How many times have you run out of battery power on your cellphone? Probably too many to count. How many times have you found a place to charge your phone in public when the battery was dead? You could probably count those times on one hand.
Almost as common as the mobile phone itself are the times those phones have been rendered useless because there is no place to recharge them.
This is what happened to Sean Carrigan, cofounder and CEO of New Orleans startup MobileQubes, spurring him into a market niche of untethered mobile charging power that customers can access from a network of self-service kiosks.
MobileQubes was one of dozens of featured guests at the Customer Engagement World Expo 2014, where the company showcased a mobile charging kiosk that, instead of plugging in, dispenses a piece of power for mobile devices on the go.
Carrigan's story is one of many: He was once in a restaurant and realized his phone was about to die. The restaurant employees wouldn't charge phones for customers at their venue, so he thought, "Wouldn't it be great if I could pay a few dollars and charge my phone and be able to use it?" Carrigan realized there were no adequate solutions for what he wanted.
After working with Dow Jones for a few years, Carrigan's "a-ha" moment came at the right time. He gathered a team with a base of knowledge ranging from technical to wireless expertise, including MobileQubes cofounder and chief technology officer Jason Palmer, who brings experience in biological engineering and automated medical diagnostic systems and cofounder and chief operating officer Mike Melito, an entrepreneur with 14 years experience in the mobile technology and wireless industries.
The team built a company to address the need for portable mobile power, and the end solution came in the form of an automated self-service kiosk that dispenses a cordless battery pack with the swipe of a card.
Sean Carrigan told Kiosk Marketplace how it works:
Kiosk Marketplace: What is a MobileQube?
Carrigan: MobileQubes are portable, cordless battery packs that plug into a cellphone for charging on the go. Battery power is a big issue for smartphones. A MobileQube kiosk allows customers to rent a Qube at any of our kiosks, and plug it into their phone or tablet to charge. It's designed so that customers can keep using their device on the move while it's charging; no cords attached.
Kiosk Marketplace: How do MobileQubes kiosks work?
Carrigan: At the kiosk customers can rent, purchase or recharge the Qubes. All they have to do is walk up to the kiosk and make a selection on the touchscreen to begin. The screen will ask if the customer has an iPhone, and that decides what type of battery pack to dispense. From there the screen goes to a micro USB screen. Most phones are charged via a micro USB cord, and there are only three types of battery packs in the kiosks, so it can charge most any phone.
Once customers decide to rent or buy a charger, they can click to checkout, swipe a credit card, and the battery pack is dispensed. They can plug it into their phone, and the Qubes are rechargeable on their own.
For the return process, click "Return" on the home screen and insert the Qube into one of the ports on top of the kiosk. The kiosk receives it, puts it back into inventory and charges it inside the machine. Once it accepts the depleted battery and recharges it, it's ready for another customer. Customers also can return it to the kiosk they took it from or another kiosk location.
Kiosk Marketplace: What kiosk design did MobileQubes decide works best for its products?
The kiosks are made of aluminum, CNC-ed plastic and molded plastic with a sleek design intended to engage and attract customer attention. Each contains a 19-inch touchscreen and is about 70-inches tall and 30-inches deep at the base.
We also have a MobileQubes Lite version, a smaller version for bars and restaurants and places with limited space.
The battery packs are designed to be lightweight and made from lithium-ion polymer.
Kiosk Marketplace: What are some end-user benefits to MobileQubes?
Carrigan: The Qubes hold about 3,000 milliamp hours. The kiosks contain about 200 battery packs and are built as a modular system. The batteries have a minimum of 500 charging cycles, and we can monitor remotely how many times it has been rented. Then we figure out the best time to pull it, so we can replace it with a new one. It's also cost effective. It's $4.99 for the first day, $0.99 cents for each day after, up to seven days, and $39.99 to purchase.
Kiosk Marketplace: Where will MobileQubes kiosks operate?
Carrigan: Starting out we'll have MobileQubes in the New Orleans airport, at the Hyatt Regency in New Orleans and area bistros and bars, as well as Tulane University, Ochsner Health Systems, and a local convention center and casino. We hope to scale into the market nationally in 2015.
/ Nicole’s work has appeared in business, education, technical, and travel publications. She is currently the editor of QSRweb.com and PizzaMarketplace.com.