These days in electronics engineering, developing a product is more about timely pulling of right pool of resources along with having some great technology. Although technology inventions helped companies to have a strong foothold, but for a longer run, it is more of management of resources. The most important is the team of good electronics design engineers. To give an example of a startup with such strategy, the Bangalore-based power electronics start-up PowerSquare has developed a wireless charging pad, which is more convenient to use compared to other in the market. The wireless charging tech is not something new. The team at PowerSquare has understood the market requirements of wireless charging applications, and could successfully launch a product by leveraging the best resources around the world in developing this needy product.
The product named "Tango" wireless charger is a result of combination of, Indian electronics product design skills, American semiconductor chips, and the Chinese electronics manufacturing and also there are good number of made in India passive/mechanical components used in this product. This is a good example of how Indian start-ups can do well in the area of so called electronic system design and manufacturing (ESDM). Designing a physical product is not easy where lot of minor things such as a small connector, and such many mechanical design challenges sometimes become a stumbling block.
I met Pavan Pudipeddi, Chief Executive Officer of PowerSquare at his office in Bangalore. He explained to me the technology, market opportunities and challenges in the wireless charging area:
Pavan and his team's vision was to come out with a product company, and they figured wireless power is a good place to start.
The convenience matters: Pavan says these days most of the smart phones are available in large size screens and also powerful octa core processors, what is important according to Pavan is customer'convenience. Wireless charging offers the convenience. Well if that is about smart phones, he says "from my standpoint what we're seeing today is wireless power barely getting started. We do not even know what kind of applications (coming up in the future). The real innovation is not in power transfer, the real innovation is using wireless power for doing other things". What he hinted is wireless charging is far bigger than the opportunity in the smart phone space.
Pavan says wireless power transfer technologies is still evolving. The present wireless chargers in the market where transmitter and receiver are placed one over the other already support power transfer in the range of 15 Watts and in case of wireless power transfer for longer distance such as inside a room, you can transfer power in the range of 1 Watt.
The concept: Fundamentally wireless charging system involves a transmitter and a receiver units. Both transmitter and receiver have copper coils. There is electronics controller and communication circuitry both in transmitter and receiver. Transmitter and receiver coils get magnetically coupled when they come close by. The electronics include voltage regulation, communication controller where lot of authentication happens between the transmitter and receiver. WPC standards used in this system. The communication between the transmitter and receiver is real-time, where battery parameters and other charging parameters are monitored in real time. In case of smartphones, the receiver can be embedded inside the phone, or use as a separate casing/cover.
Issues: In wireless charging, there are already systems available in the market, but a problem with them is the receiver coil need to be aligned with the transmitter coil in terms of physical position. If there is slight shift in the coil placement, the energy will not be transferred.
This problem can be fixed by using a bigger coil in the transmitter, but there are issues of slightly expensive coil and also wastage of power. Lot of other metal devices inside the receiver system gets heated up due to eddy current.
The standards bodies WPC and others are working on multiple array coils of small size placed over an area, and only those coils which are in close contact with the receiver coil are energised. While the standards are still prepared for such multiple coils based wireless charging and is expected to be available by the end of this year. What PowerSquare has done is, it has used a concept similar to what the standards are working on now in using multiple coils, so that alignment issue will be solved. PowerSquare is ahead of industry in bringing out a readily available product to the market solving these issues. While using multiple coils, the technology by PowerSquare recognises multiple receiver devices placed over different coils and energize transmitter accordingly.
Pavan explains: The three problems solved by wireless charging technology developers include, place your mobile device anywhere on the wireless charging pad without any alignment issues. The second issue is charging multiple devices using single pad. The third more interesting challenge is increasing the gap between transmitter and receiver coil (called Z) so that the transmitter can be fixed beneath the table and the Mobile device with a wireless power receiver just placed over the table to get charged.
The first two problems are already solved by PowerSquare in their newly launched product.
Pavan said there was lot of complexity involved in magnetics design, algorithms. "The biggest value in ours (product) is how do you ensure that when two phones are working at same time-- the respective communications are not corrupting each other." quotes Pavan. "
PowerSquare had developed a wireless charging product year earlier, but they strategically decided to postpone the launch by studying the market for wireless charging.
Make In India: Well we got to see whether "Make in India" and "Digital India" missions can enable companies such as PowerSquare to take off in a big way. Or is it the opposite! Companies such as PowerSquare and many such start-ups can really make "Make in India" and "Digital India" mission a success. It's combination of both. Start-ups need government support. And India needs smart start-ups such as PowerSquare.
The ground work done by Powersqure not only applied to wireless charging, the technology some of which applied for a patent grant can be used in multiple aspects of power electronics, which is becoming a fast growing area not only in mobile electronics space and also in automotive space, where electric car/vehicle requires lot of power electronics and also wireless charging for EVs.
PowerSquare's product is a good example of "design locally sell globally".
The product looks nice. Below is the picture. The semigloss Champagne Gold surfaced sleek pad uses premium rubberised black base with soft LED indicator. Tango uses PowerSquare's patent pending Adaptive Position-Free (APF) technology to enable seamless charging of multiple devices. Tango works with all qi (WPC) compliant devices.
Pavan says the market response is already good. PowerSquare is ready for the Christmas and year-end holiday season sales in the US and worldwide. On the fast charging feature, Pavan said as the standards start supporting fast charging feature, they will come out with newer version supporting fast charging. Technically fast charging specs is blessing in disguise for wireless energy transfer, since it makes the wirless charging lesser complex at higher voltage specs.
Pavan doesn't forget to mention the effort of his dedicated team of electronics engineers working in Bangalore. Finally his advice for ESDM start-ups: Be ready to face some small things causing big obstructions in bringing your product to market.
For more details on Tango visit the website at: http://www.powersquare.com
Note: The newer version of the article is edited with some corrections and additional points.