How cool is Starbucks’ recent announcement that it’s going to install wireless charging mats in all of its stores?


Given the role mobile phones play in our lives, maintaining a charged device has become a challenge we all face daily. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone searching for an outlet when away from my office. I’ve scoured train stations, restaurants, airports, and stadiums for that elusive wall outlet. When you finally find one in such a desperate search for a quick charge for your device, the outlet’s smiling face stands as a prize for your triumph.

The reliance we have on our mobile devices has turned public power outlets into valuable assets. I’ve waited in coffee shops for a venue’s single outlet to become available. I’ve endured awkward seating situations, the limited length of my iPhone’s power cord forcing me to sit a little too close to the stranger whose cable occupied the stop slot on the wall outlet.

While physical power charging stations are popping up in public environments like malls and airports, they’re too few and far between. Also, they require a person to be separated from his device, which, despite the security measures in place, just feels unnatural.

Embedding wireless charging mats into guest tables, as Starbucks is doing in cooperation with Duracell, is a righteous solution to a growing problem. It allows a patron to seamlessly charge his device by just placing it on a designated spot on the table. It delivers utility by taking advantage of a natural guest behavior. For an undisclosed fee – I’m guessing in the $5 range – any Starbucks customer will be able to quickly charge his device. Given the pervasiveness of Starbucks’ mobile app, which is a darling in the world of mobile payments, I’m sure Starbucks’ app and loyalty program will play a role in giving customers discounted or free access to the power mats.

Without getting too far into the technical aspects of wireless charging, it is important to note that Starbucks solution requires most people to attach a small dongle to their device for the charging pad to work (Starbucks has said it will loan such dongles to patrons). In the future, more devices will have the necessary technology built directly into the handset thus negating the need for a special case or piece of hardware to wirelessly charge.

This move from Starbucks, following successful pilots in Boston and Silicon Valley, is sure to motivate more hospitality operators to follow suit. In addition to coffee shops and quick service restaurants, I could see ┬áthe technology finding a comfortable home in bars. In addition to being a powerful value-added service, it would serve as a new revenue stream. Its most significant benefit is as a draw that naturally forces a guest to spend more time in one’s establishment.