Nearly every piece of office equipment is connected via wireless data, such as computers, printers, lights, thermostats, smoke detectors and phones. In fact, there are 26.6 billion IoT connected devices, and 93% of businesses have already adopted IoT technology, according to iProperty Management.
Connected via Wi-Fi but reliant on their internal batteries, smart, mobile and IoT devices within a workplace environment can dramatically increase efficiency and productivity, but they come with a pretty hefty inconvenience: the need to replace or recharge their batteries or be connected via a power cord.
When every device requires its own isolated power supply, the amount of power cables and batteries needed to charge these devices increases exponentially. This creates a huge headache and cost for both users and maintenance personnel alike.
However, new emerging technology is about to change the game.
The challenge of charging
Modern offices have embraced an apparent contradiction, equipping their staff with everything necessary to be mobile: laptops, tablets, and smartphones. These devices bask in the tension between the freedom to roam and the need to stay connected. But all that equipment requires charging.
Many offices around the world are searching for solutions to overcrowded charging stations and power outlets. As a result, offices have started embracing wireless charging. However, when most people think about wireless charging they probably imagine a simple cradle or charging pad where a mobile phone is placed to be charged instead of directly plugging the device into an electrical outlet.
Yet the problem with these charging pad solutions — known as Qi charging — is twofold: the user still has to remember to go and put their device on the pad so it can charge. And while it is charging, the device cannot be used. Additionally, some protective phone cases on the market hinder the ability of some devices to receive a charge from the pad. These are just the immediate, obvious challenges.
And research shows that Qi charging still isn’t being widely adopted, likely because of these hindrances. Only 42% of people that have a charging pad use it more often than a cable to charge their phone, according to Zogby Analytics.
The very near future: Wireless charging over a distance
Long-range wireless charging goes a step further, seamlessly charging devices wherever they might be in an office without the need to place a device on a pad to charge.
Here’s how it works: A wireless power transmitter sends safe, infrared beams to a receiver — typically embedded in the device to be powered — and a small photovoltaic cell in the receiver converts the light to electricity. This concept is similar to solar panels converting sunlight into electricity. Infrared beams can travel efficiently with little degradation over a distance, safely and reliably providing wireless power across a room to the device, eliminating the need for power cords or batteries.
Long-range wireless power simply happens automatically, creating a fully mobile workspace that frees employees from the tethers of outlets and from the worries of batteries. Wireless charging is somewhat slower than charging with a cord, yet it is much more convenient — just like Wi-Fi is slower but much more convenient than a wired Internet connection.
Working without charging restrictions
For the typical office employee, long-range wireless charging presents a range of immediate benefits, many of which result in saved time and energy. But it goes deeper than that.
Here are some of the key advantages:
- No more worrying about battery life: A typical mobile device user likely glances at their battery gage once or twice a day, worried that they might not have enough battery power left to get in touch with family or co-workers, navigate to a meeting or call an Uber. A recent study by the Cass Business School found that a full battery makes users feel more at ease. With long-range wireless charging, devices can stay consistently charged and mobile at the same time, and users can go on through their day without giving their device’s battery life a second thought.
- No more fighting over outlet space: Offices inherently have a lot of devices to charge and only so many outlets to go around. Employees may find themselves needing to go plug their mobile devices across the office at the next available outlet. But that doesn’t allow the employee to use their device, let alone hear it from across a room if they receive an important call. Long-range wireless charging eliminates that inconvenience and allows employees to use their devices wherever and whenever they need to.
- Important devices can stay charged: Some devices are more important to an employee’s daily operation than others. For example, a Bluetooth headset may help keep employees connected with their team or with prospects and leads. With long-range wireless charging, users can rest assured that their most critical devices for productivity and performance don’t run out of charge during the workday.
Managing the office power supply
When running a smart workplace, both people and technology must be managed. And that’s something many facility managers struggle with.
“For all the dollars spent by American companies on R&D, there often remains a persistent and troubling gap between the inherent value of the technology they develop and their ability to put it to work effectively,” said Dorothy Leonard-Barton and William A. Kraus of the Harvard Business Review.
In the past, many offices invested heavily in battery backup chargers that were able to give devices an extra boost of power when needed. For example, if an employee’s tablet started running low, they could simply plug in the battery pack and charge their device while using it. The downside to this approach is that the battery pack is yet just another device that must be charged.
Long-range wireless power is a viable solution because of its emphasis on convenience, flexibility and mobility. Beyond serving the device charging needs of employees, long-range wireless power also allows for simplified installation and easier maintenance of office devices such as smart building sensors, security systems, climate control systems, occupancy sensors, RFID readers and even faucets and valves in employee bathrooms. It can also deliver power to public spaces like conference rooms and cafeterias, allowing employees to connect and communicate without being bound by a cord.
Offices need to turn to long-range wireless charging
Devices such as mobile phones, Bluetooth computer peripherals or audio headsets were intended to be mobile, but their mobility only goes so far as their battery life. Ultimately, long-range wireless charging will be a game-changer for offices large and small. This technology can help businesses, facilities and employees free themselves from cords or batteries, offering a truly wireless, mobile and productive work experience.
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