If you’re like most people, your smartphone and laptop are probably always running on empty. And you’re probably always wandering around looking for a charge or, lacking the proper cables, hoping to find someone who can lend them to you.
In an attempt to remedy these problems, two Montreal-based entrepreneurs, Rob Gold and Shaun Teblum, launched a Kickstarter campaign on Tuesday for a product they call SmrtFob. The modular device–essentially a battery pack that recharges wirelessly–fits on a key ring and has all the necessary ports that enable charging of a multitude of devices, including Android and iOS phones.
“Our vision as a company is to seamlessly charge all of your technology,” Gold says.
While the SmrtFob itself doesn’t act as a wireless charger for other devices, it can be wirelessly charged itself — a feature that its creators say makes it more functional than similar products on the market. Part of the problem with portable power packs is that people forget to charge them, or simply leave them behind. Because this device is meant to hook onto a keyring, its founders envision users simply dropping their keys on the dedicated SmrtFob charging pad as they enter and leave the house. The SmrtFob has two internal antennae, which lets it charge when either of its two main surfaces are in contact with the plate.
For forgetful types, the device has–of course–an app that also sends you a message reminding you to charge it, or notifying you that you’ve forgotten it. It can also help you locate your keys, and the charger has additional plug-in modules that turn it into a mini Bluetooth speaker, or an external storage drive.
The base price is $59, in line with many mainstream chargers. The wireless charging surface is an additional $49.
Gold and Teblum, who launched a similar campaign on Kickstarter in 2014 for a miniature power pack shaped like a key, raised $77,000 at the time for the product, which they called bKey, also the name of their current startup. Their previous device sold at Brookstone and Touch of Modern, Teblum says. They’re hoping to raise more than $100,000 on Kickstarter for the SmrtFob.
To date, Gold and Teblum have raised $80,000 from angel investors, including Mark Pascal, whose family owns high performance winter sporting gear company Kombi, of Montreal.
As device makers seek to please on-the-go consumers, the market for technology that incorporates wireless charging is expected to expand. Ninety-eight percent of those who have tried wireless charging say they would like it built into their future devices, according to a recent report by market research and analytics company IHS Markit.
“Technology is always best received by consumers when it’s integrated–and they expect it to be integrated,” says David Green, an analyst with IHS. Samsung began including wireless charging capabilities in its Galaxy S6 phones in 2015. Apple is rumored to be working on it for subsequent releases of its iPhones.
The SmrtFob device is perhaps an interim step until wireless charging becomes the norm for most devices, Green says.