Wireless Charging In The Age Of Connectivity
An Interview With Omri Lachman CEO and Co-Founder of Humavox
Because charging should be effortless
Paul: Welcome to another episode of The App Guy Podcast. I am your host, it’s Paul Kemp. I love this show, I get to meet some of the most amazing entrepreneurs, founders and CEOs from literally around the world.
Let me introduce my guest, it’s Omri Lachman and he is the CEO and co-founder of Humavox and we’re going to talk about wireless charging. Omri, welcome to The App Guy Podcast.
Omri: Thank you for having me, Paul.
Paul: Thank you for coming on. I’m so excited by this subject. In 2009, I had this idea of throwing all your devices into a bag and having them charge automatically. It’s great to see you’ve done something about the problem of wires all over the place. How did you get the idea for Humavox?
Omri: Actually, back at the time, my co-founder, Asaf Elssibony and myself were childhood friends. He has an electronics and engineering backgrounds. We stumbled upon this from (I’d say) an emotional place. We were looking at wireless power at the time.
All we could see (at the time) was magnetic field induction aiming to charge smartphones. It is a pain we all know as users.
We all have smartphones that lose power. But at the time, as I said, from more emotional reasons, we were looking at more meaningful electronic devices like healthcare devices in the home. These tend not to used by most people (say you and me) or the tech fans. However, it is used (for example) by our kids.
Those devices seem to occasionally need wireless charging more than our smartphones. As we speak, the more common technologies for wireless charging are those magnetic field inductions, and the physics behind those technologies is actually a huge block from addressing any other device that is smaller, curved and cannot be precisely placed by the user.
So it means that wireless charging wasn’t and still isn’t really seamless.
That was a strong enough of a drive to get us to do something about it.
Paul: It’s massively disrupting because the vision for the future is that the whole world will not need any leads to connect to their devices. But where are we at the moment, then? Give us an example of what you can do from a wireless charging perspective.
Omri: Like I said, we wanted to bring wireless charging to address the problem for multiple devices (not just smartphones, tablets or laptops). We wanted something that can actually be seamless. Everyone likes to say ‘seamless’, but when we say ‘seamless’ it means that we don’t need to think about it.
It’s just out there for us to use.
So we looked around and realized that if we want to turn this into a real seamless experience then it can’t have just one user experience or user interface for charging. It’s can’t be a:
- or a mat
- or a surface on top of which we’ll place devices
…because across the board, across market categories, across users, the experience is changing. The interface is changing, the user is changing.
We want to be able to allow the same user (or a different user for the same type of device) to charge the device in an intuitive way. We basically looked around and realized that the common denominator for all of these, let’s say, smaller-shaping devices now called the IoT and wearable tech, the common denominator is that this is not a smartphone.
We will probably not be just throwing them on the kitchen counter or bedside like we do with our phones. We will probably store them, especially because it’s tinier, it’s more expensive, it’s more personalized. It’s not something we carry, it’s something we wear. So we wanted to create something that would cover all those various scenarios and allow the device makers or the manufacturers to basically blend wireless charging into their design desires, rather than try to fit their designs into the physics of wireless charging.
So what we actually do, we developed a way that allows us to turn a volume into a charging zone.
What is a volume?
It’s a phrase that we kind of fumbled our way until we came up with it, because initially when you look at our website or you look at our work, it looks like we’re doing charging boxes. We’re not doing charging boxes; actually, we’re not even a product company. When we say a volume, that’s actually those places in life where we keep our devices, or where we just place them when they’re in idle mode. A volume can be your car’s cup holder; when you step into your car and you just throw your smartphone in that cup holder because that’s what people do. That’s what we mean when we say:
Let’s blend wireless charging into life.
Let’s tap existing usability patterns, that users already do, and let’s blend wireless charging into those experiences.”
Paul: So let me just try to understand this then for the benefit of me and the audience here: are you saying that we can remove our leads connecting physically to the device, but we have to actually put them into some kind of volume — rather than have them charge on our wrists (for example)?
One of the things that we’re doing right now is charging over distance.
Just to give you some background.
Opposed to the existing and more, let’s say, common methods of charging, we’re using RF — radio frequencies — and usually a higher frequency band, so around the bands that are used for wireless communications; it gave us several benefits.
One of the first things we did was actually play around with shooting power over distance.
When we did our own surveys and talked to consumers, we realized that people are not really looking for secret laser beams to charge their devices while in their living room or next to their bed. There’s a lot of consumer psychology around everything, and ultimately when we’re talking about wireless power, wireless energy, at some point people would like to know where that energy is coming from, how effective this energy is.
So we realized that for wearable devices, whether it’s for:
…whatever, users will keep taking the device occasionally off their wrists, off their body, whatever type of product we can think of.
Paul: I (obviously) would love a future where I can walk into my home and everything is charging through some kind of Wi-Fi. A future where I don’t have to think about charging. Let’s think about smartphones. Remember all those scary stories when we first had our smartphones? Smartphone were going to melt our brains and we mustn’t put them anywhere near our head. We have now overcome our fear of smartphones. However, with any new technology, there is a fear of the unknown that comes with it. Is that fear of the unknown that’s holding back wireless charging across a distance?
Omri: The main issue right now when we’re thinking about power over distance, whether it’s throughout the room or even across half a meter (for example), is the fact that wireless charging is all about efficiency. As we know, the rules of energy preservations are still there for those of us who practice the physics of the technology.
So when you’re actually transmitting energy, especially in those forms of wireless charging that can actually be targeted for a certain distance, the energy loss is quite substantial. I might just say that right now one of the things that we did at Humavox was join the newly-emerged organization for wireless power standardization.
We’re actually working with some of the other companies in our space.
We all have a common goal.
We pretty much understand what the various flavors of wireless charging are doing out there. Realistically, I think we’re very far off from a point where someone can actually shoot the necessary voltage throughout the room in a way that will be safe and effective for charging.
What we’re actually talking about right now is trickle charging.
It’s the ability to shoot raindrops of energy throughout the room that may not charge your device but may keep it going.
I always find myself going back to the example of filling a swimming pool with shot glasses. That may take time. But if the swimming pool is actually full, and then we have those shots or raindrops of water or energy, then this will probably make things last longer.
This is the commonality where we see ourselves with some of the other wireless charging technologies that are targeting power over distance.
Right now, regulation authorities, FCC, and equivalents are very clear on what they permit with respect to power over the air (especially when the regulation is already out there). We’re using the same frequencies used for Wi-Fi, GSM, Bluetooth, so it’s very clear what you can and cannot do. But I think that:
this is one of the key achievements or progress for wireless charging.
Having a single standard organization that will allow several of us various flavors of wireless charging to come together and create something that is serving the purpose, and the purpose here is the life of consumers — you, me and the rest of us.
Paul: Omri, this is one of the biggest problems that I think I’ve faced. I guess it’s a modern world problem, but certainly wires everywhere. I’m sat here next to a plug point because I need to be close to it. All the different connectors I have to use. It’s just a pain
I have always longed for a world where we don’t have to think about charging, it just happens around us.
Paul: This is a wonderful problem to solve. Now let’s talk about you and your journey because you’ve got a great idea, you’ve got a great company. How did you and your friend actually get it off the ground, and start the company and get the funding?
Omri: I’m coming with some personal, let’s say, mileage on the entrepreneurial highway.
Ever since I can remember, I’ve always been entrepreneurial — for example working for my family’s business (which is far from the high-tech domain), I was working around CNC turning and milling machine, forging, raw materials cutting, everything that takes a material and turns it into a product. Ever since I can remember, I’ve always been starting something from scratch, from an idea. Bringing it to a point where it’s being used by users.
I’m also doing some early stage investments myself.
It was how you take this idea and how you take this ship and actually start sailing. I have a pretty clear idea. I’m the person steering the ship, as the CEO of the company.
I always have this comparison where I say as a startup company, we’re leaving the harbor. We know, or we think we know where our destination is, and then the water is always stormy, no matter what; it’s always stormy. And for as long as we have those lighthouses that would remind us what is the real goal for which we took this journey, we’ll be able to get there. If we have the right crew, and each member of the crew is really fulfilling their position and destiny, then we’ll definitely get there.
It’s all about the people, and if you the right crew and if you really remember what your true goals are — you can succeed.
Because throughout the way you can encounter numerous goals that usually tend to confuse entrepreneurs — for example how do you raise money? How do you put the right slide in the right presentation, for the right investors? All of these distractions and background noises can definitely get your ship to shift from its course.
For as long as you can remain focused and clear out the background noises, then you’ll definitely get there.
Paul: That is wonderful advice. What would be the biggest thing to focus on as a new entrepreneur?
Omri: Remember that whether you’re:
- developing an application
- a web service
- or wireless charging
…focus on who you’re developing for, not on who you’re trying to sell this technology to. Because engineers will probably keep working with engineers, and that’s perfectly fine because without those tremendous engineers we can’t have products. However,
ultimately we’re developing for users.
And for as long as you really find the right market and the right user for the technology, product or service that you’re about to develop, then that will definitely get you there.
Ask the right questions, not the buzzwords or trendy questions
…that show on various web magazines. Also, the most important thing is:
This is probably coming from my investor perspective where I get to take the side corner of the table and look at the teams working and see how you can so easily get distracted. Just by listening or focusing on stuff that you read on some blog that are completely irrelevant for you. It may seem like the right thing to do because billions of people are talking about it on Twitter right now, but don’t lose focus or get distracted.
Paul: Wonderful! How did you get feedback from consumers and users?
Omri: The simple term would be ‘have no shame.’ Go out to people and talk to them, and whether you’re having a coffee and asking your waiter / waitress what he/she thinks (if relevant). But really go out there and talk to people. For wireless charging as a concept, as a vision, it doesn’t take a lot of questions because some things just go without saying:
yes, everyone wants a cord-free world
So I don’t really need to go out there and ask people whether they want ‘a cord-free home’ or not. But then it really comes down to the deployment. Wireless charging is in its first generation. Like every new technology or life-changing technologies — there’s always this first curve for several years where this technology pops into life and usually fades in a certain way.Then starts this 15–25 years curve when the technology is really aggregating into life.That’s where we are right now [with wireless charging]. Why have we been hearing about wireless charging for ten years? I bet you don’t have a wireless charging pad on your table right now?
Paul: No, I don’t.
Omri: And there is a reason for this phenomenon. Someone was doing something wrong with the first generation. I mean, they did a whole lot of right.
I’ve been fortunate enough to share a table occasionally with some of the admirals who were steering this in the first generation, but the approach was wrong (in many ways).
Now we have the ability to learn from that and focus on markets, on verticals and segments where maybe it’s not as sexy.
When most entrepreneurs start their startups, all they want to aim for is to sell to the Samsung’s and Apple’s out there (I do too). Maybe it’s more right to find:
those users or consumers who really need what you’re doing
…and through those platforms you can actually escalate and bring the goodness and the benefits of your technology and product.
Wireless charging, as our topic for this conversation, is something so huge…
Wireless charging is really supposed to take cords out of our lives. It’s not something that can be pulled by a single company. The same technology will not be charging electric vehicles and hearing-aid devices. You can’t use the same technology for both. You know what, I’ll revert on that because I can’t say the word “can’t”, but it’s most likely that it won’t.
This is the beautiful thing about the standard organization right now, it’s that we see several flavors of wireless charging. Several different technologies starting to sit around the same table and see how we can bring this (at a basic level) to benefit the world.
Paul: This is a show about apps! So, the final thing. Do you have one or two app recommendations (maybe one or two apps that we haven’t come across before)?
Omri: (I would first say that I’m very far from being non-biased here) One app would be Yallo, (a company I invested in). That’s not an endorsement, in any way; I invested because I really believe that what they’re doing is tremendous and great! They’re reinventing basically the dialer experience. So that’s definitely something I recommend.
Paul: The founder / CTO of Yallo, Yosi Taguri, has been on my show. Episode 358. It’s a fascinating chat.
Omri: The other recommendation would be to something that we all know, but I think it’s one of my most used applications, which would be Flipboard.
Paul: Right, yes. Absolutely. What sort of sources of news are you pulling into your Flipboard?
Omri: Well, mostly technology sources, I guess it’s not a shock.
Paul: You’re allowed that. Omri, I have to say this has been just the most enjoyable conversation and the first time we’ve actually had a guest who has had to go through a horrendous thunderstorm and keep so professional and so energized. So thank you so much for bearing with us while all hell breaks loose behind you.
Omri: Yes, it just turned into a blizzard.
Paul: Now, all your contact details will be on the show notes — Episode 374 of The App Guy Podcast.
Omri, how best can people connect with you, reach out and get in touch?
Omri: Either e-mail or LinkedIn would probably be the quickest and best ways to contact me [see the show notes].
Paul: Terrific, okay. Omri, thank you so much for coming on The App Guy Podcast. All the best. I’m definitely going to have to get you back on my show when we start seeing wireless charging technology hit the majority of people.
Omri: Well, I invite you, Paul, and all your listeners to CES; we’ll be showing some cool stuff and that’s coming quick around the corner. And you can always catch up on social media, on Facebook, on Twitter. We’ll keep heading towards a cord-free world and hoping to make an impact.
Paul: Well, we’re all supporting you. I think this is the first time a hundred percent of this audience is behind the idea. Thank you so much for coming on.
Omri: Thank you so much for having me, Paul. I appreciate it.