Market Insights

Wireless Power is not a Done Deal

March 05, 2015 by Richard Ruiz

The First Edition analysis of the Wireless Charging market from Darnell Group is an in-depth analysis detailing the latest developments in this important

The First Edition analysis of the Wireless Charging market from Darnell Group is an in-depth analysis detailing the latest developments in this important emerging market. The wireless power charging IC market will see tremendous growth over the next five years, with a dollar market increasing from $284.3 million in 2015 to over $2.8 billion in 2020, a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 58.7%. The wireless power charging market covered in this report is made up of both wireless charging receiver ICs and transmitter ICs. But the longer-term market growth is still uncertain.

While wireless charging is rapidly gaining market share, its continued success and the final size of the wireless charging market is still to be determined. There are a number of significant factors that could derail this emerging market including the continued uncertainty of the standards environment, especially the on-going development of a new standard by IEEE and the uncertainty regarding the efficacy of wireless charging relative to energy efficiency standards such as the California Energy Commission (CEC), Level V, that mandates ac adapters meet a minimum efficiency of 85%.

It remains to be seen if wireless charging technology can meet this requirement. For these and other reasons, wireless charging is not a ‘done deal’.

Although this report presents the wireless charging market in five categories: Consumer, Computers, Industrial, Medical and Military, it is an emerging technology and there are no traditional applications within these categories to rely on to lead the way. The further growth of wireless charging power is entirely dependent on the growth of wireless charging penetration rates in a number of key applications such as mobile phones and tablets.

The large mobile phone market will continue to dominate the global wireless power charging market throughout the forecast period. Specifically, further wireless charging growth in the rest of the applications covered in this report will depend on the growth of the wireless charging penetration rate within the mobile phone industry. If mobile phone penetration is unable to progress at a rate approaching 30-50% by 2020, the future of ubiquitous wireless charging will be in serious jeopardy.

For the purpose of this report, the worldwide market includes four regions: North America, Europe, Asia and the rest of the world (ROW). The Darnell Group expects to see considerable growth for the wireless charging IC unit market over the forecast period in each of these regions. Overall, the worldwide unit wireless charging IC market will grow from 135.2 million units in 2015 to over 1.4 billion units in 2020, a CAGR of 61.7%.

The development of wireless power charging isn’t about just reducing the number of external ac-dc power supplies in the world it’s about increasing the capability of wirelessly powered devices in everything from cellphones and tablets to automobiles and industrial tools and sensors. The elimination of the need to maintain multiple external power supplies, one for each electronic device, has long been a goal for both the consumers and manufacturers of consumer electronics equipment and over the past several years there have been a number of developments moving the industry towards this goal. One of the more challenging aspects of wireless charging adoption for both manufacturers and users of electronic applications is the current mix of standards in place. Progress has been limited by the fact that no universally adopted standard is available and this has hindered development. Understandably, device manufacturers want infrastructure in place before they commit to mass production of their products and infrastructure manufacturers want devices in place before they commit to mass production. Over the past several years there have been three primary organizations working towards the establishment of a working wireless standard. Each of these three bodies has their respective technologies and has the backing of a large number of industry participants. They include the Wireless Power Consortium (WPC), the Power Matters Alliance (PMA) and the Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP).

The standards that have been developed or are under development by each of these three bodies differ. However they typically define requirements for transmitters designed to deliver power, receivers for mobile phones that will use the power and a specific communications protocol for the devices. In January 2015, the A4WP and the PMA announced that they had signed a Letter of Intent to merge. This development is projected to play an important role in the strengthening of standards and the further development of wireless charging power.

In a development likely to have considerable impact on the drive towards wireless charging, the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) Working Group is attempting to establish the IEEE P2100.1 Standard Specifications for Wireless Power and Charging Systems. It is the first in a series of anticipated standards addressing parallel wireless power and charging technology specifications. The IEEE is seeking to establish an interoperable standard that will allow users to wirelessly power and recharge smartphones and other mobile devices.

Specifically, IEEE P2100.1 will establish parallel specifications for wireless power and charging for both transmitter and receiver devices, with an initial focus on inductive (or tightly) coupled technologies. When completed and approved, IEEE P2100.1 will offer advantages and benefits over a wide range of markets including consumer electronics and appliances, electric vehicles, medical devices, and more. As the interest in loosely coupled systems increases, the working group will adapt to focus on this technology and incorporate this into the standard as well.

One of the biggest challenges wireless power charging has to overcome is the level of efficiency when compared to the traditional use of wired power. Regulatory standards regarding efficiency may prove one of the biggest obstacles to the adoption of wireless charging. The California Energy Commission (CEC), Level V, mandates that ac adapters meet a minimum efficiency of 85%. It remains to be seen if wireless charging technology can meet this requirement.

Additional forecasts in this report include both low and medium power receiver and transmitter ICs for both Wireless Power Consortium Qi technology and A4WP technology. Driven by the large mobile phone market, over the forecast period the receiver IC market is projected to be dominated by Qi technology, while the transmitter IC market will have a higher percentage of A4WP technology. For the purpose of this report, the A4WP and PMA products have been combined.

Among the additional areas to watch are advances in IC technology, in particular advanced semiconductor developments which are moving towards circuits with dual-mode wireless power capability, components and materials, and advances in digital power technology. Also important to observe are a number of long-term alliances and partnerships as well as developments in standards and regulations, efficiency and standby power requirements and the clear long-term shift from first generation (tightly-coupled) to second-generation (flexibly-coupled) wireless power transfer technologies.