One consequence of our tech-heavy age is the speed at which symbols become outdated. This isn’t an original thought, of course: when you save documents, you still click on the icon of a floppy disc, something practically no one uses anymore. On Skype or Google Hangouts, we still click on the handheld receiver, an increasingly obscure image that has more in common with the old Bakelite phones than it does with contemporary communication. I personally think it is great that we do this–it is a reminder of the speed of technology (and a reminder for myself of how much closer I become every day to being an old-timey guy reminiscing over my own youth).
There’s another symbol, though, which irritatingly won’t go away. That’s the low battery sign, that curse of modern living. Even the Apple Watch, the height of mobile fashion, only lasts 18 hours on a single charge, which as people have pointed out, is somewhat less than a full day. We may finally be entering an era where that symbol becomes, if not outdated or obsolete, less of a common and constant worry. Recent developments have made the idea of wireless charging not just possible, but someday ubiquitous. This could be one of the biggest developments of our mobile era, and can change the way we live and work in the Bay Area and beyond.
Wi-Charge and Wireless Charging Wherever We Go
For many, the idea of wifi, of being connected wherever you went, was revolutionary. It altered the idea of the internet and made it even less fixed in space and time. The problem, of course, is that your mobile device would run out of battery, leading to the impossibly modern image of people huddled around an airport outlet as if it were a dying prehistoric fire and the wolves were howling ever nearer. But what wifi did for connectivity, Wi-Charge, an Israeli-based company, wants to do for charging.
Their idea is both breathtakingly simple and incredibly complex. Essentially, the idea is that you can install a small device into a ceiling light, or fan, or smoke detector. That device will send out an infrared light that powers batteries. It sends a form of electricity into them, getting them back to full power just by being in the general vicinity of it. Right now, the prototype is used mostly for homes, but in theory it can extend to coffee shops, offices, and yes, even airports.
It is still limited, and it is still new. It is also a huge step above what we now think of as wireless chargers, which require contact with a pad in order to charge. That only saves you from plugging in. This requires only proximity.
The Next Step In the Mobile Revolution
Of course, I don’t want to hyperbolize the difficulty of finding a charger–it isn’t getting out of a war zone–but I also don’t want to understate it. For good or ill, and I think overall for good, our lives are increasingly dependent on our mobile tech, our smartphones and tablets. We have all our work and personal information on them. We store directions, names, and numbers. We have our notes. We have our lives. It’s scary, but hey, years of contact information in a Rolodex could be wiped out by an errant sprinkler. Everything carries risks.
Because of our increased reliance, staying charged is hugely important. People need to be tethered to a charging station, or at least have access to one, wherever they go. “My battery is dying” may be an understandable excuse, but it doesn’t make blowing a presentation or losing a client or not getting the text that promises new love any more acceptable. Indeed, it makes it worse.
If, in the near future, we can go into a bar or a coffee shop or an Uber car and immediately get some more juice, we can really feel like the mobile revolution is even more mobile. We don’t need to constantly worry about charging up, or hovering like jackals around the seat near the outlet. Simply being inside a building with this wireless charging device will be enough to get you through the day.
It’s an exhilarating and liberating thought. It also solves another problem: it makes mobile work always possible (though don’t forget, you are allowed to turn off your phone and stop working). It will improve efficiency, and make things more relaxing. You don’t have to rush before your battery dies. You can control your time better. It’s the next step forward.