This AA Battery Sucks Power Right Out Of The Air

After covering CES for 10 years, nothing I've seen at the show has me as excited about the future as Ossia's wireless charging technology. The company's developed a way to deliver power to your gadgets the same way internet is delivered by wi-fi, and one of the first real-world applications of the tech is a AA battery that may never need replacing.

We first had a demo of Ossia'a Cota wireless power technology at CES 2016 with an iPhone, wrapped in a special case, that was able to charge in mid-air thanks to a nearby wireless power transmitter that looked like a glowing blue trashcan.

A gross simplification of Ossia's Cota over-the-air charging technology, which is explained in more detail here, is that the transmitter broadcasts a directed and concentrated RF signal towards a given device in a room, which is absorbed by the gadget's own RF antennas inside, and turned into usable power. If that device doesn't have a Cota RF antenna inside it, as no gadgets on the market currently do, you'd need to use a bulky case on a smartphone, for example, to make it compatible with wireless power.

Unfortunately, when you look at how long it took a company like Apple to embrace and include induction charging on the latest iPhone, it's going to be a long time before a technology like Ossia's wireless power will be incorporated into devices by OEM manufacturers, freeing us all from charging cables.

But that's where the Cota Forever Battery enters the picture. Featuring the exact same size, form factor, and power output of a traditional AA battery, it can be inserted into a battery-powered device to instantly and easily make it compatible with Cota wireless power transmitters. Imagine never have to change the batteries in your TV remotes ever again, or not having to stay on top of countless IOT devices in your home that are constantly demanding a charge.

Putting the Cota technology into a AA battery, which is technology even your grandparents' grandparents are familiar with, is a clever way to help improve adoption of this tech. But the unfortunate reality is that it's still going to be quite a few years before you'll be able to upgrade your home, and all of your gadgets, with wireless power.

Since CES 2016, the Cota transmitters have been reduced in size to non-descript panels you can hide on the ceiling or on a wall, but Ossia doesn't sell them to consumers yet. The early adopters of this technology will most likely be those with commercial applications in mind, like stores and factories, before you'll see it showing up in homes. And device-makers aren't going to even start considering incorporating wireless power technology until the transmitters are more ubiquitous. The Cota Forever Battery will undoubtedly help expedite the rollout of wireless power, but it's still a long ways off.

The future just needs to hurry up and get here already.

Correction: This article originally claimed that the Cota system delivered wireless power only with a line of sight. It doesn't need line of sight.

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Comments

    Now this I can get behind. Never mind rollable TVs, I want all devices in my house powered by these. Would be huge - remotes, clocks, CCTV, landline phones, kids toys the list goes on. I want in.

    I want these in my controllers, in my gaming headset and in every toy my son owns!

    Very cool. I've been hanging for someone to do this in AA format.
    But...I'm a little worried about standards, as in a standard format for wireless charging. Current wireless mat based charging has developed a standard called Qi, so we don't need 20 different charging base stations for 20 different devices, hopefully one Qi standard base station can charge many Qi standard devices. I hope a standard gets developed early on so we can use one base for many different AA batteries for example. I cant find what standard these puppies are using anywhere.

      These days it doesn't matter if there is a standard. It will be ignored and made proprietary to lock you in to their brand.

        Yeah true, all the perks of capitalism. Ill be sterile within a few years as ill have that much magnetic radiation around my desk from 10 different chargers. ;)

    I just want to power one of those toy monkeys that beat cymbals.

    Last edited 14/01/18 12:18 pm

    Not enough critical thinking in this - as usual.
    We've seen 'wireless power' systems like this before, but due to the laws of physics, there are some extreme limitations.

    - The beam must be line of sight (as soon as something passes between transmitter/receiver, power cuts out.
    - The beam has extremely short range. This isn't a technical limitation, it's a 'laws of physics' limitation. See the 'inverse square law' to find out that any form of electromagnetic energy greatly reduces its power by a factor of 4 as the distance from the transmitter doubles.

    In order to accommodate a large room full of devices, the transmitter must be located in a central location where it has line of sight for every device, and it must use a LOT of power to get the transmission voltage to be high enough by the time it reaches a device several metres away.

    Ergo, we will be wasting a hell of a lot more power charging our devices this way.
    Again, this is not a technical limitation that we can overcome. It's a laws of physics limitation.

    Last edited 14/01/18 5:36 pm

      I was thinking along similar lines. There is a simple solution though. The charger (transmitter) is built into your coffee table. While the devices may not charge (or charge little) while you're using them they'll charge with reasonable efficiency when you put it down on the table. Where most of us leave our remotes/gamepads etc overnight.

      However, that doesn't address the cost issue. I'd like to know what the comparative costs are over time between "wireless batteries", standard batteries and regular rechargeable batteries. When you factor in increased per battery cost, charger cost and higher electricity bills (since the wireless charging is less efficient than regular charges) I can't help but think you'll pay a high premium for this.

        We have those already, but as I explained, as soon as you pick up your phone/device, it stops charging.
        The inverse-square law strikes again. For every doubling of distance away from the transmitter, the effective power received drops by four.

        Last edited 17/01/18 2:45 am

      You sound just like the people who told Elon he could never ever land an orbital rocket booster back on earth.

      I love folks like you. It makes us all do better to prove you wrong.

        Congrats, you just proved you have zero understanding of basic scientific or engineering concepts.
        NO scientist nor engineer EVER said that Elon Musk couldn't do it or that it was impossible. Technology isn't a MAGIC cure-all - it only APPEARS that way to you because you fail to understand it.
        You are being smug for exactly ZERO reason. You should be embarrassed, but you're not.

        Last edited 17/01/18 2:36 am

      Qi is roughly 60-80% efficient compared to hard wire. Different phone cases etc can block some radiation. You're correct of course, wireless charging isn't as efficient, but it leads into what I said above about standards.
      Instead of having 10 wall based hardwired chargers, with wireless I can use one, for 10 devices, thereby increasing efficiency, as long as we follow a standard (which may take some time to evolve).
      The other possible saving will be throw away batteries themselves, "if" these become cheap to manufacture it could help get rid us of non rechargeable batteries, a big environment plus. Sure we've had rechargeable AAs for years, but they are still a pain in the arse to take out and charge etc, this could eliminate that. Big "if" I know...may not happen, but, then again I never thought we'd piss of the incandescent globe ;) But yeah... early days.

    'Standards' have nothing to do with power efficiency.
    Efficiency in this context has nothing to do with 'saving the amount of power cords one uses' - it's got to do with 'how much energy do I have left over after it travels from one side of the room to another?'.
    Unfortunately, the inverse square law (and basic thermodynamics) says 'not much'.
    You need to put an unbelievable amount of power into something to send power wirelessly over the other side of the room.
    The concept can be seen in a can of spray paint. The further away the surface it is sprayed, the wider the 'beam' and the more sparse the covering of paint. You can do anything you want to stop this from happening - different nozzles, angles, etc, but you will not change this fact. Imagine how much pressure and paint you'd need to successfully coat a wall from the opposite side of a room. So much energy used to paint a relatively small area that could have been done much more efficiently (ie. less energy) using other means (paintbrush). Now you're on the way to understanding the problem.

    As far as throwing batteries away altogether - that's even more of a pipe dream, because even if the energy is somehow focused precisely on your device, it would need some way to not only maintain the ideal focus depending on the distance of your device, but it would have to follow your device with pinpoint accuracy. That wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for the pesky fact that nothing can get in between the transmitter and your phone/device, or it stops charging.

    There is no technological loophole around this - unless you have a beam powerful enough to incinerate whatever is in between.

    Again, as usual, it's always the people that know nothing about the real scientific and engineering hurdles that are the least skeptical and fall hook, line and sinker for scams, charlatans and snake-oil salesmen - because so long as they can imagine it, it must be possible!

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