Speaking at an HTNG event in Washington, D.C., an executive with the Wireless Power Consortium said it’s time for hoteliers to prepare for a change in how guests charge their devices.
WASHINGTON—Charging handheld devices like smartphones and tablets in guestrooms can be a pain point for both guests and owners, as guests lament the lack of easy access to outlets and owners grow increasingly weary of device-specific charging options that can quickly grow obsolete.
But a technology expert believes a new charging standard could help alleviate some guests’ issues and could soon grow too popular for owners to ignore.
Speaking at the Hospitality Technology Next Generation North American Insight Summit, Paul Golden, VP of market development for the nonprofit Wireless Power Consortium, said wireless charging is quickly approaching its tipping point in popularity, especially after Apple decided to include wireless charging as a feature for its new iPhone models.
“This category has moved from niche to mass-market,” he said.
Wireless charging is not new, Golden noted, but the technology, which allows consumers to charge devices simply by setting them on flat surfaces designed as charging pads, has been taking off as of late.
Currently more than 50 million devices—encompassing more than 80 varieties of smartphones—support wireless charging. Golden said he expects roughly 1 billion such devices by 2020.
He said consumer interest also seems to be surging, with 93% of consumers saying they find wireless charging appealing.
Golden noted the power of wireless charging will truly be realized when the technology is ubiquitous, and it has the possibility of fundamentally changing day-to-day interactions with people’s smart devices.
“The charging experience is different,” he said. “When you’re wired, you typically plug in at night, and wake up in the morning with your phone charged. With wireless charging, people tend to graze. You never think about charging (because it’s charged in small portions throughout the day).”
Golden said there are many ways wireless charging can and should be deployed in hotels, and instead of just noticeable charging pads, the technology can be integrated virtually seamlessly.
“One common way we’re seeing this is (built in to) tables,” he said. “Another manufacture put (charging technology) in the arms of a chair.”
He said the technology can be safely included in things like end tables or desks in guestrooms or tables and counters in lobby. Golden said the technology is currently most common in London, which he described as the current epicenter of wireless charging.
There, it’s not uncommon to see wireless charging spots built into counters at fast food restaurants, and consumers can use smartphone apps to point them in the direction of cafes or other businesses that offer wireless charging.
With that said, Golden said not all applications have to be particularly exotic. He said one of the simplest installations for someone like a hotel owner could be wireless charging-enabled alarm clocks, which would be equipped to charge multiple devices at once.
He said Wireless Power Consortium’s research also shows consumers typically have issues with charging in bars, where some people even bring their own chargers and ask bartenders to plug them in behind the bar.
Wireless charging cubes and stations “solve that problem,” he said.
What to look for
As a nonprofit that spans multiple industries, the Wireless Power Consortium’s primary goal is to help create and define universal standards for wireless charging, Golden said. The WPC did by creating the Qi standard and certification program.
Golden said hoteliers and consumers should be careful to only look for Qi-certified products, as noncertified chargers could be dangerous to both people and devices.
“When you buy uncertified devices, you take on several risks,” he said. “We’ve found instances of excessive heat that were enough to cause third-degree burns, along with the potential for damaging the device.”
He said the consortium is also working on higher-output standards so that wireless charging could soon be available for larger devices like laptops and power tools and ultimately kitchen appliances.
“There are really interesting applications, and this is growing fast, poised to take off,” Golden said. “This is going to be everywhere. It’s more than just phone charging. This is going to be an expectation just like Wi-Fi.”