Imagine IoT without Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or Zigbee. Anyone who would want to connect one device to another — much less to the cloud or a central server — would require bundles of ethernet cables. Such a cord-heavy setup would quickly become unmanageable. Similarly, what if smart speakers had to be connected via ethernet rather than Wi-Fi? While they would still offer the same functionality, it’s doubtful they would be as popular considering they would be tethered at close range to an internet outlet.
It’s safe to say that IoT never would have caught on were it not for the ability to connect wirelessly. But what if what’s true for the ethernet cable can also be true for the power cord? What if today’s mobile and IoT products went one step further and became truly wireless? Imagine never having to worry about connecting today’s devices, such as mobile phones and smart speakers, to a power cord or replacing batteries in order for our devices to stay continually charged?
We’re right on the cusp of this game-changing evolution that I call “cord cutting 2.0.” And it’s only a matter of time before wireless charging technology becomes mainstream, enabling IoT and smart devices to be even more powerful, versatile, and mobile than ever before.
A brief history of cord cutting
Cord cutting began for both symbolic and literal reasons. The initial phase came about due to the ubiquity of Wi-Fi, which launched a movement that brought devices together, improving mobility and accessibility for consumers. Popularity in music streaming was the primary reason behind it.
With 76% of U.S. homes now using Wi-Fi and it becoming faster and more common, that number will only continue to increase, according to a Security Sales and Integration study.
Cord cutting 1.0
Tired of exorbitant pricing and stringent contracts, consumers also began canceling cable TV service in favor of streaming TV platforms. 50 million consumers are expected to have ‘cut the cord’ with cable by 2021, according to a entertainment forecaster eMarketer study. Comcast reported a loss of 2.1% of its cable subscribers compared with the previous year, according to a Comcast earnings call conducted in October 2019.
This is firsthand evidence that consumers are ditching traditional cable in favor of streaming services. We’ll call this “cord-cutting 1.0.”
Cord cutting 2.0
Current smart devices are connected via Wi-Fi, which in today’s standards is about as wireless as they can get. But there is still one cord that remains and has yet to be cut: the power cord.
Whether it is to charge a device battery by directly connecting to a power supply, or needing to keep a device constantly plugged into an electrical outlet to work; all of our devices must be plugged in at some point in order to function and maintain their charge.
This is where the next phase of the cord-cutting revolution — cord cutting 2.0 — will happen.
And the catalyst for this revolution is long-range wireless charging. Already available for integration by device manufacturers, this wireless power delivery technology will enable consumers and businesses alike to finally cut the power cord and go completely wireless.
How does cord cutting 2.0 work?
Long-range wireless charging promises to create new and exciting user experiences. Consumers will no longer have to worry about battery life and will be free to use their devices for long periods of time without having to plug their devices into an outlet to recharge or bring along a power pack.
A promising approach to long-range wireless charging relies on infrared light to deliver energy from a transmitter to a device. Infrared light provides several benefits:
- Extended range: As long as a device is in view of a wireless transmitter — even at 20 feet away — it will charge from essentially anywhere in a home or office.
- Safety: Infrared light has significant safety advantages. Power is only delivered to the device being charged and not to anything in the surrounding environment. Infrared light is abundant in sunlight and in nature. In fact, some say it is nature’s preferred way of energy delivery; living organisms are already well adjusted to it.
- Faster charge: Infrared light signals can deliver focused energy and charge devices more quickly. This means that in most instances, a consumer could use their device continuously while it’s charging and suffer no power loss.
Infrared light charging is not the only approach that could potentially deliver cord cutting 2.0. Improvements in battery technology have resulted in longer-lasting batteries and faster recharges. Small solar panels, such as the ones that used to be on calculators, can provide a small amount of energy indoors. There’s also RF charging, which can be used to transmit energy from a wireless charger to smart devices, though it carries significant power limitations and safety concerns.
What are the benefits of cord cutting 2.0?
IoT and smart devices help homes and offices discover efficiencies, lower costs and improve the overall quality of life. That is until the batteries in a smart home lock need to be changed or a home security camera needs to be charged.
Embracing cord cutting 2.0 can ensure users’ devices are charged constantly and efficiently. For businesses and homes, this creates two essential benefits:
- No batteries or cables: When consumers don’t have to worry about batteries or cables, they can place their devices anywhere for any amount of time. No more tripping over unsightly power cables or fighting over outlets for chargers.
- More flexibility and innovation: With long-range wireless charging, developers can introduce features that may have previously been scrapped due to power constraints. For instance, a wireless security camera could offer video streaming or perform power-hungry face recognition and AI functions in the camera. Additionally, users will have more flexibility in the placement of devices, making all IoT networks more mobile and dynamic.
On the verge of a new revolution
Long-range wireless charging promises to supercharge the potential of IoT networks. Just like Wi-Fi eliminated the data cord and streaming TV eliminated the cable cord, long-range wireless charging will eliminate the power cord.
Cord cutting 0.0 and 1.0 didn’t happen overnight, and neither will cord cutting 2.0. But forward-looking device manufacturers and visionary executives should start thinking about the opportunities and implications of long-range wireless charging now.
Once cord cutting 2.0 has been fully embraced in offices and homes around the world, businesses and consumers alike will be able to cut the last of their cords and go completely wireless. Offices, homes and the IoT will never be the same.
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