Ki: Wireless power in the kitchen could end messy cables forever

Ki, a new standard from the Wireless Power Consortium, could make powering home appliances easier than ever.
Mike Brown
Ki wireless power in action.
Ki wireless power in action.

Interesting Engineering 

Ready to cut the cable on your kettle?

At CES 2023 (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas this week, the Wireless Power Consortium demonstrated a new Ki standard. It's aimed at taking the sort of wireless power features customers are used to in smartphones that charge at around five watts, and bringing it to high-powered devices like coffee makers and toasters.

"People tell us all the time, with research we've done, that cords get in the way in the kitchen" Paul Golden, marketing director at the consortium, tells Interesting Engineering. "They're dangerous, they're the first thing that breaks on appliances. So what we've done is created a cordless kitchen."

The standard is capable of sending up to 2,200 watts of power to appliances. Transmitters can be embedded into many counter-top materials, as well as part of induction hobs so users can switch between cooking food with pans and powering appliances in a blink.

During the demonstration, the technology performed surprisingly well. The consortium demonstrated a food mixer, blender, coffee maker, and kettle. The counter top remained cool to the touch after operations, and devices switched off immediately after being removed from the pad.

As an added safety feature, appliances would not start if their switch was already in the "on" position — a blinking "on" light indicated that the user needs to switch the device off first, then back on to start operations. This avoids users unintentionally boiling a kettle by accidentally placing it on the pad, for example.

Ki will likely receive strong industry support. The consortium is perhaps best known for setting the Qi wireless charging standard used in most modern smartphones including the iPhone. The group has nearly 400 member organizations.

The Ki standard is still under development, so some aspects may change before launch, but it looks promising. A consortium representative told Interesting Engineering that Ki should feature very high efficiency that leads to minimal power loss. It would be a marked improvement over Qi that can lose around half the power in the process versus traditional cables.

The consortium also unveiled a new Qi2 wireless charging standard for smaller battery-powered devices. Building on the existing Qi standard common in smartphones, Qi2 brings Apple MagSafe-like magnets to the standard to bring charging power up to 15 watts by aligning the coils faster than ever.

Paired with Ki, it seems the wireless charging future is looking more powerful than ever before. Expect Ki products to hit shelves sometime around 2024.

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