Friday, April 10, 2015

Charging Unplugged

Everybody has a ‘dead’ phone story.  The day-long marathon of meetings punctuated by phone calls, mobile apps and texting.  Then when your phone is most needed, a low battery message fills the screen.  Even if you have your phone charger, finding the proverbial needle in a haystack could be easier than finding an available electric outlet.


Massachusetts-based WiTricity Corporation intends to bring an end to ‘dead phone’ stories.  The company is using magnetic resonance technology to wirelessly transfer power to electric devices such as tablets, laptops, phones and even cars.  The technology is the brainchild of Professor Marin Soljacic and his team of scientists at the Massachusetts Technology Institute.  Soljacic is a member of WiTricity’s board of directors.

Device owners would have two choices:  1) automatically replenish rechargeable batteries using a WiTricity’s wireless power source or 2) go ‘naked’ using a device without a battery as long as the device is within range of a WiTricity power source.   Either way, the chance to recharge without a tether solves the two worst problems faced by electric device owners:  being caught without a power cord and having to wait in line to access a power source.

WiTricity is among a growing list of companies developing wireless charging technology.  Powermat Technologies Ltd. is among the first to enter the market.  Its solution eliminates the power cord, but still requires the device to be in proximity to a charging source.  A small ring must be inserted into the device and must come in contact with the mat.  Crystal Equity Research has a Buy rating on Energous, Inc. (WATT:  Nasdaq) that is using radio frequency technology or ‘RF harvesting’ as the operative technology for its WattUp wireless charging solution.   WattUp also gives device owners the option to roam about tether-free while charging.   The Evatran Group, Inc. is using inductive power transfer technology for its Plugless electric vehicle charging solution.  

WiTricity has been trying to assemble a roster of device manufacturers and battery producers as allies to penetrate the consumer market.  In February 2015, battery developer CTEK Sweden AB announced it was adopting WiTricity’s technology.  It is a major win for WiTricity given that CTEK sells batteries in over seventy-countries around the world.  Electronics manufacturer TDK of Japan has also licensed WiTricity technology and demonstrated wireless charging for electric vehicles at CEATEC Japan in October 2014.

It is going to take some smart moves to bring WiTricity’s products to the market place.  Professor Soljacic founded WiTricity.  However, he has prudently stepped out of the executive leadership role.  WiTricity’s new chief executive officer is Alex Gruzen, an alum of several big name technology companies, including Dell, Sony, Hewlett Packard and Compaq.  

Do not expect an initial public offering for this company for a while.  The company is well fortified with capital from Toyota, Intel, FoxConn and Schlumberger among other well-healed venture capital sources.  That said, the long list of financial backers may have an opportunity to pick up a few of the scraps.  However, the market for wireless charging appears to be so large, even scraps could be interesting.

Neither the author of the Small Cap Strategist web log, Crystal Equity Research nor its affiliates have a beneficial interest in the companies mentioned herein.


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