Next big thing in Smartphone tech: How India’s PowerSquare is working to help recharge phone sans cables

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New Delhi | Published: May 7, 2018 3:12:02 AM

Wireless charging is the order of the day. Major handset manufacturers will soon start offering wireless charging across their phone models as the demand for wireless technology grows by leaps and bounds.

smartphone, smartphone industry, smartphone sectorPowerSquare expects a trickle-down effect once it is introduced.

Wireless charging is the order of the day. Major handset manufacturers will soon start offering wireless charging across their phone models as the demand for wireless technology grows by leaps and bounds. Currently, the world market for wireless power is $6 billion and is expected to rise to $15 billion by 2024. Homegrown PowerSquare Inc is doing the same, betting on the potential of wireless technology. Founded in 2012 by serial entrepreneurs Pavan Pudipeddi, Anand Katragadda and Naveen Chava, it is looking to become a major game-changer in the industry and perhaps the first Indian company to bring a first-of-its-kind, innovative mobile wireless charging technology to the automotive sector.

“Globally, the technology has only been implemented in luxury and mid-premium vehicles, provided by tier 1 suppliers. With our cost-effective approach to system design coupled with localisation, we intend to bring this feature into mid-segment vehicles. We are currently working with multiple global and Indian automotive manufacturers to embed this technology in their new models,” says Pavan Pudipeddi, founder, PowerSquare.

The PowerSquare in-car wireless charging module is a three coil-design which can be customised and placed on the dashboard, central console or arm rest. The module supports Qi-compatible phones with full 5W and 15W receiving capabilities. The system is designed to intelligently detect the type of device on the charging area and optimises the charging rate appropriately. The system will differentiate between an iPhone and a Samsung phone and deliver 7.5W or a 10W faster charging mode to the device. The user simply places the device on the charging area and the power is wirelessly transferred to the device. The brand agnostic module lets the user charge any brand of Qi-compatible device. “The intention is that we will work with automotive OEMs and plastic manufacturers to put a module under the handrest or under the dashboard so that all you have to do is put your phone on top to charge,” he says.

The team is working to extend its wireless technology expertise for applications such as electric vehicles, kitchen appliances, power tools among others. The objective in each of these applications is to be “unplugged and unconnected”, explains Pudipeddi. “You don’t want to be looking to plug in your phone when travelling in a car. You want to just drop it in a pace and it stays there. There are opportunities here to do many more things like you put your phone somewhere and people can identify who you are, it adjusts the lighting, plays your favourite song, adjusts the seats, turns on the AC and so on. This is a touch point that gives further extensions and capabilities,” he says.

The USP of the technology is the Adaptive Position Free (APF) system and multiple devices charging simultaneously while being brand- and platform- agnostic. The venture is currently focused on bringing wireless charging technology to three sectors—consumer electronics, automotive and infrastructure. Its forthcoming products include an innovative range of multi-device wireless chargers, a wireless power bank, 5W and 15W in-car installation designs, built-in wireless charging devices in infrastructure and other products. Apart from chargers and power banks, the next step will be products for kitchen countertops for open kitchen concepts and items like blenders and stoves. The principle is the same, the challenge is to make it device agnostic. It recently raised $500,000 via Omphalos Venture Partners and intends to raise more than $4 million through potential investors.

Pudipeddi, who is one of the founding members of Wireless Power Consortium(WPC) which is responsible for the Qi standard followed by all major wireless charging brands, says: “Our focus is to help consumers and participate in their daily life. There are three main areas where you charge your phone: at home, office and in your car. We focus on all three areas and provide B2C products to help consumers on-the-go. We have B2B products for things that don’t move, like furniture, where we drill and drop them into the furniture.”

Talking about his future plans, Pudipeddi says that cars such as the Audi Q7, Tata Nexon and a few other higher-end models sold in India have this technology. “Our intention is to manufacture it completely here and thus have a native module. We have manufacturing partners with design engineers in Bengaluru. We are tier I/II players to the automotive OEM and we are also the innovation partners to some large MNCs. We want to bring the technology here and localize it to bring it to mid-end cars as opposed to keeping it to premium segment cars. We are ready to do so now with the right partners. From a production standpoint, we expect the rollout in 2019,” he adds.

A new model of the in-car wireless charging module will be launched in the US for $99 and will come to India at the end of Q1. The price in India will be about Rs 5,500. “We plan to have a slew of products priced differently, starting from `3,000-5,500,” he says.

PowerSquare expects a trickle-down effect once it is introduced. What automotive companies usually do is they start with different variants for every platform. “Our goal is to get to the platform side so that no matter where it starts, they can incorporate it. We aim to focus in two areas: one, go directly to the OEMs as we are the only company who has any experience in this capability in India and second, to work with other organisations that work with the OEMs, like the plastic manufacturers who make the instrument panel components,” he said.

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