The curse of doing business in an increasingly mobile world is the seemingly perennial issue of poor battery life in our laptops and mobile devices. Device battery chargers are both the lifelines that free us to roam and our transitory tethers to terra firma.
That's why losing, misplacing or forgetting your battery charger back in the hotel room in Boise, Idaho, is such a big deal. (You can picture it there, can't you? Hanging out of the wall like that last poor kid waiting at day care after all the others have been picked up?)
In the future, you may not have to worry about being a negligent parent to your battery charger. Recent innovations and technology developments are set to alter how we charge our mobile devices. Eventually you may be able to cut the cord on battery charging for good. Here's a quick rundown of companies with new power innovations worth getting charged up about:
Powermat: The desktop mat that uses magnetic induction to charge any mobile device by touch has been around since last fall, but it seemed to pass a mainstream tipping point earlier this year when the company broadened availability to Wal-Mart, Sprint Nextel stores and other retail outlets in the U.S. and abroad.
CallPod: This company's Chargepod is a six-port wheel that allows a single power cord to charge as many as six phones or other devices simultaneously. Its latest innovation is the Fueltank Duo, a portable, cordless power pack that charges two devices and holds enough power for about seven full cell phone charges.
PureEnergy Solutions: If you happen to be Lady Gaga--or anyone else who performed or presented at this year's Grammys---you got a battery-charging WildCharge Pad and WildCharge iPhone skin in your gift bag. The WildCharge Pad seems similar to Powermat, but it uses conductive metal-on-metal charging rather than induction. PureEnergy also is planning to embed its technology in furniture.
WiTricity: The founder, Marin Soljacic, is an MIT professor, and if that doesn't impress you, maybe his MacArthur Foundation "Genius Grant" will. Like PureEnergy, WiTricity wants its wireless charging technology planted inside desktops and other furniture. But, WiTricity's angle is using a magnetic field, so that devices being charged don't have to touch a conductive/inductive surface and could even be behind a wall in the next room.
WFulton Innovation: Its eCoupled power-charging solution uses near-field inductive coupling to wirelessly charge numerous devices on your office desk, such as your phone, desktop PC, printer--it can even warm your coffee mug. It also uses intelligent power monitoring to manage power levels in devices.
WiPower: Another mat, but this one uses coreless inductive powering, and WiPower emphasizes position flexibility for devices charging on its mat.
Dan O'Shea is a Chicago-based writer who has been covering telecom, mobile and other high-tech topics for nearly 20 years.