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How Starbucks Could Take Wireless Charging Mainstream

Offering a shot of one-stop convenience, Starbucks began its roll-out of free Powermat wireless charging last week. The Seattle, Wash.–based coffee purveyor equipped roughly 200 stores in San Francisco with the technology, ahead of a nationwide launch next year.

I stopped by a location in Levi Plaza to check out the system and see if it lives up to the promise. I figured it would either be a cool new convenience or a lame, over-hyped feature. 

See also: How To Boost Your Phone’s Battery Life

Sitting in the cafe, with my phone resting on the table that piped juice to it, the answer was clear. Starbucks should consider extra security; Frapuccino-fueled patrons are destined to jockey for a seat at one of these tables. After years of trying, wireless charging could finally be on the verge of going mainstream in a big, caffeinated way. 

Getting Juiced Up At Starbucks

Wireless charging seems like a misnomer. People who have bought Powermat and similar products know that the main charging mat connects to a wall outlet with a cable. But it’s still considered “wireless” because phones, handheld gaming machines and other devices can power up just by sitting on top of it.

At Starbucks, the mats (or “Powermat Spots”) are built into some of the tables and countertops. Despite reports to the contrary, Daniel Schreiber, president of Powermat Technologies, claims the charging speed rivals cabled connections. I gave it a try, and found the charging action to be pretty speedy. 

 The downside is that few phones support Powermat charging out of the box. Some Lumia phones have it built in, and compatible backplates, phone cases, batteries and small Power Ring attachments are available under the joint Duracell-Powermat brand. The system offers some backward compatibility—if you have one, even an older unit, you’ll be able to charge your device on Starbucks’ tables. 

If not, you can still use the Starbucks charging surfaces. The store loans out Power Rings for free on the spot and sells them there too for about $10, if you’d like to own one. Duracell-Powermat also sells them online

“You’ve got to have a complete system,” said Matthew Guiste, Starbucks’ vice president of in-store digital. “No one has taken the plunge, [but] we want to start giving manufacturers a reason to put it in their phones.” The retailer has a habit of pushing technologies into the mainstream. Back in 2001, the business proselytized Wi-Fi, being among the first to offer it for free.

The chain’s knack for popularizing tech was the main reason Powermat partnered with it. “Wi-Fi was not a known commodity then,” said Schreiber. “They’re in a place to educate consumers.” 

Daniel Schreiber, president of Powermat Technologies, at Starbucks wireless charging roll-out

Education is needed. Wireless charging has been around for quite a while, but despite that, it still hasn’t managed to gain traction with consumers yet. 

Why Isn’t Wireless Charging A Thing Yet?

Even though the electromagnetic technology behind wireless charging goes back a century, people still mess with cables and power adapters—now more than ever. 

See also: If The Future’s Battery-Powered, We’re Screwed

Poor battery life forces the hassle. Today, huge phones with larger batteries and power-saving tactics, like Android’s Project Volta, try to prolong the longevity of our devices, but these are workarounds for batteries that just can’t keep pace with advancements in mobile technology. 

Processing power, new features and our demanding requirements for connectivity make us “more dependent on our devices,” said Schreiber. “[But] it’s reached a crisis point where the industry is bringing us new uses that we routinely disable to give us more battery life.” The issue becomes worse with wearables, as tiny gadgets leave little space for big power cells.

<a href=”http://www.ibtimes.com/iphone-users-out-luck-starbucks-bring-wireless-charging-least-200-us-locations-1726208″>Some reports</a> say the system won’t work with iPhones. Don’t believe everything you read.&nbsp;

Wireless charging’s convenience can help ease the pain of short battery life. Unfortunately, like the old video rivalry between VHS and BetaMax, warring factions within the industry prevent a universal standard from paving the way for wider adoption.

Earlier this year, two of the leading power consortiums—Powermat’s Power Matters Alliance (PMA) and the Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP)—made some headway by joining forces. Reinier H.M. van der Lee, director of product marketing at Broadcom, a key member of A4WP, told me then that it would lead to “dual-mode receivers,” or gadgets that support both PMA’s open standard and A4WP’s Rezence standard. 

But the deal left out a third, the Wireless Power Consortium’s Qi—currently the most popular wireless charging option available in mobile devices. Devices like Samsung’s Galaxy, Motorola’s Droid and some Lumia phones offer built-in support. 

All three standards essentially rely on the same technology. Coils (in mats) create electromagnetic fields that transmit electricity when receivers (in gadgets and accessories) sit on top. But their approaches vary, and none work directly with either of the others. 

Rezence devices don’t exist as consumer products yet, but even if they did, single-mode products wouldn’t work on Starbucks’ Powermat charging tables. (They’d have to be dual-mode.) Qi gadgets, the most prevalent so far, won’t directly work either. 

To cut through the complications, Starbucks and Powermat made a smart move: Those free Power Ring loaners come in a choice of micro-USB or Apple’s lightning port. This cross-compatibility should cover most smartphones, and their in-store availability means people won’t have to plan ahead. 

This simple decision gives every customer some wireless charging powers. It just so happens to spread the gospel of Powermat to a massive audience as well.  

Powermat’s Power Play

After starting out with test roll-outs in select stores in Boston and San Jose, Starbucks is ready to go all in with PMA now. Guiste calls Powermat “the perfect partner,” thanks to its focus on commercial installations and managed support.

“What we got is not just a standard,” he said. “We got launch partners and a managed network that can tell us what’s going on, down to the location and the [specific] spot at that location.”

What Powermat got is a direct line to the vast market of coffee drinkers across the country. (Starbucks serves more than 5 million customers per day.) While obviously beneficial to Powermat, the strategy could also raise the profile of wireless charging overall, giving the whole industry a boost. 

It may even compel the various camps to work together on a universal standard. If so, it couldn’t come too soon. The already complex landscape of wireless charging could get even more complicated before long. 

As cable-free power-ups work to establish themselves in the mainstream, fringe candidates have been trying to push it in new directions. Startups like Humavox and Ossia want to ditch the mat entirely, using radio frequency technology to transform charging into Wi-Fi-like affairs.

It’s All Up In The Air

Humavox CEO Omri Lachman explained the design strategy behind his Eterna charging platform to me earlier this year: Users don’t use mats, he said. Instead, they toss their devices in a box. 

Those devices can vary, not just in variety, but size. With more than a little showmanship, he told me his company “didn’t start off with these devices,” holding up a smartphone. “We started with these,” he said, pointing to a small in-ear canal hearing aid. 

The components were designed to fit inside one of the smallest consumer devices imaginable, so it’s not tough to see those tiny receivers embedded inside the compact casings of wearable gadgets, one of Humavox’s target areas. 

Another startup, Ossia, believes charging should work entirely over the air.  

Though a bit slower than traditional charging, Ossia’s Cota technology can supposedly transmit power safely over a distance. It has been tested at 16 feet, and the company claims it can work up to 30 feet. 

Ossia has been making motions toward the smart home industry, hoping to power battery-operated sensors and other gizmos. In the controlled setting of a retail environment, Cota devices could theoretically start charging your devices the moment you walk in. But that scenario will probably take a lot of convincing to appease public concerns over safety. 

If these emerging companies succeed, or the leading troika of wireless charging proponents get their act together, they could banish the drudgery of plugging in cables and power adapters once and for all. 

We’re not there yet. But Starbucks and Powermat took a big step toward that future. And until it gets here, at least now we can sip our lattes and charge on a table while we wait. 

Starbucks coffee photo (cropped) courtesy of Starbucks; Ossia photo courtesy of Ossia; all others by Adriana Lee for ReadWrite

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Please Take Our Search Engine Land Conference Survey!

Search Engine Land produces conferences, and we’re always looking to improve them. To help, we’re running a survey asking you, our readers, to give us some feedback on what you’d like to see as part of our conferences. Please help! Below is our survey, which should take only a few…



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5urprise’s Seo Kang Jun, Gong Myung, and Yoo Il take a bubble bath together … – allkpop


allkpop
5urprise's Seo Kang Jun, Gong Myung, and Yoo Il take a bubble bath together
allkpop
Members Seo Kang Jun, Gong Myung, and Yoo Il of the upcoming acting-dol group, 5urprise, recently embarked on a trip to Jeju Island for a flirty autumn photoshoot with 'High Cut'! Sure to make girls squeal, the photoshoot revealed chic and charismatic …

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Bing: It’s Unlikely That We’ll Take Search Share Away From Google

Microsoft’s Director of Search admitted this week that Bing isn’t likely to put a significant dent in Google’s search market share. Stefan Weitz appeared Tuesday at the Web Summit conference in Ireland, where he told attendees that Bing instead wants to focus on making its search…



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Travel & Hospitality In The Holiday SERPS: How To Take Advantage Of Trends [Data]

Contributor Jim Yu explores data on seasonal trends in the travel and hospitality verticals that should inform marketers’ organic search strategies.

The post Travel & Hospitality In The Holiday SERPS: How To Take Advantage Of Trends [Data] appeared first on Search Engine Land.



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What It Will Take For You To Get Bitcoin At The Bank

Maybe someday you’ll be able to go up to your bank teller and withdraw or deposit your money in bitcoins. But today, Bitcoin banking is still far away.

The reasons have to do with risk and regulations—two topics that don’t have much to do with your day-to-day finances, but that mean a lot to the banks that handle them.

Enthusiasts of Bitcoin, an all-digital currency, laud it for its cryptographic security and pseudonymous transfers which make it like cash. But in the end, it’s another currency, like euros or pounds. If you want to do business in dollars, you’ll have to convert it to dollars. And where do you get your dollars in cash today? Probably a bank.

While early adopters may be content to roll their own encryption and figure out how to store bitcoins securely, most consumers will probably want to leave the safekeeping to someone they trust with other forms of money.

Bitcoin And Banks

It’s not that banks have a bad relationship with Bitcoin. It’s that most banks don’t have much of a relationship with Bitcoin at all. 

Eli Dorado, director of the Technology Policy Project at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, said that even though tech-savvy people have known about Bitcoin for years now, banks still view the currency as an unknown—and hence a liability.

Before consumers can withdraw or deposit bitcoins with a bank teller, banks will have to get used to dealing with Bitcoin-related businesses. And they’re largely not there yet.

“The real problem in Bitcoin is businesses getting banking at all,” Dorado said. “Banks are afraid that Bitcoin businesses will fall into the category of being a high-risk activity, the way firearm sales and porn stars’ bank accounts are sometimes viewed.”

In the Bitcoin space, three clear types of business are emerging.

There are Bitcoin exchanges, which work like foreign-currency trading desks, letting people swap bitcoins for dollars, yen, euros, and other currencies. Mt. Gox was once the largest—and its failure did little to build confidence in the business

See also: Bitcoin Exchange Mt. Gox Files For Bankruptcy Protection

Then there are Bitcoin wallets, which hold bitcoins for consumers and businesses, and let them transfer or spend their bitcoins.

Then there are Bitcoin payment processors, which help merchants accept bitcoins in exchange for goods or services, much like credit-card processors do. Some convert bitcoins to dollars or other local currencies immediately, while others let merchants keep the bitcoins if they choose.

Some Bitcoin businesses combine multiple functions: For example, Coinbase provides both a wallet for consumers and payment processing for retailers.

These are all lines of businesses that banks already pursue in local currencies—so it would be logical for them to enter the Bitcoin arena, too. So far, they haven’t.

Bitpay is one of the larger payment processors. Its customers include retailers like NewEgg and Shopify.

“We’re much like any merchant processor in the credit-card space,” said Bitpay CFO Bryan Krohn. “We take payments, convert them to local currency, and put them in the merchant’s bank account.”

Bitpay’s Krohn says the company spends a lot of time and money to talk to state and federal policymakers so they know what Bitpay is, what it does, and how it complies with all known Bitcoin regulations.

“With any new technology, there are going to always be frowned-upon uses,” Krohn said. “When the Internet first came out, it was used for a lot of unsavory stuff. Some banks won’t even risk working with Bitcoin businesses, not because they lack the technical ability, but because they have concerns about how it’s used and how it’s regulated.”

Bitpay is working with a bank to send deposits to customers’ bank accounts. But  Krohn wouldn’t name it, citing the “importance of that relationship.”

That’s indicative of the caution banks are taking with respect to Bitcoin.

Making Friends With Bitcoin Businesses

One bank that’s taken a less conservative stance is Silicon Valley Bank, which has long made a business of providing banking services to startups other banks see as high-risk. One current client is Coinbase, the Bitcoin wallet and payment processor.

“On the business-to-business side, we are looking at everything on a case-by-case basis and partnering with our regulators to ensure they have as much information as is available to make informed decisions,” a spokesperson told ReadWrite.

Even so, the role Silicon Valley Bank is taking with Coinbase appears to be performing dollar-denominated money transfers. It’s not stashing bitcoins in a digital vault. SVB may well be the most Bitcoin-friendly bank in the country, but it still doesn’t have enough clarity on regulations to offer bitcoin-denominated accounts to customers.

In Europe, Sofort, a payments service which works with about 400 banks in the region,  announced it would allow bitcoin purchases through 247Exchange.com. But after just a few weeks, 247Exchange announced that the service was “unavailable.”

Expect these fits and starts for a while. The most progress has occurred in New York, where the New York Department of Financial Services has proposed a Bitcoin license whose regulations would be less burdensome than those for a state-chartered bank. But that would help new Bitcoin businesses more than it would banks.

“I don’t think [banks] are a high priority with lawmakers,” said Dorado. “The much higher priority is creating regulatory certainty for companies that want to enter the market and don’t want to be regulated as banks.”

That may help entrepreneurs and investors looking to make big bucks off of Bitcoin. But for those of us who just want to make bitcoins part of our everyday spending, that’s not good news.

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TomTom And deCarta Join Forces To Take On Google Maps

Personal navigation device (PND) and maps provider TomTom teamed up with independent mapping and local search company deCarta to offer developers an “end to end” alternative to Google Maps. The new joint offering provides connected mapping and navigation, local search and real-time…



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Agencies Take Note: Google Third-Party Policy Changes Coming Nov. 2014

Last month, Google rolled out an updated policy center for all advertisers. Starting in November, agencies and other third-party firms and individuals that manage Google advertising for customers will need to conform to new third-party policies. The two new transparency requirements are: Management…



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HBO Agrees To Take Your Money, Via The Internet

Describing 10 million broadband-only homes—many of which likely house Game Of Thrones fans tethered to their parents’ HBO login—as “low hanging fruit,” the cable channel’s CEO Richard Plepler says he’s ready to take their money. 

Sometime next year, college students, your unemployed bestie, and the cheap and cable-less everywhere will have the privilege of paying for HBO streaming shows, Plepler announced in an investors presentation. Even if they don’t have a TV.

See also: HBO Is Coming To Amazon—And You Don’t Need To Be A HBO Subscriber

“That is a large and growing opportunity that should no longer be left untapped,” Plepler said in an understatement. “It is time to remove all barriers to those who want HBO.”

With skyrocketing cable prices and a slew of TV offerings available online, more people worldwide are cutting the cable cord. That’s a problem for those who want to watch HBO’s stable of high-quality original content, but don’t have cable. The company only allows access to its HBO GO streaming offering to homes which subscribe to its cable package. 

“Stealing” HBO is a documented fact. The notorious “Red Wedding” episode of Game of Thrones broke a piracy record in April when it was downloaded 1.5 million times in a single day. Other HBO favorites, such as The Sopranos and True Blood,were pretty popular among pirates in their day, too. In the past, HBO took a laissez-faire attitude to its purloined programming, which amounts to free advertising. But not everyone wants to steal. 

Celebrating the news of an untethered HBO, the Take My Money HBO website posted “It’s Happening” prominently on its homepage Wednesday. Web designer Jake Caputo built the website in 2012, where tens of thousands of people said they’d pay an average of $12 a month if HBO would offer a streaming-only service.

HBO’s change of heart may the result of competing streaming services that have significantly upped their original programing game. Netflix, for one, has 50 million customers. With breakout hits such as Orange is the New Black and David Fincher’s Kevin Spacey vehicle, House of Cards, Netflix is poised to earn more than HBO in the coming year. 

Growing competition among other streaming services means HBO has little choice but to put its lucrative partnerships with cable companies like Comcast, Time Warner, Charter, Cox, Dish, and DirecTV on notice. If HBO has success offering a streaming-only bundle for customers, other channels may follow suit. 

See also: Game of Chromes: HBO GO Now Supports Chromecast

During his talk, Plepler estimated that the new offering will help HBO reach customers who don’t want a full bundle of TV channels or even any TV at all, a number of people he estimated at around 10 million. This would be added revenue on top of the $4.9 billion earned this year from existing HBO GO customers.

Screenshot via Game of Thrones on HBO

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How Crowdsourcing Helps Take Your SEO Content in To a Whole New Realm – Crowdsourcing.org

How Crowdsourcing Helps Take Your SEO Content in To a Whole New Realm
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engaged. With it, you are able to produce consumer centered SEO content that is engaging, easily scanned and concise, and one that carries with it authority and an expert voice. The result of this is an increase in conversions, social shares and

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