Starbucks today announced the rollout of "wireless" charging nationwide, but nearly all mobile handsets and consumer devices currently in use that incorporate inductive contact charging technology won't be able to use it.
Nevertheless, with more than 8,000 company-operated stores in the U.S., the move by Starbucks will create a substantial network and infrastructure for inductive charging -- in which power passes through special surface materials when they touch, rather than through traditional direct-wire plugs and ports -- in the hospitality sector and lead to shipments of more than 100,000 Powermat inductive chargers, according to research by IHS, which tracks product shipments in several electronics categories.
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There are now three inductive charging consortiums vying for dominance in the market, which has enormous potential. The combined global market for inductive power receivers and transmitters is expected to rise to 1.7 billion unit shipments in 2023, up from about 25 million last year, according to IHS. The conflicting and competing standards continue to create uncertainty for mobile device manufacturers looking to adopt wireless charging.
According to IHS, 80 percent of consumers want inductive charging in public places, so the move by Starbucks was expected.
Starbucks, which has been testing inductive charging in San Francisco and Boston, will deploy Powermat Spots in designated areas on tables and counters where customers can place their compatible device to charge through induction. Customers can find enabled locations on Powermat's website.
Duracell Powermat is a member of the Power Matters Alliance (PMA), one of the three consortiums rolling out products. The PMA earlier this year announced a deal to share technologies with the Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP). That partnership pitted the two against the largest of the industry groups, the Wireless Power Consortium (WPC), which touts the Qi (pronounced "chee") inductive charging specification.
Of the 20 million consumer devices estimated to have shipped in 2013 with inductive charging capabilities, nearly all were built with the Qi specification, according to IHS. The majority of the Qi technology was built into devices such as the Google Nexus 4 and 5 smartphones, Google's Nexus 7 second-generation tablet, and a number of models in Nokia's Lumia smartphone line.
An example of Texas Instrument's inductive charging coil and chip technology that adheres to the Qi specification. The device can be much smaller and would be the electrical receiver in a mobile device. "These devices will not be compatible with the [inductive] chargers due to be installed in Starbucks stores," said Ryan Sanderson, IHS's associate director of Power Supply & Storage Components.