Starbucks and the Powermat: Wireless Charging with the IoT

By Steve Diaper of Telegesis

Sitting down to a table, latte in hand, you glance around for the client you were supposed to meet. You can’t remember what he said in his email; was he going to wear a red shirt? A black hat? A blue tie? You pull out your smart phone to look up the email, but your phone is dead – no charge. At most coffee shops, this would be a problem; your charger is at the office and running back to grab it would make you embarrassingly late for your meeting. Even if you had your charger, all of the outlets around you are being used by laptops or other coffee-addicts’ devices. Luckily, you’re at one of the ten Starbucks in London that have installed Powermats. You lay your phone on the circular black Powermat on the tabletop and wait, taking a few sips of your latte. After several minutes your phone blinks on with enough charge to check your email. You look up and locate the potential client wearing a –green– shirt; you smile and wave him over to begin your meeting.

Wireless Charging for the IoTMost of us have experienced a scenario like this, when the convenience of our smart phone is suddenly lost because of a dead battery. Now, ducking into a nearby Starbucks for a warm drink and a quick wireless charge turns a bad situation into a pleasant coffee break. If your battery indicator is red, or creeping into single digits, you can easily identify one of the 10 Powermat + Starbucks locations in London, or the soon-to-be 2,000+ locations in the US through the Powermat App. Grab a drink or a pastry, find an unused Powermat, set your phone down and voila, you’re on your way to a charged phone.

What does this exciting new technology have to do with Zigbee? In order to analyze details like how long customers are in the Starbucks, how often they visit, or which Powermat locations are used most frequently, the Powermat gathers usage information from each user. Then the Powermat communicates this data to the gateway in the back room of each location, where the data is stored on a cloud location. The data is then analyzed, so that each location can better optimize the customer’s experience with the Powermat and at Starbucks in general. Zigbee is ideally suited to provide a local area network where phone charging is offered in a public space because it is easy to deploy, secure, and a proven standards-based solution.

Zigbee is Easy to Deploy
Zigbee is wireless and simple to install. Space is often at a premium in Starbucks locations. The Zigbee-connected Powermats can be placed near any available outlet without the need to run new wires. Because Zigbee devices can find each other and connect, there is no complex configuration and installation can be performed by baristas with no special training.

Zigbee is SecureThe Powermat with Telegesis
Security is, understandably, a key concern for IoT adopters. A thief can steal your phone and access your personal information. What if that same thief could access your phone without you knowing, without physically stealing it? It’s a reasonable concern, but Zigbee is well-equipped to prevent such attacks. Using a variety of security mechanisms such as AES-128 encryption, device keys, network keys and frame counters, ZigBee has armed itself to be well protected from network hacking.

Zigbee is Proven
Zigbee is the only open, global standard for the Internet of Things. With over 1,200 certified products in industries including smart energy, smart home, retail, industrial, building, healthcare, and more, Zigbee has been proven to be the optimal standard for the IoT. Along with the Powermat, there are hundreds of possible uses for Zigbee in businesses like Starbucks. Connected lighting, thermostats, window blinds, and store security are all potential implementations for an IoT-enabled experience.

Consumers are beginning to expect the ease and convenience of their online experiences to match their in-person interactions. The Powermat is an excellent example of how Zigbee standards can improve comfort, security, and convenience in everyday life, contributing to the transition to a smarter in-store experience. So sit back, sip your coffee, and watch your phone charge wirelessly; the Internet of Things is here to stay.


About the Author

Steve Diaper is the Sales Manager of Telegesis UK Limited and has spent all his professional working life in the semi-conductor and wireless communications business.

Telegesis is a world-leading Zigbee module manufacturer – specializing exclusively in Zigbee technology hardware and firmware for over ten years.