- MVIMG 20181008 094350 e1539609866254 - Get ready for cordless coffee makers, blenders, and more – Stacey on IoT
The WPC was showing off a kitchen with integrated Qi wireless charging built into the countertops. Image courtesy of S. Higginbotham.

Wireless power, after years of waiting, has infiltrated the phone world. Most new phones now come with the option of wireless charging — where the consumer can place their phone on a charging mat or even a table that has such capabilities integrated into it — and charge their phone’s battery.

Wireless charging is convenient, and as more and more devices that need a charge come to market, it makes a lot of sense. But what about your blender? Would you see value in having a spot on your kitchen counter where you could place your blender and then just start it up, without needing to plug it in? The power would come from the same inductive charging that now wirelessly charges your phone.

That’s the vision the Wireless Power Consortium (WPC) has for the next iteration of the technology. After promoting a lower wattage standard designed to output the appropriate range of power for charging smartphones and small devices, the organization is getting to certify induction charging for devices that need up to .4 kilowatts of power.

The standard will be out in the middle of next year, says Dave Baarman, who chairs the Kitchen Appliance Group for the WPC. That’s the group responsible for bringing the current Qi standard for wireless device charging to the kitchen. The new kitchen Qi isn’t just for wireless appliances, but also induction cooking, which means you could place a special pan on a countertop — or even a table — and start cooking. Induction cooktops can already be found in many high-end homes, so now just imagine taking the glass range-top and turning that into the same surface as the counter.

Personally, I didn’t see the point of having induction countertops since one can just use the current induction ranges as counter space today  as long as you aren’t cooking on them. However, Baarman gave me some additional use cases that were appealing.

One example he offered up was embedding the appropriate induction charger underneath a table or counter area to enable a chef to keep food hot for serving without having to use a can of Sterno or a chafing dish. Doing so would require heat-safe countertops and specialized pans. Baarman showed off a 1-inch-thick device that looked like a hotplate but could be used to protect countertops if needed. The likes of Philips, Haier, and others are already making devices that will take advantage of the new Qi kitchen standard, and consumers can expect to see induction charging in the kitchen in late 2019 or 2020 once the new standard is finalized.

I don’t see wireless power in the kitchen solving a huge problem, and so expect its use to be limited to high-end homes for the foreseeable future. Wireless charging in solved the frustration associated with having multiple devices that needed to charge, having to carry around multiple cords and dongles when on the go.

My blender only travels from my cabinet to the counter — a journey of roughly four feet — and the cord really doesn’t inconvenience me. The new standard could lead to reduced use of outlets in the walls and less copper being strung throughout a home (the counter itself would still be plugged in), but I’m not convinced that will happen on a wide scale. Induction countertops solve an aesthetic problem, not a practical one.

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