Powercast has developed a truly wireless and battery-free keyboard that can be powered over the air.
Powercast’s transmitter sends RF over the air to a receiver chip embedded in devices that can harvest that RF from up to 120 feet away in ultra-low-power devices such as IoT sensors, and at shorter ranges for more power-hungry devices.
The receiver then converts the RF into DC (direct current) to either recharge batteries, or directly power battery-free devices, both of which eliminate disposable battery e-waste and battery replacement hassles.
Powercast embedded its PCC110 receiver chip and a small antenna into an existing battery-powered keyboard and mouse. The keyboard and mouse could then move anywhere on the desk and Powercast’s Ubiquity RF transmitter was able to recharge their batteries over the air. Taking it a step further, Powercast removed the keyboard’s batteries, creating the first battery-free RF-powered keyboard to demonstrate how RF can directly power a battery-free device.
“Wireless technologies exist that can be embedded to enable truly wireless, untethered keyboards,” said Charles Greene, COO and CTO of Powercast. “Qi inductive charging is a good choice for power-hungry devices like phones, but Qi is restrictive because the device must actually touch the charger with the transmitting and receiving coils aligning only millimetres apart.”
“On the other hand, contactless, set-and-forget, over-the-air RF charging can be used for low-power devices such as keyboards and mice, TV remotes, electric toothbrushes, headphones, smart watches and more. RF charging allows freedom of device placement and one-to-many charging, meaning one RF transmitter can automatically charge many enabled devices in its charging zone.”
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Powercast is in discussions with manufacturers evaluating embedding the electronic core of the company’s new cost-reduced Ubiquity RF transmitter into their own products for about $5. It is sharing the transmitter design to allow manufacturers to easily, inexpensively embed RF transmitting into their products such as computer monitors, home appliances, TVs or smart speakers, turning them into RF transmitters able to charge RF device ecosystems. In addition to Ubiquity’s $5 electronic core, manufacturers will add their own antenna and power supply.
“To unclutter the desk further and remove the need for our standalone Ubiquity transmitter, the Ubiquity design could easily be integrated into the computer monitor on the desk, making it the RF transmitter able to charge nearby enabled devices,” said Greene. “Our vision is to enable truly wireless, clean workspaces by working with manufacturers to inexpensively incorporate RF transmitting and receiving capability into their own products to create RF charging ecosystems and accelerate RF transmitter networks throughout homes.”
The Ubiquity transmitter is FCC approved in the US to 1W (3W EIRP) at 915 MHz with a 5V supply.