Today, the USB Promoters Group unveiled an update to its specifications for the USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 standards. Much in the way that SATA-IO recently updated the possibility for SATA to bump right up against the speeds that Thunderbolt offers, so did the USB group decide that their own spec could use a bit of a power boost.
Described as the USB Power Delivery solution, the updated specifications are designed to vastly increase the amount of power that a USB port can supply. Instead of the meager 5W that USB currently offers, or the 10W of some off-spec ports (ahem, Apple) or Thunderbolt, the new setup can deliver a staggering 100 watts of power. That’s enough to charge any device you own – heck, it’s enough to power a chain of displays, a laptop, or even some desktops.
The specifications are compatible with existing cables and connectors, though obviously not with current equipment. Gadgets that use the updated system from here on out can negotiate the proper voltage and current values to be negotiating over the USB power pins. That prevents some sort of dreadful mishap wherein too much power is sent along to a smaller device. The power delivery can be swapped between either device without moving the cable around, too.
It’s not hard to imagine the sort of setup where you might use the updated power delivery system. Since the new specs are fully backwards compatible, data-wise with USB 2.0 and USB 3.0, you could have a monitor or desktop that offered one or two of these new ports. Those ports could then be used to power, or at least charge, your notebook computer while the USB data connection was being used. It’s possible that a future laptop might use this USB port exclusively.
The USB Promoter Group expects to make final revisions to the specification this fall, and plans to move to the final spec early next year. That means that devices implementing the new power guidelines could be on the market as early as next spring.