I receive quite a lot of emails calling my attention to one new technology or another. I typically scan them, occasionally respond, and sometimes flag them for follow-up later on.
However, I have never received an email quite like the one I recently received from Aira. First, they are involved in wireless charging of mobile devices, which is an area I haven’t covered before. Second, their office was only five minutes from my house.
So on a rare rainy March day in Phoenix, I dropped by their office for a visit. This was just before the COVID-19 pandemic quarantined most of us in our homes, and the full team was hard at work in the office on the day I visited.
I was shown around by the company’s co-founders, CEO Jake Slatnick and CTO Eric Goodchild. They explained the problem they had set out to solve.
Although plugging in a device like a mobile phone provides for a faster charge, wireless charging is more convenient. Essentially, you just set your device on top of a charging surface, and a coil inside that charging surface charges the battery in the device.
The charge is accomplished by transmitting an alternating current through a coil, which creates an alternating magnetic field. That field in turn induces a current in the receiving coil of the device, which is then used to charge the device.
The problem is that the “sweet spot” of these charging surfaces is small. If the receiving coil of the device isn’t directly matched to the charging coil, the charging efficiency rapidly drops. You may find that if the coils weren’t matched, your phone didn’t actually charge overnight.
Jake and Eric founded Aira to attack this problem. What they created was FreePower™. FreePower is a “free-position” charging surface that can efficiently charge multiple devices across its entire surface. This is accomplished with multiple coils in the surface, patented circuitry, and patented algorithms that track the devices being charged. FreePower then dynamically creates sweet spots for each individual device, which depend on both the position of the device, and the power requirement for that device.
Eric demonstrated the device in action, showing me on a monitor how the device was tracked as he moved it on the FreePower surface. He explained that people often ask about maximum charging efficiency, but he said that’s the wrong question to ask. The correct question is “What is the minimum charging efficiency?” Because, as previously stated imperfect alignment on a conventional wireless charger can lead to low charging efficiency. Since a charging surface is only as good as its minimum efficiency, this is the problem they have solved.
FreePower is based on the Qi Standard, which is a globally adopted wireless charging protocol that brings compatibility to devices made by all major manufacturers such as Apple, Google, Samsung, and Huawei.
This all seemed quite impressive and novel to me, but this is admittedly not my area. However, I learned that I wasn’t the only one impressed by the technology.
In October 2019 Jake and Eric took their technology to Shark Tank. The Sharks were impressed, with Robert Herjavec calling it “really clever…world-changing, revolutionary technology.” Ultimately there was a bidding war with three of the Sharks involved, and Jake and Eric struck a deal for a percentage of the company. (You can see the video clip here).
So I asked them where I could buy a Freepower device, and they told me it will debut in Nomad’s Base Station Pro in the near future. Pricing on the unit has yet to be determined.
I left with a feeling that we will see a lot more innovation from these guys in the future.