Wireless charging goes further--into tablets, cars, the home

Dozens of wireless charging products will hit the market soon, with more coming for mobile devices. We look at one that powers a device that isn't physically touching the charging surface.

The only thing charging this tablet is a puck-size device situated on the underside of a thick wood table. Eric Mack/CNET

LAS VEGAS--Wireless charging pads are available now for a selection of smartphones and small devices, but the technology--anchored by the Wireless Power Consortium's (WPC) "Qi" standard"--is about to get a lot bigger.

Here at CES 2012, Fulton Innovation--a founding member of the WPC--has been showing off its eCoupled wireless power system, which can charge a phone or device that isn't physically touching the charging surface. Fulton director Bret Lewis demonstrated the technology for me charging a phone in a cluttered purse, as well as through a thick wood tabletop. Lewis says that a recent breakthrough also allows for a charge to even be delivered to a device through certain types of metal cases.

Right now, dozens of products using the Qi standard are already or soon to be on the market and being shown here by companies like Energizer, Texas Instruments, and other members of the WPC. Many of them are designed to work with existing smartphones and smaller devices. Lewis says that right now innovation is accelerating around making the technology thinner and more efficient so it can be built into more devices straight from the manufacturer.

While the Qi standard for low-power devices is already in place and in products now available to consumers, members of the WPC will continue working on finalizing global standards for medium-power devices like tablets to create larger charging stations that are compatible with both slates and smaller devices simultaneously. Lewis says we can also expect to see wireless charging in some new vehicles as soon as the end of the year.

Check out Lewis' demonstration below:

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