Thursday, November 17, 2016

Wireless Power for Classrooms and Warships

Providing power is a problem in classrooms and other locations with movable furniture. I was reminded of this today when I watched two workers fit power sockets to a desk in a library. After twenty minutes they had the desk assembled and then left, but there was a mains power plug hanging down from under the desk with nothing to plug it into.

Pixelated Induction (PI) claim to be able to deliver standard inductive charging charging for mobile devices, on a scale suitable for airport lounges and cafes. However, how do you get the power to a movable desk? It occurred to me that the same technology which gets the power from the desk to the phone could be used to get it from the floor to the desk.

A plate on the floor would have an inductive unit installed. Movable desks would have a curly cord and inductive charging plate hanging underneath. Magnets in the floor and plate would make connection easier. Power would then be available on the desktop through another inductive plate. The floor unit could have four inductive units in a grid, allowing four phones to be charged on the desktop. Removable unit could also be made, so that no modification of the desk was needed. A USB port would be a useful option for charging  laptop and tablets.

For innovation hubs and similar localizations with large numbers of itinerant users,  there might be long flexible strips with a induction charger built in every 450 mm. One of these strips would be laid down the middle of a long row of desks.

A useful initial market to explore with this technology is not schools, libraries or airport lounges, but military command centers. The reality is not as meritorious as the pristine rooms depicted in fiction. There are always cables draped everywhere, connecting equipment brought in and packed up again frequently. It would be very useful to be able to provide desktop power without cabling. I saw this first hand on board the USS Blue Ridge. A complete military solution might also include a tacky surface, similar to that used for holding mobile phones to car dashboards (the US Marines use gaffer tape to secure their equipment to the ship's desks). Australia has recently commissioned the second of two Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) ships, which have a similar requirement.

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