With Apple’s latest iPhone devices now on their way to market, the company has officially ushered in the next evolution of charging — which would be wirelessly, via the universal Qi (pronounced ‘Chi’) standard. The decision, while inherently beneficial, has prompted major companies like Starbucks to update their existing wireless charging stations to support Qi, according to SlashGear.
In the world of ‘charging electronic devices wirelessly’, there are two leading ecosystems around which OEMs have respectively coalesced: the Power Matters Alliance, whose constituents back the ubiquitous PMA standard, or the Wireless Power Consortium, whose constituents (including Apple) have rallied behind Qi.
Unfortunately, while OEMs like Samsung and LG offer smartphones that support Qi and PMA, both standards are not supported by every single device out there. This means OEMs can choose which standard(s) they want their devices to work with. Apple has decided to throw its weight exclusively behind the Wireless Power Consortium’s Qi standard.
There’s just one problem: the current, public wireless charging network consists of millions of stations — provided almost exclusively by Powermat, whose charging pads have, for the most part, yet to be updated to support Qi.
Starbucks Steps Up
Fortunately, America’s largest coffee chain announced this week that it’ll be working closely with Powermat to update the charging stations in all of its retail stores, according to the report, which cites comments about the in-store networks from Powermat’s CTO, Itay Sherman.
“When you look at the installations that we have today in Starbucks, and other locations, we have three parts,” Sherman explained. “We have the charge spot itself, and the charge spot is two parts: one part is the kinetic part, which drives the power, and the other part is the controller which controls the power transfer. We’ve designed the magnetic part to be as generic as possible to cover all standards, if possible.”
The third part of Powermat’s system, Sherman continued, is what will allow them to go back in at this stage in the game and update it. ‘The backend cloud,’ as its referred, allows all of Powermat’s charging stations to be constantly connected to the cloud, meaning that “If there’s ever a new standard, a new variant of the standard – PMA, Qi, Samsung’s Wireless Fast Charging, [etc.] – we can download new software to our points and support them.”
When Will Starbucks Have Qi?
Currently, only a few Starbucks locations have been upgraded to Qi, according to Sherman, who added that due to the individual nature of coordinating updates at locations, a timeline for deployment could not be offered. According to SlashGear’s Chris Davies, however, Sherman previously told him that all of Starbucks’ retail locations should be updated to Qi by the time customers have their iPhone 8 or 8 Plus, at the earliest.