What is Wireless Power?


Anyone who attends a class or meeting where most of the participants have laptop computers is well aware that there are never enough power outlets—and when they are available, they are invariably located in inconvenient places. Wireless power, already being prototyped by several companies, promises to alleviate the problem by making power for charging batteries in devices readily available. Using near-field inductive coupling, power can be transmitted through special surfaces or even through open space to charge devices within a home, office, school, or other setting. Consumer products are already entering the market; the Powermat, for instance, charges up to three devices placed onto its surface (each device must first be slipped into a compatible sleeve). Fulton Innovation's eCoupled technology is designed to be built into desk- and countertops, enabling not only power transfer but other wireless communications between devices placed on the surfaces. Witricity is developing transmitters that would be embedded in walls or other furniture, transferring power via inductive coupling to receivers attached to devices anywhere within the home or classroom. The impact of wireless power for education will primarily be felt in learning spaces; the devices we carry will become more useful and easier to maintain, with increased opportunity for longer use in a variety of settings.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the museums you know best?

  • The integration electronic media within the museum gallery environment has traditionally been restricted by two technical obstacles; network access and access to AC power. WiFi has all but eliminated the network restriction, but the availability AC power remains a key issue. Aesthetic concerns and architectural barrier often prevent the desired placement of electronic media.- scott.sayre scott.sayre May 1, 2010
  • I think this technology would free us from the restrictions to use computer and screen displays in the galleries in meaningful way. I also think it may encourage artists and designers to use computers in their design work, which I have not seen since the 90's.- christina.depaolo christina.depaolo May 2, 2010

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • Museum galleries, installations and architecture. - scott.sayre scott.sayre May 1, 2010
  • How do we retrofit aging museum structures to enable universal Wifi access? - holly holly May 1, 2010
  • How could wireless power improve the way museum workers collaborate and use technology in their work? - christina.depaolo christina.depaolo May 2, 2010
  • wireless power would help us easily restructure our learning space and potentially extend the learning time in exhibitions. Only if, however, our old museum buildings can also implement wifi access universally--so ditto holly - elizabeth.babcock elizabeth.babcock May 2, 2010
  • Where might we find information relating to research into how the technology works? - eric.bates eric.bates May 4, 2010

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on education and interpretation in museums?

  • Currently, part of the justification for the investment in mobile interpretive technologies is the difficulty in embedding electronic media in the gallery environment. Applications such as e-paper or multimedia labels will not become widely viable solutions until wireless power is available.- scott.sayre scott.sayre May 1, 2010

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

No, but I know of museums that have tried to work around this obstacle by using battery powered devices with limited sucess. - scott.sayre scott.sayre May 1, 2010

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