July 29, 2013
Wireless Charging Expanding To Select Starbucks Locations
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Last fall, international coffee giant Starbucks began rolling out wireless charging stations for mobile devices at test stores in the Boston, Massachusetts area. Today the company announced they'll be expanding these wireless chargers to patrons in the tech mecca of Silicon Valley. Ten West Coast stores will begin offering Duracell PowerMat charging stations and specialty cases to customers as a part of an extended rollout next month. Last October the company announced their membership in the Power Matters Alliance (PMA), a group which also counts AT&T and Google as members. The aim of the PMA is to bring wireless charging to the masses by creating a universal standard for all manufacturers to adhere to.
Like other tech-forward companies, Starbucks has been making efforts to go mobile and even announced in their latest quarterly earnings report that ten percent of their total transactions come by way of their popular mobile payment app. Yet while Starbucks and the PMA push to offer free power to mobile users, some stores in New York City, Colorado and elsewhere are blocking power ports to keep "laptop hobos" from overstaying their welcome.
"This is the kind of improvement to the digital experience that our customers expect from Starbucks and the kind that we will deliver at scale moving forward," explained Chief Digital Officer Adam Brotman during the aforementioned earnings call. The early stages of the rollout, which brought Powermat charging stations to 17 stores on the East Coast, has encouraged Starbucks to continue working with the PMA, but in an interview with All Things D, Brotman said they're not yet ready to flip the switches on a nationwide rollout.
"It was our first and best guess in terms of the right format," he said.
"It is a great testing partnership, and it could get much bigger than this, but we are going to wait and see how the tests go."
The next stores to receive the wireless Powermats will be listed at Poweruphere.com, and any additional stores to be included in the future will be listed there as well. Select New York McDonald's locations also feature wireless powering along with areas in New York's Madison Square Garden.
Phones can only be charged with the Powermats if they're wrapped in the appropriate case that enables charging. Customers can either purchase one of these cases on their own or ask the Baristas to borrow a case while they enjoy their beverages and wait for a charge. Depending on the size of the location, each store will receive about 12 charging cases to loan to paying customers.
Wireless charging means nothing if phone manufacturers like Apple, HTC or Samsung don't operate under the same standard. The PMA is working to gather as many companies as they can under one single umbrella of charging. The Wireless Power Consortium has the same goal. There are now three organizations working to bring phone manufacturers and other industries together under one universal method to wirelessly charge devices.
Though Starbucks backs the PMA and is slowly delivering Powermats to stores, some patrons are still steaming about individual stores' decisions to block power outlets to keep long-sitting laptop users from staying too long. Starbucks confirmed this practice nearly two years ago, saying individual stores have the right to block the power outlets or not.