Chargifi launches self-healing wireless charging platform, plans expansion

Just before MWC, Riot attended the Wireless Power Consortium’s London showcase event, in the wake of Apple joining the WPC and endorsing its Qi protocol – a strong sign that the next iPhone design would incorporate a wireless charging option. But there was a piece of wireless power news that we missed in the run-up to MWC, and that was Chargifi’s launch of its IoT Platform for charging management.

Chargifi is releasing its charging-point management tool, so that service providers and systems integrators can monitor charging infrastructure out in the wild – using the analytics gathered by the platform to spot and correct outages or broken equipment before the equipment tarnishes a customer experience. As many of Chargifi’s customers are customer-facing brands, uptime is vital to retaining their brand reputation.

At the WPC event, we heard that Qi shipments had hit 205m in 2016. While it’s a solid result for the WPC, perhaps the more interesting piece of information disclosed at the event was presented by IHS – which said that around 25% of consumers it had studied had used the tech, with 50% of those consumers using it in public places. Some 70% of those users said they had consequently based a decision about which coffee shop to use on the availability of the charging tech.

That’s a huge incentive for adoption from cafes and restaurants, and Chargifi CEO Dan Bladen explained that for each 1% increase in dwell time, from encouraging customers to spend more time in a place with wireless charging, the revenue received from the customer rises by around 1.3%. In combination with the IHS data, it’s clear that there’s an ROI to be made by deploying wireless charging in a venue, and Bladen noted that the average charge time has slowly increased from 23-minutes to 27-minutes, according to Chargifi’s data.

And that’s where companies like Chargifi come in, which can offer wireless charging as a service. Bladen said that thanks to the advent of 3G and 4G, it’s harder to guide consumers to a venue by promising WiFi – whereas the glory days of WiFi as a sales tool are being replicated by the emergence of charging points. While USB outlets have all kinds of nasty maintenance issues, ruggedized wireless charging points are a much more attractive option.

While there’s a pretty healthy market of phone cases driving sales of Qi, smartphones themselves have been slower on the uptake. Some flagship models feature the tech, but it’s far from commonplace. However, Apple’s apparent influence on wider smartphone design choices would suggest that once Apple goes for wireless charging, the rest of the market will follow – leading to a sales scale that makes Chargifi’s sales team’s job a fair bit easier.

Bladen said that Chargifi was aiming to be hardware agnostic, and compatible with any of the wireless charging technologies – including current market leader Qi as well as the AirFuel Alliance’s Rezence. Chargifi is more involved in AirFuel, as a leader on the group’s infrastructure working committee, but Bladen noted that Apple’s endorsement of Qi was good news for wireless charging in general – but still believes that AirFuel will win out.

Chargifi does offer an SDK that customers can use to create smartphone application integrations, but Bladen said the platform can gather quite a bit of data without using an app – via unique identifiers in the handsets. He adds that the hyper-local messaging service market is expected to be worth around $30bn by 2020, as companies adopt the tech as a way of boosting in-store sales and return-rates.

When used in combination with other in-store IoT technologies, such as Bluetooth beacons, video analytics, heat-mapping, and smart product tagging, wireless charging could prove to be the tool to get consumers through the door, where they can then be targeted by these emerging up-selling techniques.

As with all discussions about wireless charging, we asked Bladen’s opinion of long-range RF technologies like Ossia’s Cota or Energous’ WattUp. He noted that surface-based charging like Rezence and Qi are going to be used in high-power delivery applications because of the efficiency and regulatory constraints that arise when you try to deliver multiple watts of power through the air.

With deployments in hotels, stadiums, and shops, Chargifi works with systems integrators in most markets – but deals direct with customers in its domestic UK market. Offered as a service, Chargifi’s platform steers clear of the hardware itself.

Bladen noted that there were big announcements due in the coming months, involving larger mobile devices. Since the next step up from things like tablets in mobile devices is probably vehicles, we’d put money on Chargifi getting involved in the other area that has a strong interest in wireless charging technology – the automotive sector.