The word “wireless” has really become an oxymoron. For example, are cell phones really wireless? Not really, because without a charging cable, cell phones are useless. At the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Haier has demonstrated a true wireless HDTV. No wires. No power cable.
Obviously it is a prototype and it is not clear when it will become a product consumers can buy. Haier is leveraging the WiTricity technology invented at MIT. I saw a demonstration of this concept by my college physics professor about 15+ years ago. It is refreshing to see this technology or concept being applied.
The more interesting story is Haier. This is a name-brand that is widely recognized inside China. Many of you might own some kind of appliance made by Haier. I have a AC/dehumidifier made by them. It is a global brand. I’d put Haier at where Samsung was 10 years ago in terms of global name-recognition. The Japanese and later on the Koreans were chastised to death in the Western media for being “copycats.” But companies like Sony and Samsung helped changed that image for these two countries. Haier will be such a company for China.
No power cable? Kind of scary when about 150watts would go over the air. Although I agree that Haier seem we went above the fray in in terms of Chinese brand recognition. I think samsung brand is overrated. IE, it cost too much compared to other brands.
Vizio makes tv’s that’s are comparable to samsung for prices that is better than Samsung, though Samsung is holding its own. Samsung notebooks and netbooks can’t compare to other brands like Dell, Compaq/HP, and Acer. Samsung used to sell decent mp3 players but now they barely sell any more mp3 players when sandisk took over the low to middle end mp3 players and apple took over the high end. They make okay cell phones, but don’t innovate unlike Motorola and HTC and priced higher then them. Digital camera might look nice and some might be competitive in price, but they are not known for picture quality compared to Canons.
yinyang, this is all very new to me. How focused is the power transmission? Is there a radiation potential such as what you receive with wireless headsets? Do you hook a device to the power outlet that transmits the signal to the TV? If the distance is limited and the power focused, it would seem to be pretty safe.
I’m very familiar with Haier and they already have a good reputation. In fact, I’ve never heard any complaints about them. How are their TVs? Is the picture quality in the Samsung range? Right now, I’d have to say that Sony still has the best picture quality. I also think Panasonic is pretty good but wasn’t very impressed with Sharp. Samsung was somewhere in the middle. I’ve heard of Haier more when it comes to kitchen appliances.
This is a cool subject. Thanks for writing it up.
S.K. Cheung says
Very futuristic stuff. The wiki link quoted 45% efficiency in energy transfer; do you know what this production model achieves? And do you know how that compares with regular household copper wiring?
Even with high voltage overhead power lines, the electromagnetic health risks (ie cancers) over the long term are debatable. So with relatively low voltage household stuff, you’d think it would be pretty safe. On the other hand, the field would be much closer, so it might be a wash.
I’ve watched regular DVD quality movies over a wireless home network running wireless N, and it’s no problem. But I’ve never tried watching blu-ray in 1080p mode wirelessly. Anyone know how well that works? That would get around the problem of a wirelessly powered TV tethered to an HDMI cable that Steve alluded to.
Its natural to think the energy is somehow beamed and have to travel physically (like laser) through to get to the TV’s power receiver, and thus it seems very scary.
WiTricity is based on magnetic fields. You probably have seen in movies where some bad guy is trapped in a car lifted into the air by a crane with a giant magnet. In real life, another guy in the same situation would not be harmed by the massive magnetic field present.
The MIT team developed the theories and proved this technology started a company with the same name. They have a short FAQ which will answer your questions:
Here is an awesome idea from Lenovo (also shown at the 2010 CES): a detachable tablet from a notebook PC. It reminds me of Star Trek Next Generations Enterprise (NCC-1701-D) where the saucer is able to separate from the body of the ship.
It appears to be pretty safe and from information in the link you sent, I’d guess that power transfer is inversely proportional to distance. That would make it ideal for television. Pretty soon we’ll be hanging a 60″ HDTV on our wall no different from a painting.
Thanks for sharing this interesting development. I visited Haier years ago and I am not surprised this came from this company. They stand out among peers for innovativeness. I remember they changed the design of some washing machine so that it can be used to wash sweet potatoes. Recently I wrote an article (http://money.163.com/09/1210/07/5Q5I5T80002534M5.html) for a Shanghai newspaper saying that it is wrong to advertise the message “Made in China, with French Designers” at CNN, as China can design too. It does not have to remain a world factory simply to manufacture things.
I thought of the clutter of cables on and around my desk and I am waiting for the day when this wired mess can disappear as more such innovations come.
Hi Berlin, #7,
Btw, your article over at 163.com is interesting. I saw one of the “Made in China, Made with the world” ads too on CNN the last time I was at an airport. (I never watch or read CNN any more.) Btw, I thought the Chinese industry association should have placed the ad on Super Bowl and hired the agency that did the Monster.com commercial few Super Bowls ago. Remember the commercial where the kids say what they want to be when they grow up? Ha, for me, either “made with love” or “made with the world” works. 🙂
On the PR front, I felt Toyota (and recently KIA) have been doing really good touting their U.S. factories. The U.S. auto industry is at a critical point – potentially going to get further demolished by the likes of Toyota. You hardly hear a peep about the competition in the US media about how “bad” Toyota is. Shoes and toys are more strategic I guess. 🙂
Still, I think the biggest impact will come from companies like Haier and Lenovo where they simply come out with high quality products day in and day out. I think more and more companies will aspire to high quality. Steve and I interviewed Robert Compton last year, and he thinks this is an area China will fix rather quickly.
Thank goodness that China has been stable and has made enough economic progress to locally sustain innovative companies. They are increasingly able to sustain investments into R&D and able to compete on the global stage.
The biggest shift in “impression” will come when these individual Chinese companies advertise around the world to build their brand and go after customers outside of China.
My hypothesis is that “Made in China” image improves proportional to China’s GDP growth.
yinyang, you brought up a very good point. Instead of having China advertise Chinese products as a whole, it is essential for individual companies and products to be advertised so that eventually good companies will be recognized and rewarded. If there are some bad “Made in China” products, may they disappear and rest in peace.
S.K. Cheung says
Based on CES, Haier may need to start making wireless 3DTV’s.
@YinYang- here is the collective answer of netizen from 163.com .
1 We do not like Lenovo
2 We do not like Haier
Find the answer at the commentary sector @ 163.
Hi smatter, #11,
Maybe you could summarize their rationale for us?
Btw, Lenovo’s IdeaPad U1 won the “CES 2010 best in category” award from CNET (cnet.com) under “Computers and hardware:”
Wireless power transfer for T.V.’s is cool – but I think it would be even more impressive to charge electric vehicles.
We should start small. Electric moped / bikes are very popular in china. But they may be a pain to charge. Electric charging stations (with cables, wires and all) can be inconvenient – especially when rain and snow become a factor. But wireless charging of bikes parked in designated areas – that would be convenient!
Next up should be static charging stations for electric cars. But what would be truly a breakthrough is if we can apply remote power transfer with fast charging (such as through supercapacitors). Then we may have strips of “charging mats” spread out at regular distances on highways – whereby electric cars can get boost charged at regular intervals as they travel down the highway. No more range problems for electric cars….
Allen, your suggestion reminded me of another technology that’s not well known but extremely promising. It’s called Thermoelectrics and though this write up talks about currently efficiencies being less than 10%, that’s no longer accurate and though no one’s talking about it now, you’ll hear a lot about it in a few years. Put it this way; there’s been an efficiency breakthrough. The applications are virtually endless, including more efficient automobiles.
Hi Allen, #13,
I hope the Chinese government commit your idea into their next 5-year plan. 🙂
BYD is another China brand that could take flight.
BYD’s electric vehicles are at the 2010 North America International Auto Show (NAIAS) in session now at Detroit. According to the ChinaDaily article, BYD has sold 430K vehicles so far. This is a company where Warren Buffett made a huge investment in last year.
I am sure Buffet has every interest in seeing this company succeed worldwide.
Allen ought to pitch his idea (#13) to BYD also. 🙂
@ yinyang/All: Does anyone have information on the electric scooters that are popular in China these days? Who manufactures them? I know it’s a Chinese brand or brands but I don’t know which ones. After seeing how bad the two stroke scooters are in Taipei and the rest of Taiwan, the idea of an electric scooter sounds fantastic.
A quick note about those e-bikes – they ain’t all roses and peaches, either…
Allen, thanks for that article. Here’s another article about e-bikes that appeared in today’s NY Times, though more geared to international use rather than exclusively China. On a good standard bicycle, it’s pretty easy to maintain a 20 mph clip for a few hours, especially somewhere like Shanghai where there are no hills. However, when I rode there most people were closer to 10-12 mph so I slowed down when overtaking slower riders. At 25 mph on an e-bike, the speed is much faster than normal bikes and would constitute a safety hazard.
Taiwan was the same in terms of following laws and regulations. I routinely watched scooters go the wrong way up one way streets, ignore basic traffic rules, etc. Seems like China is no different.
I also didn’t realize Chinese manufacturers were using lead batteries. I thought everything these days was lithium-ion.
The inexpensive e-bikes that I have seen uses the same lead batteries that you see in cars, because they are cheaper than lithium-ion batteries. Increased accidents are inevitable with increased usage of e-bikes. I think the problem in China is not about e-bikes itself, but people don’t wear helmets and people neglecting rules of the road. Just like cars, people riding bikes have to be defensive drivers and many Chinese citizens don’t take heed.
Hi Pug_ster: I’ve done a lot of riding on Shanghai city streets and though you are correct regarding helmets and obeying the rules of the road, there’s a lot to be said for speed differential in causing accidents. Think of it this way: you’re driving along the freeway at 65 MPH when a car passes you one lane to the left doing 95 MPH. At that speed differential, you’d probably never see him/her until you were being passed and might have made a lane change without realizing that car was moving up so quickly. The typical bike rider in Shanghai goes pretty slowly and because I tend to ride pretty fast, I had to make that adjustment. But when people ride powered bikes, they tend to be less conscious of these things. They also tend to think they have the right of way over slower vehicles and act accordingly. If they’re going 30 MPH, they’re far too fast to be using a bike lane, no matter how careful everyone is about obeying the rules. When I rode there, I never used a helmet and don’t recall seeing anyone else use one. I never even saw them for sale at bike shops.
So I’d say it’s a combination of all three, the two you mentioned and the one I did. In general, the bike riders in Shanghai were pretty good about obeying rules of the road and staying within their bike lanes. I haven’t seen the powered vehicles in recent days but if I use Taiwan as an example, powered scooters can’t seem to decide whether they are cars or bikes and change from one to the other based on what is more convenient. Something else to point out is that China has a bike riding culture and so people are very adept on them, while the powered vehicle culture is still new and the level of expertise often leaves something to be desired. The one exception were the professional chauffeurs. The ones I rode with were excellent drivers! Since electric bicycles are new, no culture exists on how to properly operate them. Hopefully, this will change over time as riders gain experience and wisdom.
The concern with the lead batteries is two-fold. One, China needs to develop a mandatory recycling program that everyone obeys. Two, because the vehicles are all electric, the battery life is shorter than a typical auto so more batteries will be recycled or thrown away. From what I’ve read in various articles, it seems China will make lithium-ion batteries mandatory in the near future. That along with mandatory recycling should solve the problem.
The other aspect the article mentioned is that the electricity used to charge these bikes is typically provided by coal fired power plants. I’d think the efficiency of an electric bike as compared to most other transportation methods is high enough to offset the use of coal fired plants, so for me that argument is somewhat misleading.