Starbucks Introduces Wireless Charging Nationwide

By Dan Latu June 16, 2014

Now your phone can recharge at Starbucks just as easily as you can. Starbucks announced Thursday a national rollout of Duracell Powermat wireless charging stations into all of their locations in the next few years. The expansion will first start with the Bay Area and move to the entirety of the West Coast by the end of 2015 before hitting other major metropolitan markets. Asia and Europe can also look forward to wireless stations in their Starbucks, with a pilot program launching in a select few locations within the next 12 months.

The stations themselves are small circular pads built into tabletops and bar space, taking on the appearance of a technological coaster, that users simply drop their device on. Powermat first introduced their products back in January 2009, and introduced the world to their innovative use of magnetic induction principles that outperforms traditional conductive charging technology.

“The two-pronged power-plug dates back to the era of the horse drawn carriage,” Powermat Technologies CEO, Ran Poliakine, said, “[and] today’s announcement marks the first meaningful upgrade to the way we access power in well over a century.” Stassi Anastassov, President of Duracell at Proctor & Gamble, partners with Powermat in developing the technology, echoed the optimism of Poliakine. “When Starbucks introduced Wi-Fi in their stores in 2001, 95 percent of devices didn’t have Wi-fi…the rest is history. Starbucks’ plans to offer Powermat nationally is likely to settle any lingering standards question, an usher wireless power into the mainstream.”

However, the confident attitude masks the realities of the Powermat’s current state in the mainstream market. For starters, iPhones, the world’s most popular phone, do not support wireless charging at all. In fact, not all carriers will be supported by the charging stations in Starbucks, due to warring factions in the wireless charging world. Duracell Powermat is partnered with the Power Matters Alliance, a coalition dedicated to creating an ecosystem and open standard for smart wireless power.  Wireless Power Consortium shares those same goals, but instead backs a Qi standard rather than the Rezence standard backed by PMA. Different companies support different standards, although it seems the PMA standard is winning out.

Several notable companies belong to the PMA shareholder board, including Google AT&T, and, unsurprisingly, Starbucks. In 2012, PMA launched a massive front to introduce Powermat technology to the public. AT&T began selling the cases, Delta and General Motors installed charging stations on select aircrafts and automobiles, and Jay Z installed stations throughout his New York City nightclub 40/40. Starbucks, as a part of this plan, started pilot programs in select Boston and San Jose locations, which proved successful enough to prompt Thursday’s announcement.

The aggressive actions of PMA might render WPC obsolete, especially if the popularity of the Starbucks charging stations takes off as its most important backers are predicting. But, in the end, it seems the fate of wireless charging is up to the different mobile phone producers. A single and universally functional standard for all devices is the only way wireless charging will become as commonplace as public Wi-Fi or getting a cup of coffee. 

Edited by Maurice Nagle

Contributing Writer

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