Qualcomm Buys HaloIPT (and Patents) for Wireless Charging Technology

11/8/11Follow @bvbigelow

Qualcomm (NASDAQ: QCOM), the San Diego wireless technology giant, turned in a new direction today with its acquisition of HaloIPT, a startup founded last year by Auckland University’s UniServices and Arup, the engineering design giant, to develop technology that can transmit electricity without wires.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

With technology from UniServices, the University of Auckland’s commercialization company, HaloIPT (Inductive Power Transfer) uses a doormat-sized electromagnetic device to generate an electric field to wirelessly transfer energy to an electric vehicle’s power system. Such energy induction is a well-known technology, and was demonstrated by Nikola Tesla as early as 1893.

But the field, so to speak, has been buzzing in recent years with increased activity. For example, Watertown, MA-based WiTricity demonstrated its EV wireless charging technology in San Diego nearly 18 months ago at the Xconomy forum on “The Rise of Smart Energy.” At about the same time, New Zealand-based UniServices and Arup founded HaloIPT, with support of the Trans Tasman Commercialization Fund and the New Zealand Venture Investment Fund.

Meanwhile, Qualcomm displayed its own approach to wireless charging earlier this year at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show. Qualcomm also said at the time that it had signed a partnership agreement in January with Powermat, an Israeli startup founded to develop technology for charging portable electronic devices. In September, Powermat said it had formed a joint venture with Duracell to develop and market wireless charging devices using its technology.

Still, Qualcomm’s purchase of HaloIPT, which is focused on electric vehicles, represents a bit of a detour into the automotive sector for Qualcomm, which rarely strays beyond its traditional focus on wireless communications technologies. Qualcomm and UniServices say they are committed to a long-term research and development arrangement to promote continued innovation in the field of wireless charging for electric road vehicles by way of inductive power transfer.

The ultimate strategy, though, could be the intellectual property that HaloIPT brings to Qualcomm’s renowned patent portfolio—enabling Qualcomm to drive a decades-old stake in the ground. Andrew Gilbert of European Innovation Development at Qualcomm hints of that in the statement released today.

“The HaloIPT acquisition will further strengthen our technology and patent portfolio,” Gilbert says. “Building on 20 years of development and innovation in wireless power at The University of Auckland and its commercialization company Auckland UniServices Ltd, the HaloIPT team, in a relatively short period of time, had established itself as a leading developer in wireless electric road vehicle charging—with HaloIPT winning industry acclamation and awards.”

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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