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Key wireless charging groups A4WP, PMA agree to merge

The alliance should help bring a little bit of clarity to the fragmented world of wireless charging technologies.

Powermat technology, pushed by the PMA, is already available at select Starbucks. Starbucks

LAS VEGAS--Two down, one to go.

Two of the three major groups involved with wireless charging technologies, the Alliance for Wireless Power, or A4WP, and the Power Matters Alliance, or PMA, said on Monday that they have agreed to merge into one organization with the intent to create a unified standard that would allow you to place your phone on a charging pad to recharge your battery.

Such a simple act has been complicated by the fact that are three different groups with incompatible standards. The PMA, for instance, has a deal with Starbucks to place its charging pads in stores in the San Francisco area, with charging pads located in other select areas, including Madison Square Garden. The A4WP, meanwhile, was still working on a standard that has yet to be commercialized.

The wrinkle is that most mobile devices with wireless charging capabilities run on a different technology championed by the Wireless Power Consortium, which doesn't work with the PMA charging pads. To make a phone compatible with a PMA pad, a person would have to add a special charging case or a charging dongle.

A merger between the A4WP and the PMA shifts the balance of power in their favor and could go a long way toward the industry settling around a universal standard. The two groups in February had agreed to collaborate on technology, but there was no talk of combining their different standards into one.

The two groups believe the merger will close by the middle of 2015, and plan to chose a new name for the combined group.

The WPC, meanwhile, said the merger wouldn't have an effect on its efforts to bring wireless charging capabilities to the consumer.

"The two groups are filling gaps with technology the other didn't have, and they have been behind in rolling out commercial products," said John Perzow, vice president of market development for the WPC. "Ultimately, one plus one doesn't equal a better one."

By agreeing to join forces, the two groups hope that the mobile industry will have more confidence in investing in a single technology, knowing there will be broader adoption.

"The best-in-breed combination of A4WP and PMA assures decision-makers throughout the industry of responsible stewardship of these essential contributing technologies," said Ron Resnick, president of the Power Matters Alliance.

The combined company will create a new standard that incorporates inductive charging, which is the kind of wireless charging championed by the PMA, with resonant charging, which the A4WP.

"The 'standards war' narrative presents a false choice," said Kamil Grajski, president of the Alliance for Wireless Power, noting that devices already juggle multiple kinds of wireless technologies.

The groups boast a host of powerful backers. The A4WP is spearheaded by Samsung Electronics and Qualcomm, while the PMA is supported by Duracell and key partners such as AT&T.

Updated on January 6 at 12:28 p.m. PT: To include a comment from the WPC.