It turns out the cellphone industry believes its customers just can't be bothered with setting their phones in charging cradles or worse yet, actually plugging a charging cord into a phone. Users can now simply place a phone on top of a wireless charging pad to get their phones topped up.
For the privilege of being extra lazy these users of wireless charging expend up to 47 percent more energy to charge their phones, something that if widely adopted would require dozens of new power plants across the globe to accommodate.
Everything wireless seems like magic, and it is essentially sold as magic. It's also sold as freedom, freedom from those pesky cords that limit where you can use your electronic devices. But the freedom is illusory. We are simply shackling ourselves ever more tightly to an addictive device that is contributing to an unsustainable fossil fueled way of life which is bound to crumble dramatically if we do not alter course.
That's because, in addition to the wastefulness of wireless charging, wireless technologies require 10 times more energy than wired technology to transfer each unit of data and voice and do so at much slower rates than fiber optic cable. It's no wonder then that wireless companies do NOT use wireless signals to transfer data and voice throughout their systems. Instead, they run fiber optic cables right up to the antennas that service your phone because those cables have much greater capacity and speed and much lower energy usage. (In the interests of keeping energy usage down, maybe we should consider returning to wired connections as much as possible. But that is a story for another time.)
To make matters worse, so-called over-the-air charging is now becoming available. Users don't even have to put their devices on a charging pad. They can just leave them wherever they please, and those devices will slowly charge by absorbing energy broadcast throughout a room from a charging station. It's more of the "magic" you've come to expect from the wireless industry and even more wasteful than conventional charging pads. By allowing you to be even lazier than a regular charging pad does, over-the-air charging will alleviate what one company in its promotional video calls "battery anxiety." (Users of over-the-air charging equipment might want to ask themselves whether they feel another kind of anxiety related to spending lots of time in rooms that have essentially become big charging units.)
There have even been proposals to extend wireless charging via the entire cellular network, a system that presumably would offer charging to anyone out and about in a car or on foot 24 hours day. It's hard to imagine a more inefficient and wasteful mode of charging wireless devices.
It may be that some wonders aren't worth it. Magic tricks that entertain us may delight us. But magic that imperils the very stability of our society can't be justified by an appeal to the illusory and temporary "freedom" it promises.
Kurt Cobb is a freelance writer and communications consultant who writes frequently about energy and environment. His work has appeared in The Christian Science Monitor, Resilience, Common Dreams, Naked Capitalism, Le Monde Diplomatique, Oilprice.com, OilVoice, TalkMarkets, Investing.com, Business Insider and many other places. He is the author of an oil-themed novel entitled Prelude and has a widely followed blog called Resource Insights. He is currently a fellow of the Arthur Morgan Institute for Community Solutions. He can be contacted at email@example.com.