The future of phone chargers: self-aware and integrated into everyday objects

Here's a horror story everyone can relate to: You download a cool new app or an OS update, only to find that it eats through the phone's battery relentlessly, frequently leaving you with nothing but a tiny sliver of red on the gauge. While some aim to solve this issue by developing a new breed of batteries, a California startup called Qnovo and Qualcomm are each working on charging technologies instead. Qnovo, for one, has developed software that can analyze a battery's temperature and the voltage passing through it, as well as determine your charging habits.

See, lithium-ion batteries perform more and more poorly the more they're charged, but this program can gauge how much power the battery can absorb in as little time as possible without damaging it. The company claims that any phone loaded with its software only needs one-third the usual amount of time it takes to get a full charge. That's apparently shortened even further if the program is paired up with Qnovo's chip, which was designed to manage the charging process.

Qualcomm, on the other hand, has been working on a magnetic resonance system that can turn everyday items into wireless chargers for the past seven years. For instance, restaurants and cafes can use the system to transform tables into chargers. You can also install it on your car, inside the head and arm rest or the glove compartment. The company aims to make wireless charging available everywhere, so you won't have to hunt for a power outlet.

According to Qualcomm senior director of wireless power solutions, Mark Hunsicker, wireless chargers based on his company's technology might be available by the end of 2014 or early next year. As for Qnovo, company CEO Nadim Maluf says he's been talking to phone manufacturers, and you might see the startup's software and chip on some smartphones slated for launch in 2015.

[Image credit: Getty/JGI/Jamie Grill]