Surface Energy

What is SURFACE ENERGY?

Open Dots is an open standard for Surface Energy. Wireless Power and Surface Energy are very different and it is important to understand the distinction between them. To understand the difference, we will first define Wireless Power.

Wireless power is a term that, when taken literally, covers a broad range of approaches to bringing power into devices without them being plugged into the power source as is usually done. However, over the last decade, these two words – wireless power – when used together, have taken on a much more narrow specific meaning. This will be shown in the following example.

Some phones, including the earliest cell phones, charged on a dock. A dock is a stationary base that mechanically mates to the device to be charged such that a set of electrical pads are aligned and make electrical contact. The base is usually plugged into a wall outlet and remains fixed for the most part. We first note that such a dock is not considered to constitute “wireless charging”, even though the device does not get plugged in. To make the point of this example, we look at a recent product that was introduced to charge power tool batteries. This product required a base that was stationary and plugged into the wall outlet. The base mechanically mated with the power tool to maintain a specific alignment. The alignment allowed a coil of wire in the base to align with a coil of wire in the battery, and power was transmitted by induction. This product was marketed as Wireless Power, and there was no outcry to the contrary. So we see here that the phrase Wireless Power refers to the use of induction and ignores the fact that the user experience is identical to that of a dock that employs electrical contacts.

This “dumming down” of the phrase Wireless Power is a theme that has been going on for many years and has resulted in a very narrow meaning that seems to speak more to the technology and the use of electromagnetic induction than to the concept that implies a desirable and convenient user experience.

Over the last several years many forms of wireless power have been promoted in the industry. However, only a very few of these approaches have materialized in the form of an actual product, and the majority remain either a laboratory curiosity or a product of unrealistic hype. Unrealized technologies promoted with over-hyped  fanfare have become the norm rather than the exception in the wireless charging industry. For the purpose of this article, we will limit our discussion to only those technologies that have materialized in the form of actual products.

The point that is being made is that Wireless Charging is a phrase that has taken on a specific meaning that is much more narrow and peculiar compared to the meaning of the combination of words that make it up. Also, because of the hands-on experience of users of Wireless Charging products, the phrase has been taken to imply a particular set of user experiences that all commercially available wireless power products share.

 

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These are: Finicky alignment – the device must rest with very good alignment or otherwise it will fail to charge or it will overheat. One-at-a-time – each device to be charged requires a separate charging spot. Only phones – due to fundamental technological limitations, there is not sufficient power to charge devices that use even moderate power. Further, cell phones are currently the only product where the modest advantages of Wireless Charging justify the cost and other difficulties required for implementation. Gets Hot – the efficiency of electromagnetic induction is so low as to cause significant heating even at moderate charge rates. Unsafe – the bioelectromagnetic impact of wireless charging is not fully known, and thus wireless power has not been proven safe for humans. Slow – because of the inefficiencies inherent, the power level (charge rate) must be kept low.

Surface Energy is very different from wireless charging. Surface Energy is defined as a means of efficiently powering multiple devices of high and low power that are in contact anywhere on a power surface. The contrast between Surface Energy and Wireless Charging couldn’t be greater.

 

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The objective of this page is to contrast the difference between Wireless Charging and Surface Energy. Given what has been disclosed here, it is clear that calling Open Dots a technology for Wireless Charging would be to overlook every attribute of the Open Dots technology that makes it so much superior to what is now called Wireless Charging. This would be a significant disservice to the Open Dots technology.

Historically, the literal meaning of the phrase wireless charging set an expectation. Many people, especially consumers unfamiliar with the technical details, likely did not contemplate the set of limitations that is now synonymous with Wireless Charging. Why would anyone assume that Wireless Charging implies overheating, exact placement, one-at-a-time charging, etc.?  But after years of hands-on experience with Wireless Charging, most people have come to expect this peculiar set of onerous limitations.

The phrase Surface Energy does not have this baggage and implies a much more usable set of features. It implies that we are efficiently powering multiple devices of high and low power that are in contact anywhere upon a surface, because there is no reason to assume that is not the case. Open Dots indeed delivers as a true Surface Energy technology.