Powercast is the one-stop-shop for all things wireless power, short to long range, microwatts to kilowatts, and from concept development to mass production.  

Since founding in 2003, Powercast has led the industry in low-power, long-range, over-the-air RF wireless power innovations, and recently added high-power, close-range inductive/resonant solutions to its portfolio after partnering with Powermat, the company that brought wireless charging to smartphones, cars and coffee shops. All these technologies eliminate or reduce the need for wires and batteries, which enables maintenance-free deployments and curtails waste in their landfills.

Interview with Charles Greene, Chief Operating & Technical Officer at Powercast.

Easy Engineering: What are the main areas of activity of the company?

Charles Greene: The Powercast/Powermat wireless power partnership has created one team that can implement sustainable and environmentally-friendly wireless designs, and was awarded Sustainability Initiative of the Year.

The partnership combines two massive wireless power intellectual property (IP) portfolios – over 300 patents – that allows Powercast to uniquely bring all kinds of wireless charging to market based on both companies’ product portfolios.

Optimized for different applications, the companies’ technologies differ in strength/transfer distance, and together cover the entire spectrum of wireless power: 

Powercast’s dual-band (915 MHz and 2.4 GHz) RF transmitters/receivers can transfer power up to 120 feet, but deliver lower levels: 100s of milliwatts to single-digit microwatts. This enables one-to-many charging of low-power industrial devices that can be placed in hard-to-reach locations where wiring/battery replacement is prohibitive, like IoT sensor networks, or consumer devices like TV remotes, keyboards, mice.

Powermat’s SmartInductive transmitting/receiving coils must closely align–within 8 inches–but can transfer more power for one-to-one charging: 5 watts for consumer-grade applications to 600 watts for industrial-grade applications like telecom, robotics, micro-mobility, medical, underwater charging. 

E.E: What’s the news about new products?

C.G: Powercast launched its Ubiquity transmitter – an ultra-low-cost over-the-air RF power transmitter – at CES 2023 where it was an Innovation Award Honoree in three categories:  

  • Smart Home
  • Embedded Technologies
  • Sustainability, Eco-Design & Smart Energy

Powercast designed Ubiquity to be the industry’s most economical RF wireless transmitter, to lower the barrier to entry where RF wireless power can actually become ubiquitous with multiple RF transmitters covering every home to create a wireless power network able to charge all enabled devices in the home. 

Ubiquity takes three forms: 1) a standalone $30 transmitter Powercast produces and distributes, 2) a drop-in module containing the hardware and electronics necessary for manufacturers to inexpensively embed RF wireless charging into their own devices, and 3) a licensable reference design that provides flexibility and ultimate cost savings for manufacturers to integrate just the electronics needed onto their own circuit boards for $5 or less bill-of-material (BOM) cost.

E.E: What are the ranges of products?

C.G: Wireless power has many applications across horizontal markets. 

Powercast’s RF power is optimized for devices that consume low amounts of power and can recharge over the air via a trickle charge. Examples include IoT sensors that often operate in hard-to-reach locations where wiring/battery replacement is prohibitive, smart home devices like TV remotes, wireless toothbrushes, home automation sensors, and computer peripherals like keyboards and mice.

The “Powered by Powercast” video series shows over-the-air RF wireless power examples in action, demonstrating how RF can: 1) Save time and money, 2) Enable new functionality, and 3) Reduce battery e-waste.

Powermat’s SmartInductive technology is optimized for high-power devices that charge in direct contact with a charging surface. This technology can deliver 5 watts for recharging consumer devices like smartphones, up to 600 watts for industrial-grade applications like telecom, robotics, micro-mobility (e-bikes, e-scooters), medical devices and underwater charging.

SmartInductive technology combines the best of short-range inductive and resonance wireless charging to eliminate exact placement restrictions and provide freedom of alignment between the transmitting/receiving charging coils up to 8 inches. SmartInductive can penetrate 8 inches of wall and windows, and beyond power transmission, can also transmit data between the coils to control edge devices.

E.E: At what stage is the market where you are currently active?

C.G: Market stage depends on the market. Some markets, such as smartphones that charge inductively using a charging mat, are mature, while other markets are in their infancy. RF over-the-air charging has been deployed for years in TV remote controls, digital luggage tags, game controllers, RFID tags and interactive wearables. 

E.E: What can you tell us about market trends?

C.G: Companies want wirelessly-powered, untethered, battery-free or rechargeable-battery-based devices that eliminate cords, cables, and disposable batteries for many reasons:

  • To reduce e-waste (toxic disposable batteries, charging cords) that litters landfills  
  • To reduce emissions with wireless charging of otherwise gas-powered light EVs (e-scooters, smart/golf carts)
  • To reduce charging cord clutter on countertops 
  • To power industrial IoT sensor networks that operate in hard-to-reach places where wiring/battery replacement is prohibitive
  • To eliminate expensive battery maintenance – both the labor to change batteries and the expense of batteries themselves
  • To enable constant uptime of vibrating or moving industrial equipment by eliminating charging cables that can break/dislodge 
  • To eliminate wires under water with underwater charging of pumps and vacuums to optimize efficiency of water treatment 

E.E: What are the most innovative products marketed?

C.G: Wirelessly-Powered, Battery-Free Electronic Shelf-edge Labels (ESLs): 

Wirelessly-powered ESLs enable quick price updates, and free retailers from having to change paper labels or the batteries required by the industry’s battery-powered electronic price tags. Powercast’s technology wirelessly updates an ESL’s ePaper display, sending data and power over the air up to two meters away using a typical RFID reader. The technology enables quick electronic price changes, operates perpetually without batteries, and can update a whole wall or shelf of product prices in a few seconds. 

RF Wireless Power Coverage in a Home Changes How a Bathroom Works: (see end of release)

An ultra-small RF transmitter can charge multiple toothbrushes, electric shavers and other RF-enabled low-power devices over the air in the bathroom, enabling a fundamental change in the way a bathroom works. RF technology eliminates 1) wires around water and hence the chance for electric shock, and 2) the inconveniences of the electric toothbrush – no more dock to accumulate grime, and no more need for batteries that often corrode from water seeping in.

E.E: What estimations do you have for the rest of 2023?

C.G: We expect all kinds of wireless power – over the air or contact based – to see substantial growth over the next decade and beyond. 

Not only will Powercast help customers develop long-range applications based on our own RF technology, but also help customers develop short-range applications based on Powermat’s technology. Powercast has a larger engineering and productization staff than Powermat, enabling more wireless power solutions to be developed and deployed overall. 

Powercast/Powermat partnership has created a wireless power one-stop-shop, regardless of application, which is a first-of-its kind convenience for customers. The cohesive entity saves customers from having to research which power solution is the best fit, because no matter the application, our team will recommend the best solution.