Bengaluru-based start-up PowerSquare has been working on wireless charging, albeit for mobile devices alone, for over five years now. We met up with Pavan Pudipeddi, Founder and CEO, PowerSquare Inc, to know more about its wireless charging technology, its growing penetration into automotive space and future evolution of this technology.
PowerSquare was set-up with a vision to build a product and consumer-facing entity. Pudipeddi said the company chose wireless power as its focus area since its founders carry expertise in that segment. The objective of the founders was to bring good IP in the wireless power space, given the fact that there weren’t too many players in this segment in India.
PowerSquare focuses on providing wireless charging by making it agnostic to the phone, in the sense that any wireless charging-compatible phone will be able to use the product. The company used patented in-house proprietary IP and technology in manufacturing wireless charging products for Qi compatible devices. The company’s focus areas are mobile devices, wearable technologies, consumer electronics, and automotive components. Phones that can leverage PowerSquare’s wireless charging must be equipped with the Qi standard for wireless power transfer, using inductive charging.
With the manufacture of such wireless chargers for Qi compatible devices, the company is offering two unique characteristics – firstly, position-free charging and secondly, it is the first to introduce a multiple device charger that is brand and platform agnostic. This is PowerSquare’s unique innovation that enables the capability of charging multiple phones on the same charging device.
The company plans to launch additional products across three main verticals – consumer-centric (B2C), infrastructure or fixed spaces (B2B), and automotive (B2B). In the B2C space, the company is focussing on products with a wide customer base, such as families using multiple Qi-compatible smartphones. The B2B business is aimed at installing built-in wireless charging pads into furniture. Users can lay their Qi-compatible phones and mobile devices on the charging pad to power up their devices without the need for wires. The possibilities for this technology are endless, Pudipeddi remarked.
The automotive space includes in-car charging solutions for Qi-compatible devices. The company had recently launched its locally-manufactured in-car wireless charging module. This product allows drivers and passengers to place their smartphones or tablets wherever the charging pad is installed to power up their devices. The wireless charging pad can be installed under the armrest, central console, or area of the user’s choice. PowerSquare also offers development and design of automotive wireless charging pads for OEMs and original design manufacturers (ODMs).
Pudipeddi said that this wireless charging technology can be sensitive to radio frequency waves and could interfere with critical safety as well as other frequency-based systems of the vehicle. It is important that every system is designed for the specifications of a particular automobile. Therefore, it is critical to possess expertise in the areas of connectivity to develop such products, to offer problem-free products to end customers. Globally, only a handful of Tier I companies possess such capabilities, and PowerSquare has such capabilities, Pudipeddi noted.
PowerSquare is also looking at forging partnerships with companies in two ways – directly with OEMs as well as with complementary Tier I suppliers. The latter would include companies that manufacture in-vehicle or electrical components for which PowerSquare’s products would be complementary in nature. Pudipeddi said such partnerships would provide access to the ecosystem of automotive suppliers.
There are huge opportunities around the wireless charging space inside the car; this is where the company’s long-term vision of offering improved user experiences comes in. This also poses the challenge of picking appropriate partners, since it is critical that there is value addition for both partners involved, Pudipeddi observed. However, over the near-term, PowerSquare is looking at offering wireless charging solutions for mobile devices only.
FUTURE TRENDS, CONCLUSION
Pudipeddi said that the wireless technology offers a high level of convenience to users. In terms of wireless charging of electric vehicles, the adoption from the electric two-wheeler segment will be faster than that of electric cars since the adaptability is faster, he noted. Electric two-wheelers are not usually used for long distances, they are parked in a stack and have smaller batteries that recharge quickly. All these qualities make it easy to build infrastructure for wireless charging of two-wheelers, and have a better practical case due to the higher usage of two-wheelers in a country like India. Therefore, there are opportunities to put these types of applications into place, especially with implementation of plans to develop smart cities.
Pudipeddi said PowerSquare’s near-term opportunity will come from the consumers’ side, followed by automotive and infrastructure. The company has been working with automotive OEMs for over a year in developing a number of future solutions. PowerSquare also works on some forward-looking technologies in terms of wireless charging and related powering solutions for transportation and infrastructure, in order to change the user experience.
Connectivity and Internet of Things (IoT) are the other focus areas for the company. Pudipeddi concluded that from a B2C product standpoint, PowerSquare is looking at first rolling out its products in the US to prove its capability and credibility, followed by its introduction in India following certification from regulatory bodies. The company’s automotive wireless charging solution is expected to be launched in the market – most-probably in the mid-segment vehicle models – from 2019, he signed-off.
TEXT: Naveen Arul