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Startling Views from CES

By David Benjamin

LAS VEGAS — Negotiating the CES show floor, bumping along among throngs of convention-goers, and weaving between display booths large and small is no walk in the park. But it rewards the visitor with sights, sounds, and the occasional human encounter that can be mystifying, gratifying, amusing. For a photographer more interested in startling images than in the minutiae of technology, this hectic stroll can be fun. Here’s a collection of shots derived from an hour or so among several exhibition halls at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Quantum computing comes to CES

IBM chose CES to unveil IBM Q System One. IBM calls its Q System One “the world’s first integrated universal approximate quantum computing system.”

But here’s the thing: How do you explain quantum computing to the CES crowd? After all, the system is designed for scientific and commercial use.

The Big Blue did its best to describe quantum computing in the context of future applications. The potential use cases listed by IBM include: “finding new ways to model financial data and isolating key global risk factors to make better investments, or finding the optimal path across global systems for ultra-efficient logistics and optimizing fleet operations for deliveries.”

Next page: Le Mans comes to CES

Texture Sensations on the First Haptic Smartphone Display

Bringing textures to life by changing the sensation of a surface as your finger slides over plastics, wood, and glass is the ambition of Hap2U, a France-based haptic technology startup.

At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Hap2U is demonstrating what it claims is the world’s first haptic smartphone display, which allows users to feel and sense objects on touchscreens. Its Hap2phone technology was named Honoree of the 2020 CES Innovation Award.

Interactive and tangible
With the Hap2phone, Hap2U is targeting a global haptic component market that will be worth $4.8 billion by 2030, according to a recent report by IDTechEx. Haptic technologies have been used in products such as game console controllers for more than 30 years and can be found in the vast majority of smartphones, smartwatches, and electronic devices. Over the past five years, however, the research firm said it has observed a shift in the core haptic technology and “an even more significant shift in the direction of innovation efforts to develop the haptic technologies of the future.”

Founded in 2015, Hap2U has developed the so-called ultrasonic lubrication principle. As explained in a company blog post, the vibration occurs at ultrasonic frequencies (above 20 kHz) and generates a thin film of pressurized air between the finger and the screen, thus modifying the friction. The vibration can be controlled.

With a smartphone, users can sense vibrations when he or she receives a notification, receives a text message, or clicks on the glass surface. This is the vibrotactile technology. Hap2U’s technology aims to enhance the overall emotional experience by enabling texture sensations. In a statement, Chappaz explained: “Think about users on their smartphone in noisy or harsh-lighting conditions — outdoors, for example — how touch then becomes a major feature to improve their experience. HD texture sensation is a crucial interface between the user and the outside world, introducing an added level of interaction compared to traditional screens.”

Hap2U uses piezoelectric actuators to generate ultrasonic vibrations on a glass screen and modify the friction of the user’s finger. The vibration is synchronized with the position of the finger, enabling the user to feel what appears on the screen. This thin-film piezoelectric solution (2 microns) has a minimal impact on weight (<1g) and on the display power consumption (1%).

By applying a friction coefficient, Hap2U claims it can make distinct variations in touch sensations — intense or soft nicks, springs, buttons, elasticity, and all kinds of high-to-low elevation points and textures. This allows the nerve endings in the fingertips to detect different sensations and informs the brain to interpret them.

Basically, Chappaz stated, “Hap2Phone offers the physical touch experience of what users see: If there is a fish on the screen, the user feels its scales; same for a pushbutton, a slider, [or] the wheel of a car in a video game.” For manufacturers integrating screens in their products, this solves the problems related to the digitization of objects by making them both interactive and tangible.

Glass, but not only
Initially focused on glass surfaces such as smartphone and tablet screens, Hap2U said it has been working on a multi-material haptic technology and is now deploying haptics on wood, plastic, and metal.

Hap2U’s technology is not solely intended for smartphones and could find applications in the IoT, industrial, automotive, and smart building markets.

After initial seed funding in 2016, Hap2U completed in late 2018 a €4 million Series A funding round with Daimler AG to accelerate the development of its haptic technology. Headquartered in Grenoble, Hap2U now employs 30 people and expects to double to 60 by the end of 2020.

Read also: Piezo Haptic Feedback to Enhance Drivers Safety

Navitas is showing GaNFast chargers

By Maurizio Di Paolo Emilio

LAS-VEGAS – Navitas was at the Consumer Electronics Show showcasing the world’s leading GaNFast power IC technology, in addition to the announcement of major consumer brand partners adopting the technology.

Navitas’ integrated GaN solutions (GaNFast) enables chargers to efficiently operate up to 100 times faster than those with conventional silicon. As an example, chargers based on GaNFast solutions should be able to recharge smartphones a lot faster.

This technology is based on gallium nitride (GaN), which allows the creation of smaller and more efficient dedicated integrated circuits. It can be used in many fields ranging from solar panel power supplies to charging systems for electric cars or computer applications such as charging computers, smartphones, and tablets. The free GaNFast chargers range from 27W to 65W with USB-C and USB-A options to cover a wide range of smartphones, tablets, and laptops.

“Navitas’ main goal at CES is to educate consumers about a next-generation of fast chargers that are smaller, lighter and faster than before. The concept is ‘work hard, play hard, charge less’. Our method is to show that GaN is the new silicon and that GaN is proven technology — high performance and low risk,” said Stephen Oliver, VP sales & marketing, Navitas Semiconductor.

He continued “Having 30+ production chargers on display, in live demonstrations and as part of our $50,000 GaNFast Give-Away, is clear proof of high performance, high production capacity, and high trust in GaN and Navitas from many customers.”

“We will also have fun with a ‘$50,000 GaNFast Give-Away’ where we will give away over 1,000 new GaN chargers as prizes and as a trade-in on old silicon chargers. We also have a $1,000 cash prize if you get the fastest lap on our race simulator!”

Navitas is going to show key consumer brand partners who adopt the technology at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2020. Over 25 state-of-the-art mobile chargers and adapters with GaNFast power IC. GaNFast is a technology designed for the integration of chargers for smartphones and notebooks that offers a higher charging speed compared to traditional devices. By using unique materials, you can create robust power supplies that take up less space at the same time.

The implementation of GaNFast by Navitas reduces energy consumption by a whopping 40% compared to the silicon transistors. GaNFast also works with non-proprietary Power Delivery specifications, which are common among USB Type-C laptops and some smartphones.


Wi-Charge is showing the IR-based Wireless Power Technology for the future of IoT

By Maurizio Di Paolo Emilio

LAS VEGAS — Wi-Charge was at the Consumer Electronics Show to demonstrate its AirCord Technology for long-range wireless power transmission.

Wi-Charge’s patented light-based wireless power supply technology provides a remote power solution for smart home wireless devices, supporting 24/7 operation with increased functionality. PowerPuck (R1) is the latest solution of Wi-Charge; it is a compact long-range wireless charger for smart and IoT devices built with Wi-Charge’s AirCord technology. The charger plugs into a wall outlet or screws into a lightbulb socket, and powers compatible devices wirelessly from distances up to 30 feet.

AirCord technology

Battery-powered devices are portable, but battery capacity limits functionality, and users hate to replace batteries. Power cables provide a lot of power, but the devices are thus tethered to an outlet. According to a 2018 survey by Parks Associates, longer battery life is the most desirable feature for smart home devices.

Wi-Charge’s technology efficiently delivers 100 times the power of batteries, remotely, but offers the convenience of wireless portability and complies with UL, US FDA, and international standards. The increase in the number of smart devices means that wired battery replacement and charging is becoming an impractical and significant concern.

iPropertyManagement estimates that there will soon be over 26 billion IoT devices currently implemented and predicts a three-fold increase by 2025. Suppliers are trying to improve the performance and functionality of IoT devices, but limited battery life slows these efforts.

Facility managers are turning to long-range wireless power to reduce device downtime, eliminate the cost and effort of battery replacement, and reduce the environmental impact of battery disposal.

Developing a wireless power delivery system requires years of research and study to finalize best the source to use. It is important to initially consider various sources such as magnetic fields, radio-frequency waves, ultrasound, and of course, light. The parent company has carried out numerous studies and found that light offers the best combination of power, distance, efficiency, and safety (Table 1).

Infrared light Radio Frequency Waves
Power Up to several watts Small number of milliwatts while remaining within safety limits
How power changes with distance Nearly constant power regardless at distance Power significantly diminishes with the square of the distance
Energy efficiency High efficiency. In the Wi-Charge system, 100% of the transmitted energy reaches the receiver Because of the physical properties of RF, only a small portion of transmitted power reaches the receiver.
Safety UL, FDA and IEC approval for the Wi-Charge system. Certified consumer device. Regulatory approval currently available only for micro-power systems. Excess RF radiation baths the environment.
Potential interference Does not impact cellular, WiFi, Bluetooth or other communication networks Potentially interferes with Wi-Fi, cordless and cellular communications
Type of energy Natural light. IR is nature’s preferred way of energy delivery. Man-made radiation. Living organisms are not accustomed to it.

Table 1: Comparing light and radiofrequency radiation as possible sources for wireless charging technology [Source: Wi-Charge].

Power is delivered with millimeter precision using safe, focused, and invisible rays of light. The transmitter uses the standard power supply and can cover about 25 square meters, while the various receivers include a small photovoltaic cell (essentially a small solar cell) to convert the light received into abundant usable electricity.

The receivers can be integrated into a device or connected to an existing charging port. The process of sending energy is fully automatic and safe and supports many simultaneous and moving devices. The technology requires no configuration and provides extensive coverage. Multiple transmitters can be combined to increase coverage and power. It does not interfere with cellular, WiFi, Bluetooth, or other communications, and also does not emit ionizing radiation (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Functional layout of Wi-Charge AirCord technology: the transmitter automatically finds devices to be powered, power is delivered with pinpoint accuracy by an invisible beam; if the light is blocked, then the transmission is stopped once the path is clear again [Source: Wi-Charge]
The shortest distance between the receiver and transmitter is a straight line. A path that includes a reflection is longer, thus significantly reducing the energy. For some technologies, power is significantly reduced with distance due to air absorption and reflections. For these technologies, it is particularly essential to achieve straight-line transmission between transmitter and receiver. For Wi-Charge, safety is crucial, which is why the line of sight parameter is also crucial (figure 2). AirCord uses the line-of-sight to offer maximum transmission efficiency, ensuring that all power goes to the transmitter.

Powered by Wi-Charge’s AirCord infrared beam technology, the device requires no configuration, calibration, or tuning — making it the first plug-and-play wireless power solution for smart devices.


Figure 2: Line of sight [Source: Wi-Charge].
It can transform a standard home into a wirelessly-powered smart home, or help convert a commercial building into a smart building. The R1 is slightly larger than a Nest Thermostat and is easy to install in a variety of ways. For example, an Edison screw adapter makes it compatible with numerous light fixtures, and a socket adapter allows the R1 to plug directly into a standard wall outlet (figure 3). The receivers can be as small as 0.5 x 0.5 inches and are typically embedded in the charged devices themselves. The PowerPuck showed at CES 2020 and is slated to begin shipping in 2020 and become readily available at that time.

Figure 3: The PowerPuck (R1) device of Wi-Charge [Source: Wi-Charge]


Inside a vehicle, charging cables are not cheap and also pose a safety risk. In addition to mobile devices, you may also need to power sensors (such as rear seat belt sensors), and their wiring is expensive. Wi-Charge helps to solve this problem by installing a power transmitter near the vehicle’s interior light, thus providing enough energy to charge devices and sensors.

The Wi-Charge solutions power smartphones anywhere in the office. Ceiling-mounted transmitters provide power for all devices safely placed on a table. An intelligent application is a lock for opening and closing doors. Unlike old mechanical locks, intelligent locks add new functionalities. Some locks include an electronic keypad. Others allow you to control the lock from your phone via Bluetooth or WiFi. Some locks include bio-metric security, such as fingerprints. Others add cameras with facial recognition. Design issues are, as always, power and power management issues. In particular, power consumption and battery life.

Power consumption limits the functions that can be added to the system. Battery life is an issue for consumers. If you forget to replace batteries, you may find yourself locked out of your home. By integrating a wireless receiver into the lock, charging and maintaining power may no longer be an issue. The lock gets all the power it needs to enable new features such as video recording without ever replacing the batteries. Wireless charging eliminates the trade-off between functionality and battery life.

The long-range wireless power supply by Infrared Light allows you to freely deliver power without the need for cables. With wireless power, batteries never need to be replaced or wired to a charger.

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