Wireless charging has been gaining ground gradually for some years, and was given a big boost last month when Apple decided to support the WPC would-be standard, Qi. But Chargifi, which is backed by Intel Capital, is looking to push the model several steps further, with its ‘charging-as-a-service’ approach.
The firm has announced an IoT Platform for charging management. This gives service providers and systems integrators a tool to monitor charging infrastructure out in the wild, and use 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 recent WPC conference in London, it was revealed that Qi shipments had hit 205m in 2016, with researchers from IHS adding that of consumers which had used the technology in public places, 70% had subsequently based a decision about which coffee shop to use on Qi being available. Meanwhile, Chargifi CEO Dan Bladen explained that for each 1% increase in the time a customer spends in a location (perhaps because of wireless charging), that user generates an additional 1.3% in revenue.
Such figures make it clear that there is return on investment from 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. This could give wireless charging the same role that WiFi once had to attract and retain consumers in venues, especially since Apple’s decision to support the technology should accelerate availability in all kinds of mobile devices.
Chargifi makes life easier for the deployers by offering wireless charging as a service. It is 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.)
With deployments in hotels, stadiums, and shops, Chargifi works with systems integrators in most markets – but deals direct with customers in its its home UK market.
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 hyperlocal 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.
When asked about long range charging technologies like Ossia’s Cota or Energous’ WattUp, Bladen noted that surface-based charging options 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.
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.