By Michael Moore
Starbucks has announced the launch of wireless charging facilities for customers in some of its busiest U.K. branches.
From today, 10 stores in central London will support wireless charging for smartphones and tablets with users simply needing to collect a charger at the till to use the facility.
The 'Power Ring' chargers, which will work with all Android and iOS devices, then interact with a wireless charging 'spot' provided by Powermat to charge up the device using induction technology, which transfers power via direct contact. Customers can either borrow them from the store or purchase their own charger for £9.99.
The U.K. launch follows a similar trial in the United States that the company says proved extremely popular. Starbucks has long looked to be one of the pioneers of encouraging mobility, the company told TechWeekEurope, having been one of the first chains to introduce free WiFi in its stores back in 2011. It has also previously launched a mobile app for regular customers and help popularize the use of NFC-enabled payment terminals to allow speedy purchasing.
"We have always tried to anticipate our customers' needs and innovate with technology to provide even more convenience," said Ian Cranna, Starbucks' vice president of marketing and category for EMEA.
"Our partnership with Powermat demonstrates Starbucks response to an increasing need to stay connected while on the go. We're delighted to be the first to launch Powermat wireless charging in ten London stores and look forward to customers being able to charge their phones wirelessly in many more stores soon."
The 'Powermat Spots' are built into the tables within Starbucks stores and therefore are protected from bumps or spills, Cranna said. The Spots are wirelessly connected to the Powermat-Network Cloud, providing real-time health monitoring of each Spot and venue, as well as online feedback from the Cloud to the Spots, allowing for immediate monitoring and attention when needed.
"We are excited to bring Powermat wireless charging to the UK on the heels of our very successful rollout in the San Francisco market," said Carlo Chiarello, Powermat's chief solutions officer.
"As Powermat continues to deploy wireless charging across the United States and expands beyond U.S. borders, Starbucks customers are among the first to benefit from this new convenience and added value."
The initial 10 installations will be available in the following central London stores by the end of January 2015: Princes Street, Kingsway, Wardour Street, Pentonville Road, Harewood Place, Berkeley Street, Great Portland Street, Moorgate, Fleet Street and Euston Tower.
The company is following in the lead of McDonalds, which launched wireless charging using the Qi charging standard (which like Powermat uses induction charging) in 50 restaurants across the U.K. last week. The launch will be supported by 600 hotspots, which are water resistant and easy to wipe clean.