What You Can Power, You Can Track
Remember that as well as sending power, near-field wireless charging systems can send and receive data. Don’t think of it as a replacement for Wi-Fi, because the bandwidth is far lower; but there are still plenty of useful things you can do with just a little data going back and forth. When each device you’re charging has an ID, you can use the charging points to find out if you left your phone in the kitchen to charge.
That could be useful at the mall too. There are smartphone apps like Aisle 411 that tell you the nearest store that stocks the item you want and gives you a map to show you which aisle it will be on. If the packaging had a printed wireless power antenna stuck on the bottom and an electroluminescent label on the front, it could light up when you got close to the shelf to help you find it.
That would also come in handy for battery-powered toys and other devices with a ‘try me’ button on the front; the batteries wouldn’t go flat while they’re sitting on the shelf. Taking inventory will be faster, since the shelves can tell you what products have been removed. It can even translate back to the kitchen again; the cupboards can send you a list of what you have in the kitchen, or even tell you which jars are almost empty.
Food close to its expiration date could flash a yellow or red label to make it faster for store workers to find them. Dishes that would trigger your allergies (or that fit the diet plan you’re following) could flash to get your attention, as could products with special offers – although that could quickly turn from useful to irritating.