What is Wireless Power?

Anyone who attends a class or meeting where most of the participants have laptop computers is well aware that there are never enough power outlets—and when they are available, they are invariably located in inconvenient places. Wireless power, already being prototyped by several companies, promises to alleviate the problem by making power for charging batteries in devices readily available. Using near-field inductive coupling, power can be transmitted through special surfaces or even through open space to charge devices within a home, office, school, or other setting. Consumer products are already entering the market; the Powermat, for instance, charges up to three devices placed onto its surface (each device must first be slipped into a compatible sleeve). Fulton Innovation's eCoupled technology is designed to be built into desk- and countertops, enabling not only power transfer but other wireless communications between devices placed on the surfaces. Witricity is developing transmitters that would be embedded in walls or other furniture, transferring power via inductive coupling to receivers attached to devices anywhere within the home or classroom. The impact of wireless power for education will primarily be felt in learning spaces; the devices we carry will become more useful and easier to maintain, with increased opportunity for longer use in a variety of settings.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to academic and research libraries?

  • This has so much potential on so many levels for not just the library. Students could study anywhere. Furniture in a library or elsewhere would be much more moveable as you would not need to rely on where power outlets are located. - dianeb dianeb Nov 6, 2016
  • I am certainly hoping we can implement wireless power technology in the near future. We are building a new building that will open in 2018. We did look into wireless power possibilities but the commercial options are currently too costly or not yet ready for large scale use. Everyday I see students battling to get access to our limited number of outlets. We are reduced to buying furniture that incorporates outlets and then designing buildings around the delivery of power at outlets (in the floors, walls, tables, etc). Within the last year we have added three device charging lockers at the cost of $5,000 a unit. That's a lot of money being spent on giving students access to recharging power for their devices. Until device batteries are so vastly improved that the need to recharge is rare, I think it will be necessary for libraries to provide power and we will most likely be unable to meet the growing demand for it from the community members.- bells bells Nov 9, 2016

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • I think it covers it pretty well, but in libraries and academic buildings wireless power will also mean less cords being spread across floors and less device theft (students leave their devices plugged in just about anywhere and when they don't pay attention it can lead to theft opportunities). I am not expert but another possible theme might be that if the cost of wireless power technology was more reasonable it might actually allow higher education institutions to save money on building traditional wired power into the infrastructure and needing to constantly upgrade electrical systems to allow for even more outlets.- bells bells Nov 9, 2016
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(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on academic and research libraries?

  • Recharging stations will be replaced by wireless power. Students may be enabled to stay on campus or in library spaces for very long periods of time if their devices can constantly be recharged. - mylee.joseph mylee.joseph Nov 8, 2016
  • If the library is able to emerge as a campus facility that offers wireless power I could see it being a more attractive space to students who want to charge their devices more easily or use them for long periods of time - and students would also like not having to bring charging cables with them to campus (many times students ask us for those cables). So it could actually be used as a marketing feature to encourage more students to come to the library. But it would also reduce the number of complaints we get about the library not having enough outlets. Just do a satisfaction survey of students these days. They won't ask for more databases. They won't ask for more librarians. They will ask for more outlets and better wireless.- bells bells Nov 9, 2016

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

  • I don't know of one personally (would love for my library to have a wireless power project to share) but it is possible to find mentions of higher education institutions that are adopting solutions like Powermat in some of their buildings.- bells bells Nov 9, 2016
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