February 2007 - Emerging Technology

The Evolution of Wireless Technology: Powercast

By Patrick Cauley

You were at the office very late. By the time you get home, the kids are already asleep and your spouse has left a note by your dinner plate on the counter that she or he, too, has retired to the bedroom. In the morning as you’re driving to the office, you realize that after finishing your dinner and heading off to bed, you forgot to charge your cell phone. Your business day is now effectively ruined.

Enter Powercast, the wire-free technology that, as COO Greg Puschnigg puts it, “has the potential to change our lives dramatically.” With a technology that works by receiving and harnessing low-power radio frequency energy transmitted across several feet of empty space, the sky’s the limit. Powercast is able to charge small devices with rechargeable batteries. It works for anything from a Blackberry or iPod to a video game remote control. After coming home from the office, simply put your phone on the counter near the Powercast unit along with your other gadgets that need to be charged. It works because of a specially designed circuit, known as the PowercastTM, placed on a device such as a lamp and transmits power to any number of matching receiving circuits in its area.

Powercast was founded in 2003 by John Shearer. In 2006, Powercast received FTC approval making it ready for production and implementation. “We’re introducing a practical way to send power through thin air. It’s going to simplify design, manufacture and use of low-powered mobile devices. Sooner or later, all phones or other nominally wireless devices have to be plugged in. Only when you cut the power cord can you say you’re really wireless,” says Shearer, CEO of Powercast LLC.

Using radio waves to send signals or power through the air is hardly a new idea. Throughout the years, radio frequency signals have been used to enable television and cell phones, among other items that we use daily.

“It’s not new, but we’ve refined it,” says Puschnigg of the Powercast technology that was unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show this January. According to Shearer, Powercast represents the world’s first workable power-at-a-distance solution. “In the last 10 years, a plethora of devices that need a very low amount of power have emerged,” says Puschnigg. “Technology and timing have aligned for us.”

Powercast is creating a new class of consumer devices, working with Phillips Electronics and others to bring products to market in 2007. “It’s the only safe, reliable, practical wire-free solution available for production today. Right now, product engineers and designers are developing next-generation consumer, industrial and medical applications that would be impossible without Powercast technology,” says Shearer.

“Device manufacturers [that] don’t jump on this will quickly lose market share. Retailers need to understand the opportunity,” says Shearer. And they have strong figures to back up their assertions. A new study released from Zoomerang shows that 74 percent of consumers would switch to a Powercast-enabled brand if given the choice.

Besides the luxury of less wires and clutter around the house, Powercast has a few other mentionable advantages. It not only eliminates the need for batteries in many devices, it is also more cost-effective per watt. Additionally, it functions as a back-up power source which, in turn, increases the reliability of products. “The average U.S. household spends about $100 a year on disposable batteries,” says Puschnigg, to illustrate the potential savings the everyday consumer could enjoy over the long term. Still, one of the most interesting aspects of Powercast is the environmental advantages.

Not only does it promote more efficient energy use, but it also helps to reduce harmful waste. The Powercast team stresses that while advances in technology, most notably digital devices, have been beneficial, the long-term waste produced by the exponentially growing industry could have far-reaching ecological effects. Hazardous waste in the form of batteries, power supplies and power adapters would be greatly reduced if Powercast was used throughout the market. Instead of batteries being thrown away so quickly, their life would be extended or their need eliminated entirely by the technology.

Powercast is not the only company trying to change the way we power devices. The U.K.-based Splashpower has a similar idea where they are working to eliminate the need for a different charger for every gadget that someone owns. Instead of sending signals through the air, consumers are to place their mobile devices onto a SplashPad in order to charge them. An Arizona-based company known as WildCharge has developed a similar pad solution for charging devices: the WildCharge pad. Though these companies are clearly on the right path to eliminating the frustration of numerous chargers and wires, only Powercast seems to be able to claim that they’re completely wire free.

The limits of what Powercast can do, or will be able to do, seem endless. It’s hard to judge its capabilities until seeing it first hand. During a recent routine showing of Powercast, mouths in the room literally dropped as Shearer demonstrated his technology’s power over a box of Christmas ornaments. As the different products lit up and spun around without any type of wire or connection, it became clear that Shearer was onto something. Watching one small circuit power the entire box and other devices around it showed the strength of the wireless technology. Once again reiterating the opportunity available to retailers, he explained that the Christmas decoration business takes in around $6 billion in sales each year, thus further illustrating how the innovative marketer could take this technology and turn it into enormous retail profits.

Whether you’re a marketer or not, it’s comforting to know that you can come home from work and empty your pockets onto the counter without having to worry about charging any of your electronic gadgets.

Powercast was showcased at CES through Phillips Electronics. It won the “Best of CES” in the emerging technology category.

For more information on Powercast visit www.powercastco.com or send an e-mail to [email protected]

Patrick Cauley is ERA’s technology and communications specialist and assistant editor of Electronic Retailer.



  • By Arthritis Health Treatments ·, November 9, 2010 @ 7:15 pm

    power adapters make it so convenient to plug in your appliance on different voltages “

  • By Buck Teeth, January 25, 2011 @ 11:50 am

    `~; I am very thankful to this topic because it really gives useful information ‘;”

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment