Wireless charging is now becoming an ubiquitous feature on mid and high-end Android smartphones. Apple is expected to finally join in with this year's iPhone launch, giving many more consumers access to the technology.
Currently, phones can only receive charge wirelessly and can't use their induction coils to give it away. However, a patent
filed by Sony earlier this month would allow two NFC-equipped devices to do something similar. The NFC antenna would be utilised to enable wireless charging between phones.
is interesting as NFC isn't currently a standard used for transferring power. It's generally tasked with negotiating short-term interactions between devices. The technology also has a very limited range, preventing the wireless charging system from working across any distance. When you're running out of charge and only your friend's phone is to hand, it could suffice though.
The use of NFC would enable Sony to integrate the feature into the phone's operating system. In the same way you can view lists of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections today, you could also look for power points in
your vicinity. The patent filing also notes that the system could be extended beyond phones, letting scores of different devices exchange power with each other.
This is probably Sony's real focus. Combined with the use of NFC, the company could integrate the technology into autonomous vehicles, public places and Wi-Fi routers. You'd then be able to find these wireless charging stations in the same way you look for Wi-Fi networks while you're on the go.
Realistically, charging two phones isn't a feasible concept, even if the technology was developed. Because both devices would have similar battery capacities, charging either for any significant amount of time would leave the other depleted. It seems more probable Sony intends larger devices such as smart appliances and public
facilities to be the hosts.
Wireless charging is now quite widely used across the technology industry and several protocols are available. The current techniques used in phones aren't the only implementations though.
, researchers reported a successful trial of charging devices over Wi-Fi. Examples of Bluetooth being used for
wireless charging have also been demonstrated. These could be more practical than Sony's short-range NFC solution owing to the wider availability of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth networks.
As with any patent filing, there's no guarantee the technology will ever make an appearance in the real world. Although it's unclear what Sony's intentions are, there could be scenarios in which inter-device wireless charging is a useful feature. If nothing else, expanding NFC to include power transfer may lead to the creation of a new intelligent wireless charging standard.