Meredith Perry while a student at the University of Pennsylvania won the PennVention in 2011 with an idea that electricity can be transferred by ultrasound to charge devices wirelessly. This idea set the foundation for establishing the company UBeam. The company has generated a lot of interest and has received about $26 million in investment from prominent venture capitalists.

Wireless charging is of wide interest to the consumer electronics industry and is being done by multiple parties using different technologies (photo: ubeam facebook)

The idea that devices from laptops, to phones, can be charged wirelessly has been the subject of a lot of research and development pursuit. This is because of the humungous size of the potential market it could be disrupting. Many companies are hot on wireless charging R&D using different technologies. It is safe to say, that anything that can be beamed through the air can be converted into a usable type of energy – people have tried laser for wireless power, there is the Powermat (using some kind of magnetic induction), magnetic resonance, etc. The allure of the UBeam technology is its focus on giving a kind of WiFi charging experience where you are able to move around a room and use all your devices without plugging them in.

Technology Highlights

  • The uBeam idea is built around ultrasound waves to charge all devices from phones to laptops – the idea is that if you are in a room with a uBeam transmitter, it converts the energy and data it receives to ultrasound waves, which it beams out to power the charger for your mobile device.
Some observers have been critical of the company’s ultrasound technology, but UBeam has remained steadfast in pushing through with research (Photo: uBeam Facebook).
  • They look to use a phased array technique to direct the beam – a typical speaker is projecting its sound in 360 degrees, and you’re not going to get that much power from sound unless you focus it. The challenge is not to physically focus it but to do this digitally.
  • There is significant literature available on the safety of ultrasound through human tissue, however, as the uBeam technology develops, they will settle the stereotypical fears consumers have in this regard. The charging will not work through walls, as the ultrasound beams are said to cut out automatically if intercepted by objects other than the receiver, making their system inherently safe and within all existing regulatory constraints.

Dolphins Use Ultrasound Waves to communicate. Actually, ultrasound is nature’s communication wavelength that humans have employed to see babies in-utero, track underwater objects and even to homogenize milk.  Dolphins and bats use it to communicate with their own species. uBeam is upbeat that ultrasound is probably the only type of technology that would work for the WiFi wireless charging experience they seek to achieve with widespread application in public spaces – inside of coffee shops, gym, hotels and stadiums. Other noteworthy commercial work is also done by:

WiTricity is an American engineering company that manufactures devices for wireless energy transfer using resonant energy transfer based on oscillating magnetic fields. Founded in 2007 to commercialize a new technology for wireless electricity invented and patented by a team of physicists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

 

Energous Corporation Also an American technology company based in California. Energous Corporation is the creator of WattUp, charging technology for electronic devices – a wire-free, over-the-air charging technology that uses radio frequencies to charge devices from up to 15 feet away.

 

PowerbyProxi was founded in 2007 as a spin-out of the University of Auckland’s world leading wireless power center of excellence, building on over a decade of ground-breaking research. They take their technology to market through licensing partnerships in consumer electronics markets and direct end product sales in non-consumer electronics markets.

 


About uBeam

  • uBeam is a U.S. company that is developing a wireless charging system that is designed to work via ultrasound.
  • Founded in 2011 by Meredith Perry while she was a student at the University of Pennsylvania. Following folklore tech-world tradition it already sparked a bitter lawsuit among its co-founders.
  • uBeam is one of tech’s most intriguing startups today, promising to someday charge your wireless devices in a seamless WiFi experience. It’s also controversial, with some having publicly suggested that uBeam’s technology defies the laws of physics. However, the future is exciting for the company as it navigates the technology milestones required to establish itself in resounding commercial success.


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