UITS to install wireless phone charging stations:

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A Duracell Powermat in action, one of the university’s options for wireless charging on campus. Photo credit: Julia Roy via flickr.com
A Duracell Powermat in action, one of the university’s options for wireless charging on campus. Photo credit: Julia Roy via flickr.com

Library discussed as trial location

Staff Writer

Going home to charge a dead cellphone may soon be a thing of the past at IU South Bend.

Director of University Information Technology Services (UITS) Paul Sharpe said the university would go ahead with plans to install wireless cellphone chargers on campus in the near future.

The Student Government Association (SGA) requested an investigation of the new technology, which charges a cellphone without plugging it in. Although a decision has not yet been made as to how to achieve this, at a recent SGA meeting, Sharpe presented the university’s options.

“There are three major companies that provide for wireless charging. I have one example here,” he said, holding up a small, cellphone-shaped charging device during the meeting. “The other two are similar, although not identical.”

What Sharpe held in his hand was a Powermat plate, marketed by Duracell, the least expensive of the options, which he said could be implemented within weeks of receiving the devices.

“There’s a plate — that’s the most common way to do it,” he said. “The plate is placed on a table. It’s connected to a power [supply]. Then, in the case of this particular company, you take your phone, and then you get a ring, plug the ring into your phone. Then place your phone on the charging pad. That’s really all it requires.”

The ring is small and plastic on the outside with a magnet inside. It plugs into your phone through the charger port. Sharpe imagined students could check these rings out from the library circulation desk, he said, if the university chose this option.

“There’s an inductive charge that takes place between the plate and the ring,” he said. “That, in turn, charges the phone. It’s slow. It’s steady. It’s very safe. It’s relatively inexpensive.”

The plate and ring option, Sharpe said, would be most feasible in the short term because of its low cost and ease of installation. It is already being used commercially in some cafes.

“Commercial locations that are using this system right now – the big one is Starbucks – started on the West Coast, and they’re working their way into the Midwest. It might take them a while to get here, but it will get here,” he said.

A proximity charger, one that charges a phone within a certain distance of the device even in your pocket, is the least likely option for the university, Sharpe said. That option, he thinks, will become more feasible in the future.

“As time goes on, these standards will change,” Sharpe said to the SGA. “The big deal right now is that Apple has not declared a wireless charging system yet. Clearly, they’re the gorillas in the corner. My guess is they’re waiting for the proximity system to become more mature. They’ll put that in their phone. That’s more along the lines of something they would do. We don’t want to wait that long. We want to get something going right away.”

The reaction from the SGA was favorable, though some questioned the presumed location, the Shurz Library, and offered alternatives.

“I really like the idea of charging stations,” Vice President Amanda Bowser said. “I’ve been to IUPUI a few times, and I see that they’re always busy there. A location here like the Grille or the [Education and Arts Building] would have a lot of interaction, I feel.”

Senior education major Shayla Hampton said, though she appreciates the novelty, she and many classmates would not need wireless charging stations, as they bring their phone chargers to school with them.

“I see why they would want to do that, but it’s not a necessity,” she said of the new chargers. “I bring my charger everywhere I go. It’s always on me. I think a lot of people do.”

Like many students, Hampton is on campus fulltime, going home only in the evening after arriving on campus early in the morning. Though the charging stations may not appeal to students like Hampton who plan ahead, with one forgetful morning, they could become a godsend.

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