Since 1820 when Andre Marie Ampere described his law that proves that electrical current produces a magnetic field, scientists have been working to achieve the efficient transfer of wireless power. Also since 1820 (it seems), I have been traveling and toting around miles of recharger cables thousands of miles for all manner of devices and cursing them the entire way. Today, the transfer of wireless power has been proven and demonstrated. The trouble is the efficiency; if you can’t deliver power to a battery at least as fast as the load will consume it, then you’re back to square one. There are other problems to consider too, like the distance you can “shoot” the power. If you replace my laptop’s power cable with a wireless power emitter box that weighs 5lbs… I’d be impressed but I still wouldn’t buy one. Charge me a fee to send me some power via the internet and we’ll talk!
The problem is (with rare exceptions) that every new handheld device that comes along seems to need its own special cable and charger. Take my phone for instance, it has a USB cable that I can use to plug it into my computer for file transfer, but that cable won’t charge the device. To charge the phone, I need the charger cable that plugs into the wall; how crazy is that? Do you think that charger and cable will charge my iPod, Laptop, GPS, or digital camera? Of course not! When I travel, a good portion of my carry-on contains nothing but transformers and wires.
Companies have tried to solve this problem in many ways, none of which seem to work. Best buy sells at least 6 different “Universal Chargers” just for digital cameras alone. If you look at the box, you’ll see that one of them will charge “Any Casio or Samsung camera,” but not Sony or Canon. That’s not very universal is it? Then there are companies that sell a standard charger and cable, with a bunch of different end tips that plug into all sorts of devices. The one I looked at had tips for only 3 of my 5 devices and the voltage was wrong for one of them so… back to square one.
I have finally accepted that I need these cables; the problem I solved last week was the one where I forget to pack them. Nothing sucks harder than being three days into a trip, seeing your cell phone battery dying and remembering that your charger is still plugged into the wall at home in the kitchen behind the coffee pot; or sitting down in an airport lounge, opening your laptop, and realizing that your power cable is still on your desk or at your home office.
Last week, I finally bit the bullet and bought THREE full on plug-into-the-wall chargers for every one of my devices. (Then, I expensed them to the company). At home, they’re all plugged into a power strip and threaded up to the desk where I’ve bundled them for easy access. At my desk at work, I’ve done the same thing. I took the smallest, thinnest, and lightest of the set and put them in my laptop roller bag and those are now my permanent “travel cables.” I count them whenever I pack to make sure I don’t leave them in a hotel room or a remote office.
If I knew who was going to win the wireless power race, I’d buy a ton of their stock. Until then, I’ll have to see if it’s worth buying stock in a cable company!
EXTRA: If you have questions for Ken regarding business travel, hotels, airplanes, etc, please call 1-877-49-EXPERT. Your questions will be recorded and Ken will answer the best ones in his Ask the Expert podcast show.