iPod users may soon have a wireless power charging system, thanks to UK firm Splashpower.

The company exhibited its new technology at Ceatec in Japan. It was established as the result of a business competition at Cambridge University. The company has developed a wireless charging system that uses electromagnetic induction to accomplish wireless charging of devices.

Magnetic power

"It's basically the concept of creating a magnetic field that goes parallel to the surface of the pad rather than out of the pad and this has many benefits," said Lily Cheng, CEO and co-founder of the company, speaking at a news conference. "It enables us to deliver a very uniform output across the pad and enables us to make a receiver coil that is very thin."

The company demonstrated the system in use and showed two prototype charging pads, or Splash Pads as the company is calling them. One was large enough to accommodate several devices and the other was smaller and offered enough space for a single device.

iPod-mini adaptor revealed

To pick up the power field, gadgets must have a receiver coil built into them or have an adapter clipped on the back. The company demonstrated a clip-on adapter for an iPod mini and a Nokia mobile phone with a built-in coil. Both devices, when placed on the pads, began charging.

In addition to the coil there's also a regulator, which adjusts the amount of power being supplied to the device so the battery charges correctly. By fitting the regulator into each device, a number of gadgets with different power requirements can be charged simultaneously.

In cars and hotels soon

Splashpower has big plans for its system. In addition to Splash Pads for the home, the company is talking to auto makers about building pads into cars, and is also in talks with hotel chains interested in building the pads into room furniture, said Cheng. However, the company faces a chicken-and-egg situation in getting the pads widely deployed: with no compatible devices, who is going to use the pads?

It's probably the biggest problem facing the company today, said Michiaki Tsurumi, a member of the company's board of directors and until last year president of Sony's European operations.

"Cell phone makers feel that if the infrastructure is there they would like to put the technology in the handset, but the infrastructure is not there so they don't want to," he said.

$30 for Glastonbury songs

Initially the company will start by selling Splash Pads and a range of adapters in the UK and Europe in mid-2006, said Cheng. Following the European launch, the company will turn its attention to other markets. It expects the larger charging pad will cost $150 to $200, the smaller pad will cost between $30 and $40 and adapters will cost about $15 to $20 per device.

"Ultimately the technology has been designed for the mass-consumer market, so in the future it will be possible to price it at a mass-consumer price," said Cheng.