WiTricity’s Wireless-Power Tech Attracts $25M from Intel, Foxconn

10/23/13Follow @curtwoodward

It’s been many years since Nikola Tesla’s heyday, and despite the mind-blowing advancements in many areas of technology, we’re still plugging things in with electric cords like a bunch of savages.

Wireless power charging is technically possible. But it’s still not here in a widespread sense—one of those advancements that you check in on once in awhile, only to find that it’s just over the horizon.

Apparently, the breakthrough point might be getting a little bit closer.

That’s the message today from WiTricity, an MIT spinout that has been developing cordless electricity tech for several years. WiTricity has reloaded its bank account with $25 million in Series E financing from some big names in industrial tech, including Intel Capital and Foxconn.

WiTricity has been profitable since 2011, CEO Eric Giler says. But since WiTricity is making a big push to get its technology in broader use, “you want to have a significant balance sheet,” he says.

The company had previously raised a total of about $40 million since its founding in 2007. Previous venture and corporate investors have included Stata Venture Partners and Toyota, which recently announced it was going to begin testing wireless charging of its cars with electric-powered systems.

WiTricity’s system works by running standard AC electric power through a special coil, which converts the juice to a higher frequency and voltage and creates a special type of magnetic field.

A second coil, which resonates at the same frequency, can then safely convert the energy in the magnetic field back into electricity, provided it’s close enough to the transmitter. Giler has been known to demonstrate the safety of this method by sticking his head between the two parts of a demo unit, lighting up a bulb next to his skull.

The Watertown, MA-based company is aiming its technology at a number of markets, including consumer devices, military, medical, and industrial, along with cars. One possible new application is in medical devices like artificial heart pumps, Giler says.

But the Intel and Foxconn investments really stands out for the implication that it might soon be possible to get WiTricity technology into the consumer gadget world. China-based Foxconn in particular is notable because of its rapid rise to become the go-to manufacturer for the iPad, iPhone, and other top-notch consumer devices.

Giler notes that WiTricity—which he says is working on a smartphone charger based on its technology—talked with Foxconn four or five years ago, but the two never partnered up. Until now.

“The fact that they’re willing to pony up and get into it, I think says that they think it’s ready to go,” he says.

Curt Woodward is a senior editor for Xconomy based in Boston. Email: cwoodward@xconomy.com Follow @curtwoodward

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