How a London club enhanced its facilities with wireless charging

London business venue and members’ club The Clubhouse has added wireless charging technology from local startup Chargifi to its list of client services as it seeks to make itself a more attractive destination for entrepreneurs, startups, mobile workers and other people who lack access to, or prefer not to use, a traditional office.

The Clubhouse was founded in 2012 by property entrepreneur Adam Blaskey, who had become frustrated at having to meet important clients in uninspiring locations. Since then, Blaskey has launched the Clubhouse at two central London locations, most recently on St James’ Square.

The venue concept is pitched at a perceived gap in the market between serviced offices and hotel lobbies and coffee shops, providing a combination business lounge, co-working and hot-desking, and meeting room space, with extras such as refreshments and Wi-Fi.

“We are always looking to improve our offering,” Blaskey told Computer Weekly. “Our members are best described as digital nomads, they are very mobile and they often run out of power on their devices.”

Meanwhile, three-and-a-half-year-old Chargifi was also born out of a sense of frustration. Having taken some time out to go travelling with his partner, co-founder Dan Bladen found he was increasingly making decisions on where to go, where to stay and where to eat based on the availability of power sockets to recharge his devices.

Bladen then hit on the idea of using in-situ wireless networks to deliver power to devices without the need for plugs and sockets.

By fixing a small and unobtrusive resonant transmitter unit to the underside of a desk or table and connecting it to the ambient Wi-Fi network to draw power, Chargifi is able to turn the table into a wireless charging zone.

For now, device owners who want to use the service must use a small dongle containing a resonant receiver that connects to a device’s micro USB or Lightning port – much in the same way as Wi-Fi itself was delivered to laptop PCs around the turn of the century.

With the advent of mobile chipsets that include baked in receiving technology this will eventually change, but for now, Bladen said, the priority was to get the technology out into the field, and when the new advanced chipsets become mainstream, he hopes to capitalise on them to drive customer upgrades.

The firm also supplies a software package that maintains and tracks the health of the transmitter hardware, and provides additional data on how the service is being used, such as for how long devices were charging, and in which locations. This also has benefits for Chargifi, noted Bladen.

“We can update firmware and issue upgrades over the Wi-Fi, and analyse the charging spots so if we find an error our system can try to programmatically fix it,” he said.

User-friendly update

To begin with, the Clubhouse had Chargifi installed in its meeting and board rooms, and at a number of its hot desks. In the first few weeks of use, it has registered around 500 charging sessions.

The most immediately noticeable change for the Clubhouse has been an aesthetic one: the venue used to offer members the use of standard mobile phone chargers that could be plugged into a wall socket, but people had complained the sockets were often badly located, and let unsightly charging cables on the floor that could present a trip hazard.

“Chargifi is a more user-friendly and more adult way of charging up devices,” said Blaskey, for who having a smart, tidy and good-looking place to meet was an important part of why he set up the business to start with.

“We have shown off Chargifi to investors and clients, and all were impressed with how seamlessly it fit into the environment,” he added.

Future features of Chargifi

An added benefit from using the technology came in the form of deeper knowledge and understanding of how Clubhouse members were using the facilities, and not just the charging zones.

“We really compete on providing the best possible service,” he said, “so we wanted to look at how the space was being used and understand what people were actually doing, and other services they might need.”

The Clubhouse is also looking to take advantage of new features that Bladen’s team is working on embedding into the Chargifi product that will enhance the analytical aspect of the service.

This includes an application programming interface (API) to enable clients to integrate Chargifi into their own mobile apps.

This would enable them to present the service with their own brand wrapping, and the ability to use the service to message users and provide them with hyper-contextual information, such as the location of restroom or coffee-making facilities, based on their location.

“This resonates with what we want to do with the Clubhouse,” said Blaskey.