The hassle of having to fumble around for a charging cord, find a wall outlet, plug in your device and find somewhere to put it — often on the floor — while the battery charges could become a thing of the past: IKEA, one of the world's most popular furniture sellers, announced in March that it will begin selling furniture with built-in wireless charging for smartphones and tablets, which could become a game-changer for mobile device users.
"Through research and home visits, we know that people hate cable mess. They worry about not finding the charger and running out of power. Our new innovative solutions, which integrate wireless charging into home furnishings, will make life at home simpler," said Jeanette Skjelmose, IKEA's Business Area Manager [for] Lighting and Wireless Charging, in a statement.
The Swedish furniture giant's new wireless charging line, called Home Smart, will be integrated into furniture such as tables, nightstands, lamp bases and desks, which will plug into wall outlets, and will use Qi, the leading wireless charging technology. The company says that the new line of furniture will become available in the U.S. and Europe in April, with a global roll-out coming later. In addition to furniture with integrated charging, the company will also offer wireless charging pads that look similar to large coasters, that can be plugged in and placed on any flat surface, and can charge several devices at once. They'll also sell charging areas that can be fitted into existing IKEA furniture. In addition, IKEA says every product in the line will also come with a USB outlet for charging other devices.
Ikea's announcement is refreshing news for many consumers suffering from the dreaded battery anxiety. "Go to any airport in America and you will see clusters of people on the floor, gathered around an outlet, while chairs and stools stand empty," says Ari Zoldan, a business and tech analyst and CEO of Quantum Networks. "The number one consequence of our reliance on 'smart' devices is our inevitable reliance on charging these products."
Ikea's announcement emphasized their choice of Qi wireless technology for the new furniture, which is an open standard created by the Wireless Power Consortium, a large group made up of companies, including Verizon Wireless, who have come together to adopt this universal charging standard in an effort to move wireless charging technology forward. Qi technology is currently already integrated into over 80 phone models, and IKEA will also sell wireless charging covers for some popular phones that aren't yet Qi-integrated, including the iPhone 4, 5/5S, and 6, and the Samsung Galaxy S3, S4 and S5.
Zoldan sees Ikea's move as a potentially big one, particularly for younger consumers. "Because Ikea is cost-effective, a large part of its customer base is young adults looking for their first furniture. These adults will be ecstatic to be able to charge their phone, tablet, and laptops all while never leaving the couch," he says.
But Zoldan sees an even bigger future for this technology outside of the home. "If Ikea is smart, they will expand to a bigger market, he says. "Airports, hospital and doctors’ waiting rooms and college campuses all have people using electronic devices in extremely high numbers. If [IKEA] can create wireless charging furniture for these types of places, they can create an entirely new client base with an extremely high earning potential," he points out.
"If Ikea plays their cards right, they could supply the public furniture of the future."