WASHINGTON — Wireless Internet seemed like science fiction at one point; now, it’s everywhere. And now a California woman wants to make wireless charging just as commonplace.
Meredith Perry, 25, founded the uBeam company, and she’s working to make truly wireless charging a reality.
Right now, a form of wireless charging exists, but you still have to have your device – your phone, tablet or whatever – in contact with a charging pad. What Perry’s working toward is even less restrictive than that – electrical outlets would be replaced by uBeam transmitters.
“You’ll wake up and just go through your day with your device and it will be charging in your house, in your car, at your bus stop, at your gym, in your hotel,” Perry tells USA TODAY. “We want to be absolutely everywhere. And wires won’t be anywhere.”
The transmitter is a thin square that emits ultrasonic frequencies that are picked up by a uBeam receiver shaped like a smartphone case.
Perry tells USA TODAY she wants it to replace all power cords, not just chargers for wireless devices. She’s still a few years from being market-ready, but she’s got faith in her big idea.
“What I’ve seen over the years is people making tiny improvements in existing technology as opposed to saying, ‘Let’s throw this all out and do something new,'” she says.
A lot of serious tech types believe in Perry: Columnist Walter Mossberg challenged her to make a prototype after she won an invention competition as a University of Pennsylvania student; she’s gotten seed money from Mark Cuban, Marissa Mayer and Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund, and a $10 million investment from Upfront Ventures.
David Green a London-based research manager, tells USA TODAY that the demand is there: Pad-based wireless charging was a $213 million market in the U.S. in 2013, but that should grow to about $10 billion in five years.
“I would think the key for uBeam will be to first prove they’re a viable solution, and then tie in with one of the big guys” such as Apple or Google, Green says.
Mark Suster, of Upfront, says that’s in the works.
“There is not a major player out there (in the tech space) that hasn’t spent time trying to see how they can partner with us.”
Suster likens Perry to Apple legend Steve Jobs or Tesla founder Elon Musk in her ability to think big and get people to believe in her.
“She makes you feel that even if what she’s shooting for here is difficult, you want to work with her to get it done.”
Perry’s other ideas are even bigger — someday, if she has her way, we’ll be commuting to work in small blimps and communicating by holograms.