Samsung, Foxconn to back cable-free phone tech



(Reuters) – A startup backed by Tony Fadell, one of the fathers of the Apple iPod, plans to announce Wednesday it is working with Samsung Electronics Co Ltd (005930.KS), Foxconn parent Hon Hai Precision Industry Co Ltd (2317.TW) and others on a new way for mobile phones to transfer large amounts of data without using wires or WiFi connections.

Chief Executive Eric Almgren said his Campbell, Calif.-based company called Keyssa has raised more than $100 million from Fadell and the venture arms of Samsung and Intel Corp, among others. The company’s “kiss” technology allows two computing devices to be held near each other and transfer large files such as movies in just a few seconds.

The goal is to remove the need for cumbersome and bulky cable connectors inside devices like phones and laptops, which are growing ever-lighter and thinner. If Keyssa is successful, the wireless data transfer technique could eventually be available in a wide range of devices.

Keyssa announced last October, together with Intel Corp (INTC.O), that it had come up with a design that could be embedded in so-called two-in-one laptops which feature detachable touch-screens.

The alliance with Samsung and Foxconn is aimed at creating a design for mobile phones.

Shankar Chandran, head of the venture arm at Samsung Electronics, noted that the management team at Keyssa had previously developed the technology behind the HDMI standard for video connections. Samsung hopes Keyssa’s technology might become similarly widespread.

FILE PHOTO – The logo of Foxconn, the trading name of Hon Hai Precision Industry, is seen on top of the company’s headquarters in New Taipei City, Taiwan on March 29, 2016.Tyrone Siu/File Photo

“Standards tend to get ecosystems built around them in a fairly complicated way,” Chandran said in an interview. “What’s needed is a bunch of industry players across the value chain saying they’re going to build to that standard. And that’s really what we have.”

Conflict Looms

One of the first places a wireless transfer feature could show up is the Essential Phone, the device designed by Andy Rubin, the father of the Android mobile operating system.

Essential, which has raised $330 million in venture capital, plans to announce a launch date for its $699 phone later this week. Playground Global, the venture fund Rubin oversees, is an investor in both Essential and Keyssa.

Essential has said its phone will feature wireless data transfer, but it is not clear where the technology has come from. Keyssa says it has filed more than 250 patents around the technology, including nearly 50 of which that have been issued in the United States.

Almgren said Keyssa met with Rubin and Essential executives several times, including at the Consumer Electronics Show in 2016, to discuss licensing Keyssa’s proprietary technology, but no agreement had been reached.

For its part, Essential said it ”considered Keyssa as a component supplier for Essential Phone and chose to proceed with a different supplier that could meet our performance specifications for the product,” Essential said in a statement.

Reporting by Stephen Nellis; Editing by Jonathan Weber and Marguerita Choy


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