Pi Enables you to Charge Multiple Devices from a Single Wireless Charger

Imagine charging multiple battery powered devices kept on a table, at the same time using a single power source. This is what a new startup from the MIT Sloan School of Management’s New Enterprises, is trying to make a reality.

Pi was first introduced to us in September 2017. It is unique in the power space because they are working on multi-device, orientation agnostic, wireless power. The solution can charge multiple devices from the same power source — up to four at a time — without requiring precise positioning on a pad, but still being compatible with existing, safe standards. The charging technology can sense a device’s low battery and adjust its magnetic field based on where the device is positioned, rather than requiring the user to place the device on a specific pad or station. The startup’s first product applies this to phones and small consumer devices in the United States, but will be soon be available for a variety of applications around the world over the next five years.

Pi’s roots extend back to early 2014, when John MacDonald (CEO) and his future Pi co-founder and Chief Technology Officer, Lixin Shi, enrolled in MIT Sloan’s New Enterprises course. The two men were part of a team that pitched a wireless power project during a class competition. While they didn’t win the faculty judges’ favor, they did earn an audience choice award - giving the students the confidence to explore building a commercial wireless charger. In the summer of 2015, the team decided to try for a first round of funding. By the fall of that year, Pi had officially launched.

The past three years have been both enlightening and challenging for the Pi team.

MacDonald,learned that companies and original equipment manufacturers focus on a one-to-one charging model. Chargers are shipped with phones not as a separate product, but as an accessory for that specific type of phone. Soon his team realized somebody’s got to go out and actually make this as a product, and it may even be better coming from an independent company that’s supporting all devices, not just the one from a specific brand. This was more like an industry shift that had to happen for this to become real. The team realized the best way to begin was to actually go out and build a product themselves.

Though Pi is now waiting for the next industry shift thanks to Apple’s announcement that it was going to have wireless charger capabilities in its devices, specifically with the “Qi” standard. Pi’s system was built around a different standard called AirFuel, which — at the time of the first prototype — was supposed to be Qi’s successor. But when Apple announced its choice, it kind of made Qi the norm at least for another few years. MacDonald says the team is already prototype testing its redesigned charger, which also meets FCC safety guidelines for magnetic fields.

As for what’s on the horizon, Pi is looking into workplace wireless power solutions, as well as expanding its team thanks to the new round of $11 million it has raised. The larger team will support new partnership projects with companies in the automobile and medical implant industries.