Qi: What it is and why it should be standardized

Nicole Cozma
 from Chicago
Published: January 24, 2011

Qi (pronounced "chee") is the technology used by Energizer and other companies in their wireless power devices. This technology exists in two types of devices: receivers and transmitters. Qi receivers are little pads that will either plug into your device's charging port or exist as a battery extension (and in some cases, entirely new back plates for your phone). These little guys are responsible for charging your devices with the power transmitted wirelessly from Qi transmitters. Transmitters are usually found in a flat surface taking the form of a small flat mat, though we've seen them integrated into semi-flexible sleeves. If you put a device with a Qi receiver on top of a transmitter, the device will begin to charge. Energizer was the first to bring an inductive charging mat to the market with Qi technology built in. Additionally, concept designs exist for batteries and devices with Qi receivers built right in (even armrests in couches and entire tabletops), so eventually we can have the freedom without the added bulk!

Sometimes people assume that technology will just work; i.e. placing any phone on a charging mat will charge it. Unfortunately, the device you're charging needs to have some way to receive the power from the pad. In an environment lacking standards, this can prove problematic, as there would be a high chance that the power pad on the back of your device would not be compatible with a given charging mat. Establishing Qi as the standard for wireless charging would eliminate these scenarios. For instance, you wouldn't want to own a wireless internet device that only worked with one type of router. For reasons like these, Qi technology focuses on a couple of fundamental ideas to help make our lives easier: compatibility and interoperability.

What exactly do these ideas mean? Compatibility, and ultimately the entire concept of standardization, will guarantee the consumer that any Qi tecnology will work with any other Qi technology, regardless of who manufactured what. Almost more important than this is the concept of interoperability. What this means is that any new Qi devices will have to be 100% compatible with older Qi devices. For the consumer, this means that you could buy a Qi charging mat today and be able to use it with future devices without any troubles or adapters.

Wireless power means less wires for consumers. On any trip where you are staying at a hotel, you could just bring your Qi charging mat and all of your devices instead of having to make sure that you also bring each device's respective charging cable (and that said, there's less cables to risk losing on the way home). As standards get put in place and the technology becomes more popular and widespread, you may even be able to leave your personal charging mat at home and use the ones that your hotel provides.

With a focus on compatibility and interoperability, consumers' lives are made even simpler by eliminating the fear and concern of your current equipment becoming outdated and obsolete. The Qi brand is meant to be synonymous with "it will work," meaning a Qi device is a Qi device and will work with any other Qi device. The great thing about Qi technology is that it can only get better. With concepts for Qi-ready batteries and charging sleeves for smartphones, the need for a charging pad on the back of every device will eventually be done away with, making the process even more simple and convenient for everyone.

For more information about standardizing Qi and products that have already incorporated this technology, you can check out The Wireless Power Consortium