Wireless Power Advances

Powercast long-range wireless power technology has gained three additional FCC approvals, adding one Part 15 and two Part 18 certifications. What’s in it for TV broadcasters?

The two most common infrastructure materials found in TV stations are steel towers and copper wires. TV towers are built to last. There aren’t many ways to transmit a TV signal most viewers can receive without a tower or towers. Copper wires are equally critical in TV facilities and operations and often require wire management, hand-wiring and wire harnessing techniques usually performed by engineers.

Long power strips mounted inside rack cabinets make rack power distribution easy. When distributing power outside racks in places such as a newsroom or production department, the challenge is often the dynamics. In a fast-moving TV station, strings of wall-wart filled, daisy-chained 6-outlet power strips on tabletops can easily disorganize into wire rat-nests.

The advance of Wi-Fi and other wired and wireless non-coaxial video technologies are reducing the amount of copper stations need to use for signal paths. Meanwhile, new technologies are pushing the limits of wireless power distribution, headed towards helping station engineers get buildings full of stray 6-outlet power strips and wall-warts under control, and providing new 'untethered' creative opportunities for producers. New technology often helps TV reinvent itself.

Approval Progress

Powercast Corporation recently announced that its RF-based, long-range, over-the-air, wireless power technology received three new FCC certifications, totaling seven since 2007. The latest certifications add retail applications to the company’s existing FCC approvals for deployments in consumer, commercial and industrial environments. Powercast’s technology works in the far-field to charge multiple devices over the air, without range limitations from the FCC, and without the need for wires, charging mats or direct line of sight.

Creating a similar coverage area to Wi-Fi, Powercast’s RF wireless power transmitters automatically power enabled products that come within range for smart, carefree wireless charging. Charging range and rate depend on a device’s power consumption; power-hungry products charge best at close range, while the transmitters can power low-power devices such as sensors up to 80 feet (24m).

A Powerharvester receiver chip embedded in a device, converts RF to DC to directly power that device or recharge its batteries. Courtesy Powercast.

A Powerharvester receiver chip embedded in a device, converts RF to DC to directly power that device or recharge its batteries. Courtesy Powercast.

915 MHz

The transmitters use the 915 MHz ISM band to send RF energy over the air to Powercast’s tiny Powerharvester receiver chip embedded in products, which converts it to usable DC to either directly power batteryless devices, or recharge devices’ batteries.

The technology complies with the FCC’s current one-watt power limit for Part 15 deployments, but it has power capabilities well beyond that to evolve as FCC standards evolve.

The Part-18-approved transmitters can provide continuous power to many devices, such as Powercast’s Batteryless RFID Retail Price Tag with an E Ink screen, launched in 2018. Retailers can place a Powercast wireless power transmitter on a shelf to power electronic marketing features like illumination, sound, or color changes that are designed into packaging or displays to showcase products on a shelf.

Retailers can also use these transmitters to charge or directly power any enabled consumer devices that they place on the shelf for sale, such as smart watches, headphones, or computer peripherals, ensuring customers go home with their new devices fully charged and ready to use.

These updated, Part-18-approved transmitters (FCC IDs:YESTX91513 and YESTX91511B) use, respectively, Powercast’s existing PowerSpot and Powercaster three-watt (EIRP) hardware platforms with modified firmware.  They are economical and available immediately from Powercast today, and from distributors in the coming weeks.

The backside of a Straub beer label shows the electronic circuitry printed on PPG TESLIN substrate. The electronic circuitry is printed with PPG’s conductive inks and includes Powercast’s wireless power receiver chip. Courtesy Straub Brewing Inc.

The backside of a Straub beer label shows the electronic circuitry printed on PPG TESLIN substrate. The electronic circuitry is printed with PPG’s conductive inks and includes Powercast’s wireless power receiver chip. Courtesy Straub Brewing Inc.

“We are proud to announce our fifth, sixth, and seventh long-range wireless power FCC approvals,” said Charles Greene, Ph.D., chief operating and technical officer of Powercast. “From our first Part 18 far-field approval in 2007, we have worked with our customers to provide deployable solutions that meet their real-world requirements.”

Greene continued, “We’ve enjoyed working with the FCC over the years to bring tangible RF wireless power to various applications, and now to on-shelf retail applications. We have a great relationship with the FCC because of our no-nonsense approach to deploying effective RF wireless power solutions. The FCC has never restricted the distance over which our technology can operate, differentiating it from other wireless power-over-distance technologies. Powercast plans to maintain our approach as we continue to lead the deployments of RF wireless power.”

Patents and Partners

Powercast worked with the FCC to gain these additional Part 18 approvals as part of its partnership with PPG (www.ppg.com). PPG and Powercast are combining technologies to create smart consumer packaging that will light up to showcase products on a shelf. Electronic circuitry is printed directly onto a PPG TESLIN substrate using PPG’s conductive inks.

The third new FCC approval is a re-certification under Part 15 of Powercast’s original Powercaster transmitter (FCC ID: YES TX91501B), which has been redesigned with updated components to enable large-scale manufacturing.

Powercast was established in 2003 with the vision of enabling untethered devices powered over-the-air, continues to create the most efficient, safe and highest power harvesting technology achievable while complying with the FCC and other global standards. Powercast’s IP portfolio includes 50 patents worldwide (25 in the US) and 29 patents pending.

Broadcasting Changes?

Will wireless power impact broadcasting? If it uses RF spectrum engineers need to know about it. It's a slam-dunk solution for myriad transient and permanent wall-warts and wires, but it's also a tool. What else could it do? 

Imagination and imitation are the pillars broadcasting is built on. Right now, the industry needs the imaginations of engineers and producers. When someone measurably improves a production or workflow with the clever integration of wireless power technology, other stations will follow. That's how broadcasting works.

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