What it is: Apple patented an idea to recharge devices through ordinary WiFi signals.
Wireless charging is coming to mobile and wearable computers. The only question is how will it work? Right now there appears to be two competing wireless charging standards called Qi and AirFuel, but Apple could potentially offer a third option. Instead of forcing everyone to adopt a new charging standard, Apple’s latest patent hints that it could be possible to recharge devices wirelessly through ordinary WiFi routers.
Such an invention, if practical, means that nobody would need to buy special wireless charging equipment. Instead, they would just have to provide more WiFi routers. This would likely require special chips inside of smartphones, tablets, and wearable devices so they could use the existing WiFi signals to recharge their batteries, but if it works, then WiFi wireless charging seems like the simplest way to charge devices without cables.
The key is whether this can work at a distance. Previous wireless charging solutions were relatively pointless in that they required users to place a device on a charging mat to recharge, which essentially just eliminates the need to plug a cable into the recharging device. True wireless charging needs to allow charging at a distance, the longer the better. That way you can keep your devices charged just by strolling through an airport terminal, a library, or a coffeehouse. The days of worrying about low batteries would be over just as long as you could get to a free WiFi hotspot. Whether WiFi charging will be practical or not remains to be seen, but it does hint that WiFi could be useful for more than just accessing the Internet.