Duracell, wireless power company Powermat team up

Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Procter & Gamble Co.'s Duracell battery unit is partnering with Powermat Ltd., hoping to get cell phone users to ditch their traditional power chargers. The two companies are teaming up to make small charging mats and receivers that wirelessly juice up cell phones and other small electronics.

The joint venture, called Duracell Powermat, is slated to be announced Wednesday. It will allow Powermat, a maker of wireless charging equipment, to reach a much larger audience and give Duracell a leg up in a market in which it has not been that successful. Together, they're aiming to turn wireless charging devices — currently a tiny market — into a familiar accessory.

"What comes out of this partnership eventually, if we're successful, is people who buy a smartphone or tablet five, six years from now will expect wireless power built into it," said Powermat CEO Ran Poliakine.

P&G will own 55 percent of the joint venture, and Powermat will own 45 percent. The companies wouldn't give financial details of the deal, but did say that Powermat will receive an equity investment from P&G. They expect the deal to be finalized —and operations to be running— in early 2012.

Since late 2009, Powermat has been selling its mats and receivers at airport shops and major retailers such as Target. Powermat offers several different mat sizes, as well as an array of receiver-equipped cases and docking stations for devices such as iPhones, iPods and BlackBerrys.

The company uses electromagnetic induction to charge electronics. Basically, when you drop a Powermat-enabled device onto a charging mat, the two exchange a "handshake" using RFID, or radio-frequency identification technology. The mat identifies the device, determines how much power it needs, then starts transferring energy to it. Once a device is fully charged, Powermat will stop the electricity from flowing.

Duracell has also been selling its own take on wireless charging mats and receivers since 2009, using technology it licensed from a company called WildCharge Inc. That product, called myGrid, hasn't done as well, though.

Duracell president Stassi Anastassov said the joint venture will use Powermat's technology initially, though he noted that the technology will evolve over time. He thinks Powermat's technology combined with Cincinnati, Ohio-based P&G's ability to reach more consumers will give the duo "a very strong position" in wireless power — a category that is still small, but one that he expects to be "very sizable" over time.

Poliakine, whose bag full of power cords gave him the inspiration for the company in 2007, said P&G was first on Powermat's list as a partner, mainly because the Duracell brand is so well-known.

"That's really what led us to be very positive about this partnership," he said.

Duracell Powermat will control Powermat's consumer and retail operations, but the rest of the company — its technology and other partnerships with companies such as office furniture maker Teknion and car maker General Motors — will continue to operate under the Powermat brand.

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