Wireless Recharging Is Business Accident Waiting to Happen

Last Updated Aug 21, 2008 2:50 PM EDT

Magnet clipMaybe I'm just old and cranky, but Intel's plans for wireless recharging seem to beg for lawsuits and bad press.

Mind you, I'm not saying that this is inherently dangerous, and there is technical elegance in replacing cords with magnetic induction. But I wonder whether people in charge of research take the two minutes necessary to consider the inevitable. When it comes to invisible forces, people get squirrelly, and science often cannot definitely ease concerns. Look at the long-standing debate about whether power lines cause cancer. Two decades of research have led to nothing conclusive:

The general scientific consensus is that, thus far, the evidence available is weak and is not sufficient to establish a definitive cause-effect relationship.
"Insufficient" isn't enough to calm the public, even if it is worrying unnecessarily. No, 60 watts of power induced over a yard is nothing in comparison to live current over power lines, but what some people are going to think, and scream about, is that power lines don't live on top of your desk. How will Intel or anyone else prove the negative in this case?

Next stop, storage. You don't put magnet fields larger than what you'd find in a power supply's transformer anywhere near a computer because storage technology is generally based on magnetism. When people lose data, and they will, they'll assume that the magnetically-powered recharging was responsible. It doesn't matter whether science refutes their notions or there's a more likely cause, like human error, at hand. When people are upset, they react emotionally, not logically.

Not only do common sense and human experience suggest that such panic scenarios are likely, but with the nature of the Internet they'd hang around for years. Product features are nice, but you'd think that ones like this should trigger an automatic cost benefit analysis comparing short-term flash with long-term customer relation and PR headaches.

Magnet photo via morguefile.com user mensatic, permission via standard site license.

  • Erik Sherman On Twitter» On Facebook»

    Erik Sherman is a widely published writer and editor who also does select ghosting and corporate work. The views expressed in this column belong to Sherman and do not represent the views of CBS Interactive. Follow him on Twitter at @ErikSherman or on Facebook.