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Motorola signs up for medium range wireless smartphone charging -- no pad required

The power-beaming radio technology comes from startup GuRu Wireless.

GuRu Wireless medium range charging technology

GuRu Wireless beams energy with radio waves to charge phones and other devices.

GuRu Wireless

Motorola has begun a plan to give its smartphones medium-distance charging technology from startup GuRu Wireless that requires not only no charging cables but also no charging pad. The technology beams power 10 feet or more using radio waves sent from a charging hub to devices like phones, laptops and potentially even drones.

The companies announced the partnership Wednesday, though the Lenovo subsidiary didn't detail what products could get the charging technology or when. "With this solution we will provide a glimpse of the freedom and flexibility that users can enjoy with a revolutionary over the air, wireless power technology," said Dan Dery, Motorola's vice president of product, in a statement.

As digital brains pervade everything in our lives, keeping batteries topped up has become more of a concern. Charging pads for phones, watches and earbuds can be convenient, but medium-range wireless charging has the potential to liberate us even from those pads. And nobody likes pausing to plug in video game controllers or running out of power for hearing aids.

The trouble is that medium-range wireless charging hasn't caught on yet, despite efforts from companies like Ossia and Energous. One problem is the classic technology chicken and egg issue: Without widespread charging hubs, there's little incentive for device makers to support the technology, and without device maker support, there's no reason to buy a hub.

GuRu's technology uses 24GHz airwaves -- part of the millimeter wave radio spectrum -- to send power to devices. Charging hubs use lensing technology to beam energy toward devices and can pause transmission when they detect an obstruction. If you move a device, the hub can relocate it within a few seconds.

GuRu Rovee vacuum robot

GuRu Wireless demonstrated its radio based charging technology with this floor vacuum robot called Rovee.

GuRu

It can beam power at about 5 to 10 watts, a rate that's not too far from Qi charging pads or lower-end phone chargers. But the technology can also be adapted for much higher power devices, including laptops and drones that need 100 watts, and for longer distances, the company says.

GuRu hubs could be built into ceiling fixtures for a room, conference call speaker systems in offices, smart speakers or other devices. A standalone hub likely would cost about as much as a higher-end Qi charger or Wi-Fi router.