There's a new kind of cord-cutting coup on the way, and it's got nothing to do with your streaming services.
Instead, it has to do with cutting virtually every other cord in your home, around the office, even the ones that line the streets and run underground.
Wouldn't it be nice to never need another wire?
That reality is closer than you may think. Some companies are already using this technology, while others are working to make it stronger.
Short of not being tethered to the wall whenever you need to charge something, there are a number of benefits to having energy transmitted around the world wirelessly.
One of the biggest is simply reliability. The U.S. energy grid is old, and deteriorating every day. The infrastructure itself needs major upgrades that will cost billions in physical replacements and repairs.
With wireless energy, there would be a lot less physical mess to worry about.
What's more, it's not just age that's slowly hurting our energy grid. Weather, volatile and dangerous, can cause major problems with the grid. Violent storms or hot and cold to an extreme can damage any kind of exposed wire.
And sometimes, things just go wrong.
Take, for instance, the recent transformer explosion one of our writers witnessed on their street. Within minutes, the fully functional power transmitter had been reduced to this:
Flames burned right through the wires, leaving them lying bare in the street, and the houses nearby without power.
These things do happen. But that doesn't mean we can't work on avoiding them in the future.
Are you ready to say goodbye to cords forever?
Not Sci-Fi Anymore
Wireless transmission of energy is not just some pipe dream out of a science fiction novel. In fact, it hasn't been for a long time.
It was possible — to a limited extent — as early as 1899. The world's most famous mad scientist, Nikola Tesla, is said to have managed to power a light bulb hundreds of feet away by transmitting energy through the ground.
The larger version of his experiment was cut off when partner J.P. Morgan backed out of the project, and scientists today doubt the usefulness of such technology anyway.
Which is why today's wireless energy doesn't move through the ground. It moves through the air.
There are several ways energy can be transmitted: UV rays, microwaves, electromagnetic fields, inductive coupling, and even via Wi-Fi!
Today, the most commonly used wireless power transfer is inductive coupling, wherein a charging transponder is coupled with a microchip in a device that can transfer the energy. This is the type that powers many electric toothbrushes.
You may have also seen pads like Samsung's that can charge enabled phones. This technology is called Qi, and it is appearing in more mobile devices every year. Older versions can use this technology with a separate dongle, and newer phones have the capability built right in!
Imagine it: you'd never have to fight with another micro-USB charger, never worry about your wire fraying after just weeks of use, never even have to worry about whether your device is charged at all!
Plus, this would eliminate the need for a charging dock on a phone or tablet, increasing the device's water resistance — an issue many companies and consumers alike have struggled to overcome.
What about on a wider scale? These small chargers aren't going to solve the problem of exploding transformers, now, are they?
Well, that's a much bigger project, but one that is indeed already in the works...
Just don't go slicing through the hundreds of wires currently keeping your house powered just yet. There are a vast number of possibilities for this tech, and still quite a few limits.
A Simple Start
The first and most vexing problem in the wireless energy field today is the distance limit.
If you'll notice, both the toothbrush and smartphone chargers have one thing in common: the device still has to be on the charger.
There are a few charging devices, such as the PowerMat, that can charge a device from a few inches away, but that still doesn't give the user a very wide range of motion.
However, that may not be a problem for much longer...
You see, scientists are still struggling to get a strong current of power across long distances, but a few major strides have been made in just the past few years.
In one case, a group of scientists in Japan were able to transmit about 1.8 kilowatts of energy across 170 feet using microwaves.
Researchers at the University of Washington were able to power various sized batteries at ranges between 15 and 28 feet! That may seem like a downgrade, but here's the kicker: they were using Wi-Fi to do it.
Short of having a lower transmission limit, Wi-Fi enabled energy transfer will be infinitely easier to integrate into today's technology. After all, practically everything is connected through the Internet of Things these days.
Bryce Kellogg, one of the UW researchers, noted that installing this kind of charging capability would only require a handful of sensors and a software upgrade to existing Wi-Fi routers.
Imagine using your own home Internet connection to keep your phone or laptop powered up. That's a two-for-one deal that would definitely be hard to pass up.
It's one small step for wireless energy, but one that should get investors excited for the next giant leap.
One of the biggest potential uses for wireless energy is in EVs, or electric vehicles. Some companies are already integrating charging tech similar to Samsung's into their cars, so phones can charge on the go.
But you know... that's just not big enough.
Developments are already being made on larger chargers that could sit underneath a parked EV and charge it, rather than having to use one of those bulky charging cables.
Qualcomm, a leader in modern device curcuits, has developed the Halo Wireless Electric Vehicle Charging technology, which it's licensing to partners working to "develop commercially and technically viable WEVC systems and supports the future design of improved WEVC systems."
In fact, a smaller device has already been developed by Standford University researchers that can transmit energy to moving objects. We're already one step closer to mobile energy transmission, and not a moment too soon!
What's more, there's even the possibility of installing such chargers on public roads.
Forget just cutting the cord — what if you never had to worry about your car powering down ever again?
And that's still not the biggest thing wireless energy will do!
Ultimately, the goal is to connect this technology to the growing use of renewable power, namely solar and wind.
And not just the small stuff you can put on your roof, either. Both U.S. and Japanese researchers are testing the plausibility of harnessing the sun's rays in a much more direct way: right from space.
Wireless energy transfer would mean highly concentrated solar energy could be gathered by satellites or even solar panels set on the Moon, sent back to Earth, and distributed to homes and businesses, all without a single physical connection!
Now, keep in mind that 170 feet is a far cry from getting energy from space. But advances are being made in that direction every day.
And in the meantime...
Powering Your Portfolio
As you may have guessed by now, there isn't a large tally of wireless energy companies out there today. With the technology still in its first iterations, most of the big names are startups or private companies.
The biggest of these, for those excited to keep an eye on future prospects, are Ossia and uBeam.
Ossia's flagship technology, Cota, transfers energy via Wi-Fi over a distance of about 30 feet. uBeam is still developing its technology, which it claims will transfer and generate energy through ultrasonic vibrations.
Both have their limitations, including distance and line-of-sight transmission, but they are definitely worth watching for advancements in the next few years.
For now, the best way to invest in this futuristic technology is to buy the companies that are already using it: Samsung (OTC: SSNLF), Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL), and Qualcomm (NASDAQ: QCOM).
The first two are no-brainers: more than almost any other rechargeable device, people are attached at the hip to their smartphones. Nearly every form of media can be checked on them, and the phrase “there's an app for that” is not to be taken lightly.
Second only to this is transportation. People are always on the go, travelling every day in some cases. And electric vehicles are gaining an ever larger part of our transportation market. Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimates that by 2040, EVs could account for more than half of all new cars sold!
If wireless energy is going to be focused anywhere first, it will be in everyday, power-hungry devices like this.
It's an exciting opportunity to invest in the future, and we at Energy and Capital will be watching the developments closely. There's not a chance we'll be letting these companies out of our sight!
Keep an eye out for future reports on the wireless energy field. We'll keep you updated on the news and the best stocks to buy once this new cord-cutting coup takes off in full.