Starbucks has signed on with Duracell Powermat to install wireless charging equipment for mobile phones, tablets and other devices in its coffee shops over the next year, but one shortcoming of the effort is that the systems won't work with all of the devices being used by consumers today.
The wireless charging initiative was unveiled by the two companies on June 12, with initial installations being made in San Francisco Bay Area Starbucks locations, according to a statement. "The companies will expand Powermat to additional major markets in 2015, with a full national rollout in Starbucks company-operated stores and Teavana Fine Teas + Tea Bars planned over time," the statement continues. "Initial pilots in Europe and Asia are expected within the year."
The move is being made to better serve customers by giving them the ability to charge their mobile devices while they are spending time inside the company's shops. The Powermats, which are flat devices that allow users to place their compatible mobile devices on top of them for wireless charging, will be installed as integrated "Powermat Spots" on tables and counters inside the Starbucks locations, according to the companies. So far, select Starbucks stores in Boston and San Jose already offer Powermat services for early users. The broader rollout of the systems can be tracked so consumers can learn if there are new locations near them.
The Powermat Spots meet the open standards maintained by the Power Matters Alliance (PMA), which is one of several groups that have been working to develop and support competing wireless device charging standards worldwide. Two other key wireless charging groups are the Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP, which is developing a standard called Rezence) and the Wireless Power Consortium (WPC, which is developing the Qi standard—pronounced "chee"). Each group's systems are different and are not compatible, according to an earlier eWEEK report. The wireless vendors that support the Powermats' PMA standards include AT&T, BlackBerry, HTC, Huawei, LG, Microsoft, Qualcomm, Samsung, TI and ZTE, which means that compatible devices built by these companies will be able to use the equipment in the Starbucks stores.
"From WiFi and the in-store Starbucks Digital Network to mobile payment and digital music downloads, we have always tried to anticipate our customers' needs early in the adoption curve and provide a world-class solution," Adam Brotman, chief digital officer at Starbucks, said in a statement. "We are thrilled to offer our customers that next level of convenience with Powermat wireless charging. Rather than hunting around for an available power outlet, they can seamlessly charge their device while enjoying their favorite food or beverage offering right in our stores."
This is not the first technology upgrade that's been adopted by Starbucks for its customers. In August 2013, the company partnered with Google, which announced plans to install free WiFi inside some 7,000 company-owned Starbucks stores to replace free services that had been previously provided by AT&T. Starbucks stores located in communities that have super-high-speed Google Fiber service have been getting in-store WiFi connections that are even faster—up to 100 times that of existing speeds, according to an earlier eWEEK report.
Starbucks did not reply to an eWEEK request for additional comment about its Powermat initiative.