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Welcome to the Next Wireless Revolution (Part 2)

There’s no doubt about it: We’re hopelessly addicted.

Addicted to our mobile devices.

Over 60% of Americans now have smartphones, while one-third owns tablets. And boy, do we use them!

This year will mark the first time that Americans spend more time using mobile devices every day (5 hours 9 minutes) than watching television (4 hours 31 minutes), according to new research from eMarketer.

Not only that, we spend a whopping 2 hours 21 minutes per day on our devices without making any calls!

We’re also set to spend more media time in general with smartphones and tablets than on PCs and laptops.

But guess what? We’re not reaching our full “potential.” In other words, we’re not as addicted as we could be.

That’s because, as my colleague, Louis Basenese, pointed out recently, our battery life stinks.

And while the technology world has been slow to improve batteries, relative to other innovations, the two biggest battery makers are working on another way to get us power whenever and wherever we need it.

Want Some Wireless Charging With Your Coffee?

In my last column, I outlined the major rivalry emerging in wireless charging technology.

Two main standards are vying for control of the marketplace – Duracell’s Powermat format and Energizer’s (ENR) Qi.

So far, no clear frontrunner has emerged. While the Qi format works with more devices worldwide, Powermat is gaining more traction through strategic alliances.

The key to winning this format war is infrastructure.

Take Starbucks (SBUX), for example, which recently announced a wireless charging pilot program in 27 of its stores in Boston and Silicon Valley. The company plans to fit these stores with Powermat capable tables and charging pads, so you can juice up your device while sipping your java. No electrical outlets or power cords required.

You’ll need a Powermat-compatible phone or a Powermat charging sleeve to get this benefit. And to encourage customers, Starbucks is working with Duracell to give away sleeves to its most frequent customers in the test cities.

With 13,000 stores in the United States alone, Starbucks is a major market force here. Since the company’s announcement in July, membership in the Power Matters Alliance, which backs the Powermat format, has tripled.

In fact, it’s not a stretch to say that the format battle could be won or lost on Starbucks’ endorsement alone.

Don’t believe me? Consider Home RF.

If you haven’t heard of it, I’m not surprised. It was the competing standard to Wi-Fi, but got crushed after Starbucks’ aggressively adopted Wi-Fi in its stores back in 2002.

With wireless charging, Starbucks’ Chief Digital Officer, Adam Brotman, says, “[The Powermat technology] was our first and best guess in terms of the right format. It’s a great testing partnership, and it could get much bigger than this, but we’re going to wait and see how the tests go.”

Alongside the Starbucks venture, another company is also embracing the Powermat format. And its reach could be even greater than Starbucks…

A Seat at the Countertop

In June, the Power Matters Alliance announced a partnership with Dupont (DD) to integrate wireless charging into its Corian brand countertop material.

With this move, Powermat has a shot at entering homes, hotels, restaurants, conference rooms, hospitals and research labs.

Imagine a kitchen counter that charges your gadgets. Or a conference room table that powers your laptop during meetings.

But stationary surfaces aren’t the only place for Powermat technology…

All Aboard!

General Motors (GM) plans to offer Powermat charging pads inside some 2014 Chevy Volt models.

And Toyota (TM) has already integrated Qi wireless charging into its 2013 Avalon model.

It’s not just car manufacturers getting in on the act, either.

In South Korea, an experimental electric bus charges itself using embedded sensors in the roads. The sensors only turn on when an electric bus passes over them, thereby limiting interference to other cars and emergency vehicles. And because of this on-the-go wireless charging, the batteries only need to be one-third the size of a standard electric car, since they don’t have to hold as much of a charge.

If implemented in the United States, this technology could prove a real boon for the electric car market. Anxiety over battery life would diminish and batteries could be made smaller and cheaper. Just get in your car and go. No plugging in necessary.

Ultimately, wireless charging technology is progressing and promises to become a far better, more efficient way to charge our ever-growing number of mobile devices – and the ever-growing amount of time we spend on them.

Ahead of the tape,

Elizabeth Carney