February 16, 2007

It's Time to Make Power Wireless and Battery-Free

When Steve Jobs passed an Internet-connected iBook through a Hula Hoop during MacWorld just under a decade ago, it whisked in the era of wireless Web for most of mortal consumers. Today, WiFi is both accepted and expected nearly everywhere, at home, at work, and in some larger cities, outside. But in order to truly cut the cord, we need to find a solution that doesn't require being tapped into an electrical cord, hanging as a leash (or ball and chain) to the nearest socket.

Today, a rumor surfaced that Apple was pursuing a patent that would pass both data and power without physical contact. For those of us tired of lugging around laptop power cables, or stowing a spare battery, any type of positive change can only come too soon. While processor power and network speeds have continually increased over the last few decades, the typical battery life for a laptop hasn't budged much. A few years back, in 1999, Apple advertised watching a single DVD more than once (though they were shown to be wrong), but now, I'd be surprised if I could finish a good two to three hour film, especially if I were running any other applications.

When I posed the topic of "wireless power" to a colleague a few years back, he practically scoffed at me, saying that wireless power had been invented, in the form of microwaves, and that we would all be nuked ourselves if we demanded the power be transmitted wirelessly through the air, in the same fashion as 802.11 wireless Internet.

Maybe so. But it seems only logical to me that the first company to debut a simple solution for wireless power adapters for a mass audience is set to make significant money. I can't wait to detach myself and cut the cord when that time comes.