Listening to the Customer

Reliable Partnership Formed Around a New Wireless Power Transmission Module Technology by Chance Technological Advancement and Strengthened Collaboration from Anticipated Market Growth

Hitachi Maxell, Ltd. Chief Project Leader, Business Development Project Kenji Matsuoka

We learned about a capacitive coupling method, a new technology, in 2010.
We then proceeded to make a decision to commercialize this excellent technology to meet our customer demands. Through our collaboration with Murata Manufacturing, we found that Murata has the same kind of customer dedication we maintain when delivering our products.
We now regard Murata Manufacturing as our trustworthy partner who provides us with commercialization solutions.

How We Introduced Capacitive Coupling Method In Our Effort to Provide Wireless Power Supplies

Although Murata Manufacturing has been supplying us with components for a long time, this is the first time we collaborated together in the commercialization of a product. We introduced Standard from the Wireless Power Consortium (WPC: a standardization organization for wireless power supply) when releasing "AIR VOLTAGE for iPhone4" in April 2011.

The Qi Standard is established for electromagnetic induction-based wireless charging. AIR VOLTAGE, a wireless iPhone4 charger consists of a mat and a sleeve. At that time, we were aware of demands for wirelessly charging iPad2 and were pressing on with its development. However, Qi Standard did not offer sufficient recharging output for iPad2. That was when we learned Murata's new "capacitive coupling technology" developed in 2010. We became very excited after talking to Murata and finding out that this is indeed a very fine technology.

Not only does it offer enough power output for iPad2, it offers ease of introduction, a wide charging area, free of interference affecting other devices and generates little heat. We immediately started reviewing this technology. If we gave it the go-ahead, we would have two different wireless power transmission approaches, electromagnetic induction method for iPhones and capacitive coupling method for iPads. However, when we thought of merits for our customers, having two different methods was not an issue any more. We decided to commercialize this technology and deliver a viable product as soon as possible. Maxell's strong point is being able to focus aggregated companywide efforts on decisions we have made.

We did have a few obstacles in coming up with an optimal design for the product. For example, due to the way iPad2 is used in horizontal and vertical orientations, our charger too must allow for both orientations. The module shape also needed to be readjusted to match the design detail. We kept consulting Murata to overcome these obstacles.

Unexpected Customer Inquiries From Agitated B2B Demands

The developed model was "AIR VOLTAGE for iPad2" released in November 2011. We received unexpectedly strong interests especially from corporate customers. For example, it could solve the problem of recharging a large number of iPads used for displaying information or presentations at an exhibit at the end of each day. Using AIR VOLTAGE, all iPads can remain charged throughout an exhibition.

It is also useful when showing video presentation clips at the storefront. Salespeople can recharge iPads as they drive around in their cars after giving customer presentations. Recharging iPads upon returning is as easy as setting them on their stands. A surprise inquiry came from a conveyer belt sushi restaurant chain that wanted to keep iPads for their table ordering system charged.

We did anticipate some B2B demands for this technology and did approach some potential customers, but we never expected this kind of strong interest. Inquiries came from corporate customers we never thought of, giving us assurance of the strong market potential for this product.

Nonetheless, keeping a wide range of clientele in scope means fulfilling additional specifications such as water and shock resistance. We are thus blessed with further challenges with our next phase of development.

A Market Anticipated for Expansion Larger Capacity and Quicker Recharging Are the Hurdles

Wireless power supplies just started becoming visible and markets are anticipated to grow. Potential markets include game machines, personal computers and eventually EVs. While primary batteries like dry batteries are still important power sources, wireless power supplies should find acceptance for recharging relatively expensive equipment costing over 5,000 yen.

It is ecological to use rechargeable batteries in most cases, and wireless recharging has an advantage of having no terminal connection to wear out. There is, however, much room for improvement. Its capacity should be made larger to extend its operating time and it should be able to recharge a larger variety of equipment. Recharging time should also be shorter. Once we can shorten the recharging time to a little over 10 minutes as opposed to a few hours, there will be much more room in product implementation.

We are now looking into developing AIR VOLTAGE for Android phones. We have great expectations for Murata Manufacturing's technological innovations.

Wireless Power Supply

Wireless power supply is a technology to transmit electric power wirelessly. It has a wide range of potential implementations including non-contact recharging for smartphones, tablets and digital cameras, supplying power to flat panel TVs from behind a wall, recharging EV batteries, wireless power supplies in plants and buildings and finally transmitting power from a space solar power station to Earth. Already smartphones are sold with a non-contact recharging feature, and automakers are reviewing the possibility of wireless power supplies for EVs. Electric/electronic manufacturers globally are actively pursuing this technology.

Qi

Qi is a wireless power supply standard established by the Wireless Power Consortium (WPC) . WPC is an industrial organization established in 2008 to formulate and permeate the Qi standard. The first part of the Qi interoperability specification was delivered in April 2010. Currently, over 100 companies have joined WPC globally.

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