Christmas is centered around the concept of light, as people in the Northern Hemisphere are struggling through the darkest parts of winter when the days are their shortest. That’s why Christmas lights are such an icon of the festive season. The tradition is now about to get a touch of wireless magic, as a company called Powered by Aura has developed a system to wirelessly power up Christmas tree lights.
The centerpiece of the system is the forest green Aura Power Ring, which can be placed underneath smaller trees less than 5 ft (1.5 m) tall, or snapped around the middle of trees measuring between 5 and 10 ft (3 m). Plugging into a standard outlet, the ring wirelessly transfers power to the LED ornaments that light up autmatically when entering the power field. To do this safely, the transmitter and receivers are precisely tuned so the energy does not interfere with the surroundings.
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"There are other safeguards in the system just in case third party or non-intentional receivers enter the field," Powered by Aura’s Christopher Higgins tells Gizmag. "But the technology is fairly straightforward – put the Aura power ring around the tree, plug it in, and as you hang the Aura ornaments they light up."
Higgins adds that wireless power transmission has laid dormant for most of the 20th century, but recently it has started to gain momentum as more research is carried out into radiative power transfer – when an antenna pushes energy into the surroundings regardless of the presence of receivers in the field – and non-radiative power – when the transmitter does not emanate to the surroundings, which is the case with Aura.
With this type of transmission, energy isn't transferred unless a tuned receiver enters the field of the transmitter, creating the field necessary to pull power. Other systems that use such technology include WiTricity, PowerMat, with even Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) uses similar technology.
Power isn't the only wireless aspect of the Aura system, with users able to connect to the power ring via Wi-Fi and control the ornaments with a remote control or through an app available for Android and iOS. This allows the user to remotely turn all the lights on and off, set schedules, and set timers.
Aside from the ease of decorating a tree without dealing with a tangle of wires, the Aura system also cuts the risk of fires as there is no direct heat involved and no wires to short circuit. Additionally, unlike wired lights where the bulbs are all connected and one broken bulb can mean tossing the entire strand, the Aura bulbs all operate independently of each other. Besides being safer and tidier, the absence of wires also allows for more flexibility when placing lights around the tree.
In the same way that dogs are for life and not just for Christmas, Aura ornaments are also meant to last through quite a few Christmas seasons as they come with a lifespan of 20 years. The company says the system will be compatible with US and European voltages.
Aura is also enlisting the help of artists, musicians and developers to explore the possibility of ornaments with other capabilities, such as playing music and motion activation. For now, choices are limited to a five-color palette – clear, red, green, blue and orange – and three texture options – clear, frosted and crackle glass. The Power Ring, which has the ability to power up to 100 lights will also come in two sizes – 42 in (107 cm) diameter for larger trees, and 30 in (76 cm) for smaller trees.
Unfortunately, the Aura system won't be available in time for this festive season, with a Kickstarter campaign to help take the system to production running until January 15. For US$65, backers can get an Aura Power Ring and a box of 12 wireless lights with deliveries slated for October 2015 is all goes to plan.
The team's video pitch can be viewed below.