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The Rise of Wireless Charging in Public Places

Updated on October 16, 2018

Wireless Charging

Evolution of Wireless Charging to Society

As technology continues to evolve and people adopt new habits to accommodate these innovations, analysts predict that the next major tech disruptor will be wireless chargers. The major players—including Apple, Samsung, Sony, Nokia, and Google—have already made their smartphones compatible with cordless chargers. Today, wireless charging stations can be found in Starbucks, McDonald’s, as well as major hotel chains and international airports around the world.

Wireless charging standards have generated some stiff competition between Wireless Power Consortium’s Qi standard and Power Matter Alliance’s PMA standard. But whichever standard is used, what’s clear is that charging technology is gradually being adopted by different industries across the globe.

How Wireless Charging Works

Magnetic Induction

Chargers that utilize magnetic induction typically harness magnetism to transfer energy. A wireless charging pad or piece of hardware is plugged into a socket so that it can transmit electromagnetic waves. To charge your smartphone, the device is placed on the charging pad/hardware. A magnetic field is produced by the current from the socket, which then becomes electrical energy that charges your device’s battery. This type of wireless charging, however, requires devices to have the appropriate hardware installed to work.

Magnetic Resonance

Another way wireless charging works is by magnetic resonance. It functions similarly to inductive charging, but for this method, the device can be charged up to 45mm away from the charger instead of directly on its surface. Resonance charging works by using two copper coils: one that sends and another that receives. These two copper coils are configured to have the same electromagnetic frequency so that the charger can transmit energy to the device. Though not as efficient as magnetic induction, one of the benefits of magnetic resonance is that you can charge multiple devices at once using only one charging pad.

Public Places Adopting Wireless Charging Stations

Restaurants, retail stores, airports, and hotels are some of the few public places where you can find wireless charging stations today. These locations offer to power up your smartphones, tablets, laptops, and other gadgets. Some of the most notable businesses that have adopted this technology include the following:

Starbucks

In 2014, Starbucks announced their plans to adopt wireless charging, which was first rolled out in 200 cafes in San Francisco, and eventually, nationwide. This was made possible via a 2012 partnership with a wireless tech company. By 2015, the coffee company had brought wireless charging to their branches in the United Kingdom.

McDonald’s

Also in 2015, McDonald’s followed suit and provided hundreds of wireless chargers to 50 branches in the UK, hoping to draw publicity and increase customers. The multinational fast-food chain partnered with a well-known tech solutions provider and used Qi wireless charging standards to power its charge system.

Walmart

In September 2018, WalMart partnered with a tech startup to experiment with wireless charging for their retail stores. Walmart’s main goal is to cut power costs across its stores. The startup offers its own version of wireless technology, which enables chargers to transmit electricity to gadgets so that they can be charged.

The Next Step for Wireless Charging

Based on a 2017 IHS Markit survey, shipments of wireless chargers around the world are expected to increase to approximately two billion units by 2022. Smartphones, laptops, and portable devices are some of the main utilizers of wireless power transfer. If these electronics producers continue to adopt wireless charging for their devices, it will fuel market demand. But the market isn’t the only aspect of wireless charging that’s predicted to change, as the technology itself is evolving.

In 2017, Disney Research developed a new method of transferring power to electronic devices without wires. The demonstration of their quasistatic cavity resonance (QSCR) showcased how wirelessly charging devices could be as easy as connecting to a WiFi hotspot. The researchers filled a 16-by-16 foot room with standing magnetic waves that were able to power up smartphones, fans, and lights simultaneously.

In January 2018, San Jose startup Energous launched WattUp, a wireless charger that can transmit power up to three feet away. The company announced that their product had been approved by the Federal Communications Commission in 2017. WattUp was subsequently exhibited at the CES 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

A WattUp unit is able to charge multiple components in a room when placed in the right location. But the real step up is that WattUp chargers are also going to be available in different versions with varying charging distance capabilities, the farthest being 15 feet away.

There’s no denying that wireless charging is progressing in terms of convenience and sophistication. The Wireless Power Consortium conducted a survey in 2016 that revealed a high interest in wireless charging from consumers in the United States, United Kingdom, China, and Germany. The survey revealed that many of these consumers want to see more of this technology available outside of their homes and cars. The survey also indicated that over 20 percent of people who’ve adopted wireless chargers experience less “battery anxiety”. So despite any shortcomings, wireless charging is still something to watch out for in the years to come.

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