New Standard Adds Low-Power Wireless Charging To NFC

New Standard Adds Low-Power Wireless Charging To NFC
Image: NFC Forum

Qi wireless charging has become the de facto wireless charging standard for gadgets like phones, earbuds, and more. However, just this week, the NFC Forum approved a new low-power wireless charging specification to help make it easier to charge smaller gadgets or IoT devices.

The new standard is simply called the Wireless Charging Specification or WLC, and by using a 13.56 MHz base frequency, devices equipped with near-field communication (NFC) can send both data and power simultaneously to nearby NFC devices. Aside from being governed by two different organizational bodies, the main difference between NFC WLC and traditional Qi wireless charging is that while Qi wireless charging can support power transfer of up to 15 watts or more, WLC charging speeds top out at just 1-watt.

That means NFC WLC isn’t designed to help recharge a phone and won’t really compete with Qi wireless charging on larger devices, but could be used instead to charge things like NFC tags, security fobs, or even some Bluetooth headsets that are often too small or too cheap to feature support for Qi charging. On the flip side, because NFC is already used to facilitate a wide variety of payment systems including Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, Google Pay, and others, it may not require a huge investment from gadget makers to incorporate support for WLC into new devices.

Where things get a bit trickier is that while they rarely show up on spec sheets or a feature list, there are actually five different types of NFC tags used throughout the world, with certain tweaks and varying support depending on the location. For example, while public transportation in Japan uses NFC as a payment method, only NFC Type-3 tags are compatible with the Japanese Industrial Standard, which means devices made in other countries and then brought to Japan don’t always work properly when trying to pay for a subway or train ticket.

Currently, it’s unclear if WLC will be backward compatible with existing NFC-equipped devices, or WLC will require a new type of tag or simply something like a firmware update to enable WLC charging. Gizmodo has reached out to the NFC Forum for clarification, and we will update this story if we hear back.

WLC was originally proposed as a technical candidate back in early 2019, but had not been officially approved for use on retail devices until earlier this week. However, with the NFC Forum claiming that there are over two billion NFC-equipped devices in use today, getting a little extra functionality through the addition of wireless charging—even if it’s relatively slow wireless charging—remains a welcome addition.