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IDT: Dual-mode receiver chip a game changer for wireless

Posted: 10 Oct 2013     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:WPC  PMA  power receiver ICs 

Integrated Device Technology has its eyes set on the still nascent but potentially lucrative wireless charging market, interim CEO Jeffery McCreary said during his keynote speech at the Analog Semiconductor Leaders' Forum held in South Korea earlier this week.

While the lack of a single standard in wireless charging schemes is likely to slow the market's technology adoption, there are two reasons for IDT's unwavering commitment to an opportunity that still contains a high uncertainty quotient.

First, IDT is armed with the industry's first and only dual-mode wireless power receiver IC compatible with both the Wireless Power Consortium (WPC) and Power Matters Alliance (PMA) standards. The company announced the product in April, this year. Second, cellular operators are already choosing sides in supporting different wireless charging schemes. AT&T and Sprint, for example, are going for PMA, while Verizon now prefers WPC. Such decisions force choices among handset OEMs who want to supply multiple operators. "Most OEMs now want a dual-mode solution," said McCreary, "which can be put on the same, single board."

IDT's dual-mode solution can automatically switch between WPC and PMA protocols and negotiate the power exchange without user supervision, explained Arman Naghavi, vice president and division general manager in charge of IDT's analogue and power division.

To be clear, IDT's wireless charging chips—transmitter IC and receiver IC—are not designed into any current handsets or accessories on the market, which support either WPC or PMA. But with the company's dual-mode receiver chip a fait accompli, IDT believes that it can change the game.

Going after a wireless charging market that's still in the making, McCreary admitted, is "not for the faint heart."

The wireless charging technology world is split among three incompatible standards and divided into two camps. On one end of the spectrum, there are the WPC and PMA standards, both of which use magnetic induction technology. On the other end is the Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP) group—initially founded by Intel and Qualcomm—based on magnetic resonance technology.

Qualcomm recently made headlines and confused the industry a little more when it announced its membership in WPC, a rival organisation to the Intel/Qualcomm-founded A4WP, to encourage the broad adoption of resonant and loosely coupled wireless charging. IDT's McCreary interpreted this move as Qualcomm not giving up magnetic resonance technology, but positioning itself to influence the WPC standard so that there will be better continuity to the A4WP standard in the future.

Wireless charging technology is technically challenging, requiring advanced mixed-signal architecture, according to IDT's CEO. "Our competitors are trying to catch up but are still failing," he said.

What makes it so difficult?

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