of 5W, my USB charger does 10W.
    Are you charging off PC? Some boards will only supply 2.5W and that may be why Qi seems faster to you.

    Wireless charging at best is only 60% efficient, at a time where everyone's getting more and more devices to charge and trying to focus more and more on saving power. This bucks the whole trend.