A History of Silicon Valley

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These are excerpts from Piero Scaruffi's book
"A History of Silicon Valley"

(Copyright © 2016 Piero Scaruffi)

The Selfies (2011-16)

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Wireless Power Transmission

In 1902 Nikola Tesla had built the 62-meter high Wardenclyffe Tower that for 15 years terrified his neighbors in Long Island. He was convinced that it was possible to transmit electricity via the air, but he failed to prove it and the tower was demolished in 1917. Wireless power had been tested since then, but it took more than one century for the industry to catch up with his vision.

In 2007 a theoretical physicist at the MIT, Marin Soljacic, published a paper in Science magazine titled "Wireless Power Transfer via Strongly Coupled Magnetic Resonances". That paper proved that Tesla's dream was indeed feasible: electrical power can be transmitted wirelessly (60 watts of power over 2 meters) although using a different technique, magnetic resonance. He helped found WiTricity to commercialize the technology. In 2014 Intel bought a license to integrate the wireless charging feature into its Skylake processor.

At the same time, Ran Poliakine founded Powermat Technologies in 2006 in Israel. He used Tesla's idea, inductive power transfer, that, after decades of failures, had been perfected in 1991 by Andrew Green and John Boys at Auckland University in New Zealand. In 2009 Powermat introduced a device capable of charging a smartphone remotely. He then created a joint venture with the most famous brand in consumer-electronics battery, Duracell, and in 2014 their redesigned product was adopted by the coffee franchise Starbucks in 200 of their Bay Area locations. Technically speaking, the inductive technology is tightly coupled, whereas the resonance technology is loosely coupled.

Another route was followed by Energous, founded in 2012 as DVineWave in San Ramon (East Bay) by Michael Leabman, and Ossia, founded in 2008 in Seattle by Hatem Zeine: radio waves. Energous started selling its device in 2015 and in 2016 shrunk it to the size of a thumb drive. One device plugged into the USB port of a laptop, located compatible devices via Bluetooth and sent them beams in radio-frequency waves; another device (a tiny receiver chip), attached to a smartphone or wearable, converted this radio frequency into direct current. Ossia demonstrated its technology in 2013 and partnered with KDDI, Japan's second-largest wireless carrier.

In 2016 a team at the University of Washington that included Shyam Gollakota (winner in 2015 of the World Technology Award for communication technology) demonstrated a system, PoWiFi (Power Over Wi-Fi), that used traditional Wi-Fi routers.

Finally, the prototype by uBeam, founded in 2011 by University of Pennsylvania's graduate Meredith Perry, who then relocated to Los Angeles, broadcast electricity via high-pitched ultrasound beams in a manner similar to how transducers work in hi-fi speakers.

There were three competing alliances: the Wireless Power Consortium, which was behind the standard Qi (supported by Nokia, Samsung, LG, Sony, BlackBerry, and HTC), the Power Matters Alliance (the one chosen by Powermat, Duracell, AT&T, Google and WiTricity) and the Alliance for Wireless Power. In 2015 the Power Matters Alliance and the Alliance for Wireless Power merged in the AirFuel Alliance.

click here for the other sections of the chapter "The Selfies (2011-16)"
(Copyright © 2016 Piero Scaruffi)

Table of Contents | Timeline of Silicon Valley | A photographic tour | History pages | Editor | Correspondence