Powermat pilot program plugged into library

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Photo Credit/Christina Clark
Photo Credit/Christina Clark

Staff Writer

Phone battery dead? Don’t panic.

As of Dec.18, 2015, IU South Bend joined California State University, San Bernadino and Florida State University in having charging spots installed on its campus.

Other Indiana University campuses are expected to follow.

Thirty-six coaster-sized black discs were installed into the computer stations on the first floor of the Franklin D. Schurz Library in the Media Commons and Info Commons areas to help keep students and faculty members’ phones from hitting the dreaded zero-percent battery without having to carry their own charger.

“The SGA (Student Government Association) and Chancellor Terry Allison both asked for the technology,” said Paul Sharpe, executive director of the University Information Technology Services (UITS). “We canvassed the market [for wireless chargers], found and chose Powermat as a provider and wrote it up as a pilot program for the university.”

The installation of the Powermats required two days over the holiday break, and involved electricians from the faculty, members of the microcomputing and networking programs as well as two representatives from Powermat Technologies. The University Architect’s Office, a facilities group and a secondary group in Bloomington also contributed to getting the Powermats approved and installed.

Using the Powermat to charge a phone is not as simple as laying it on the circle, however. First, users will need a smartphone capable of downloading Powermat’s app (available for both Android and iPhone). The app features access to the charging pads as well as low-battery alerts. Users may check out a charging ring appropriate for their device in the library.

“There are three Ring adaptors: a 30-pin for older Apple phones; Apple Lightning for the iPhone 5 and newer; and a mUSB charger for all other types,” said Sharpe.

“Any mobile phone can be charged via the Powermat ring adaptors,” said Carlo Chiarello, chief product officer at Powermat Technologies.

“Some smartphones like the Galaxy S6 and Note 5 are embedded with wireless charging capabilities and do not require use of the ring. Over time we will see the number of smartphones having wireless charging built-in increasing.”

The technology also works for iPads and Android tablets.

“E-learning has become part of every student’s lifestyle with course materials, assignments and videos hosted online and accessible via mobile,” said Chiarello. “So, students need to stay connected and learning all day long. We think access to power right at the study tables is a great benefit to students. They no longer have to carry around charging cables and search for the nearest outlet.”

Students are catching on, though one library staff member speculated at least one incident of the Powermat circle being used as a coaster—presumably by accident.

“I have noticed them, but haven’t personally used them yet. My phone is an Android phone, and I’ll likely give it a shot,” said SGA Senator Stephen Salisbury, though he noted that he doesn’t generally lose too much power from use on campus.

Senior psychology major Anna Leniski is behind the idea.

“I think the charging pads are a great addition to the media commons in the library,” Leniski said. “There have been times where I’ve ended up in the library working on assignments for way longer than I had planned without my phone charger. So having these is definitely super-convenient.”

Depending on their reception, Powermat stations could expand into additional areas of campus.

“This is a pilot. Let’s see how everyone likes it and, if it’s successful, we’ll talk about scaling it up, possibly in other locations on campus,” said Sharpe during the SGA’s Jan. 15 meeting.

Powermat Ring adaptors may be purchased at the campus bookstore for $12.00 for those who would like to avoid checking one out regularly. More information on Powermat can be found at http://www.powermat.com/iu.

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