Wireless charging

Xiaomi’s MI Air Charge can wirelessly charge devices over-the-air and from several meters away

It charges at 5 watts only, but you can even charge multiple devices at the same time!

Xiaomi on Twitter today unveiled its new “remote charging technology” called Mi Air Charge. According to the company, it can wirelessly charge multiple devices simultaneously without connecting any cables or placing your devices on a wireless charging stand.

Wireless charging or wireless charging?

Today’s wireless charging removes the need for a cable, but it still requires carefully placing your device on a charging pad. Xiaomi’s latest tech promises a much better experience by allowing an entire room to act as a wireless recharging zone.

The tech is called Mi Air Charge, and Xiaomi claims it allows multiple electronic devices to be charged from meters away simultaneously. It uses a combination of 144 antennas and beamforming to accurately detect when a device is in range of the wireless charger and triggers charging to commence using “an extremely narrow millimeter-wide wave beam.”.

In a social media post, the Chinese technology company announced ‘Mi Air Charge’ — a truly wireless charging technology that will juice up your mobile phone and other gadgets from a charging base a few meters away. “Charge multiple devices simultaneously while you’re gaming, walking around or even when something’s in the way, no strings attached,” it said..

On its company blog, Xiaomi explained a few key details on how this technology works. The charging station itself, called a “self-developed isolated charging pile” (now that’s a name that rolls off the tongue), is about the size of a small refrigerator. It has five phase interference antennas that zero in on the location of your device. An array of 144 antennas then zaps “millimeter-wide waves directly to the phone through beamforming.”

To convert these signals into usable power, your smartphone must be equipped with a miniaturized antenna array. This converts the millimeter wave signal into electric energy through a rectifier circuit.

This kind of remote charging has been hyped up for years now, but no company has ever successfully commercialized it. Xiaomi is no stranger to charging innovation, having introduced 80W wireless charging and 120W wired charging, but its previous advancements were more incremental rather than revolutionary. If the company manages to turn this into something more than just a tech demo — and it’s exactly that according to Xiaomi Product PR spokesperson Agatha Tang — then it’ll be one of those revolutionary technologies that change the way we use our devices.

If this sounds too good to be true, Xiaomi says, “it’s not science fiction, it’s technology.” However, we don’t yet know when Mi Air Charge devices will be available to purchase or how much they’ll cost.

Xiaomi says that, so far, this setup is capable of 5-watt remote charging of a single device over the distance of “several meters.” (It did not specify the exact distance.) Five watts is the standard output of a typical charger, though wired “fast charge” units can pump out up to 12 watts.

Xiaomi envisions a future where you’ll have a Mi Air Charge base station installed in your home and a whole range of compatible devices being recharged without you even thinking about it. Smartphones, smartwatches, fitness bands, even desk lamps and smart speakers could rely on the wireless charger for power.

At present, commercial wireless charging still involves either a charging pad or pod that your device has to come in contact with. ‘Air charging’ is a tantalizing look at a truly wireless solution.

This wireless charging reminds me of Nikola Tesla who tried sending electricity across wirelessly. It’s amazing that we are bringing this technology back once again. We could soon charge electronic gadgets wirelessly, including our electric cars by just keeping them in the garage. The possibilities are endless!

In an updated post, A Xiaomi spokesperson told TechCrunch that the company won’t be commercializing Mi Air Charge this year. That means we can only expect the system to roll out sometime in 2022. The confirmation is disappointing but it’s probably for the best. No one wants a half baked tech and Xiaomi is probably still working to make it ready for market release. It’s also unclear if tech like this will need additional regulatory approvals, for health reasons or otherwise.

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Kiran Fernandes

Kiran is your friendly neighbourhood tech enthusiast who's passionate about all kinds of tech, goes crazy over 4G and 5G networks, and has recently sparked an interest in sci-fi and cosmology.

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