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Six months ago wireless power company Energous claimed they'd have FCC approval for their at-distance charging, and I was highly skepti...

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Has Myant Dropped Energous Wireless Charging?

Over the last two years I've covered Energous in some depth, pointing out what I believe are excessive claims as to performance and capabilities, based on things like "laws of physics" and "FCC regulations". The company has often said that products are merely 18 months away, and have done for at least 4 years, leading to many claiming that their technology would never see use in a real device. To silence critics, last November Energous announced their first product with "WattUp" charging technology - clothing from Myant. In the press release, Energous' CEO said:

"Myant is a market leader in delivering a textile computing platform and signature line of smart apparel and we are excited that our WattUp technology has been chosen to power their sensors. The ability of the WattUp technology to charge its receivers in a variety of different ways - depending on the specific product, its use case or simply user preference - is just one of several key differentiators we have secured within the wireless charging industry. By providing this technology to Myant, Energous is growing its ecosystem of WattUp-enabled products and helping usher in a new era of smart apparel."

(Now if you're wondering what this product actually is, it's pretty simple, it's a Fitbit-for-your-underwear. Interestingly it was then, and still is now, for "pre-order" only, you can't actually get your hands on this product yet.)

Most read this press release as "Myant is going to use our at-a-distance wireless charging in this product" and a stamp of approval from an actual company with products. What he actually said though, was that WattUp will be used - this is the marketing term that includes both their "ineffective at distance" charging as well as their completely separate "works only when in contact" version to confuse people. They can claim 5 Watts charging with WattUp, meaning their contact version (about the same as existing, prevalent, Qi based charging) while allowing people to assume they mean their not-available at-distance charging is used. That at-distance charging method can supposedly charge at around 100x slower, while needing a safety cutoff if you come with in 50 centimeters. They used this technique to bamboozle tech journalists at this year's CES, I reported on that here.

If you looked at Myant's website back during this announcement, you'd see graphics like this:


It's clear there's a wireless charger, that it's WattUp from Energous, and that wireless charging is a big selling point for them - such a big point that there's no wire included in the package. The Myant CEO , Tony Chahine, made a huge point about that this January in another press release:

"We created a transformational ambient interface through our SKIIN products. They provide bi-directional access to the human body for the purpose of connecting us to our loved ones and ourselves through IoT. It is important to me that advancements in innovation reach everyone, including the elderly, the sick and children. The seemingly simple action of plugging, unplugging and manually charging could alone be the very thing that will inhibit a user from benefiting from technology."

So a huge win for Energous and helped boost their stock price during their big announcements at CES this year, giving ammunition to their supporters to silence the critics, and helping Energous' insiders reap greater financial rewards as they began to sell significant amounts of their stock.

How's this wonder product looking now? A visit to the same Myant page today finds this:

As you can see, all reference to wireless charging is gone - nothing in the product package image, no major selling point. Worse than that, it's now "High-Speed Charging" that specifically says "plugin time", and the charging cable is clearly visible. Go to the press release page, and it's seemingly scrubbed of all reference to Energous or WattUp barring a single comment in one story. 

Myant look to have dropped Energous' wireless charging from their product, even the "in-contact" version Energous have been touting for some time. Why would Myant do this, especially when they have likely already accepted money for pre-orders based on the presence of wireless charging? It would be hard to do anything other than give a refund based on not-delivering as advertised, and is a situation most companies would avoid as much as they could. Did Myant announce the product without actually testing, or did later testing find flaws in WattUp that made it impractical and force a fall-back to the boring but 100% reliable wire method? If Myant knew all along it wasn't viable, then that's criminal on a number of fronts.

When did Energous know that they were being dropped from the product? I'm interested to see how they handle this in their next earnings call - maybe in the same way they handled the departure of the Founder/CTO in the last call, which was to simply ignore it completely.

I'm not surprised by this happening, I never expect to see a practical consumer product for sale using WattUp. Announcements like the Myant Skiin line make it appear there's a route to productization for the technology, and simply extends the game of boosting the stock price. Personally I doubt Energous want there to be a product out there, as it exposes the technology to the public for them to dissect and prove what it actually is - like the FCC approval data, it lets you see the man behind the curtain. Once that happens, the smoke-and-mirrors just doesn't work anymore.

So sorry everyone, no wireless charging of your undies!

(Thanks to Tako, @jjotwitt on Twitter, for spotting this)

A follow up to this article here.

1 comment:

  1. Yup, I also don't expect to ever see a practical consumer product using WattUp tech either.
    It's just a game of deck chair shuffling on the Titanic.

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