Building automation is a rising trend in today’s real estate marketplace. The automation of workplace functions allows a Facilities team to increase efficiency and track the use patterns of a space, as well as enables users to schedule events. These “smart building” systems use common communication protocols to talk to each other and share information with a central “brain.” A smart platform also allows integration with other building systems and the company’s IT infrastructure itself. Here, we’ll dive into what building automation really looks like, how it works and how your workplace can apply this technology to its best advantage.

AUTOMATION: HOW SMART IS SMART?

When people talk about a “smart building” what they’re referring to is the autonomous control of a facility—both distributed control and the building’s automation systems. Distributed control systems include things like monitors, mechanical functions, security, fire, lighting, HVAC and ventilation systems, either within a single building or across a campus. Building Automation System (BAS) functions are all about keeping an eye on things—maintaining climate within a specified range, lighting rooms based on occupancy schedules, monitoring performance and device failures and provide malfunction alarms accordingly.

It’s not hard to see how such automation systems reduce building energy and maintenance costs through pre-emptive maintenance and the quick detection of tech issues. In fact, smart energy management practices can often pay for themselves in a short period of time—and help companies tell a powerful sustainability story for customers, partners and employees alike.

QUICK FACTS

 

According to the Department of Energy, businesses consume 70% of the electricity load in the U.S. and waste 30% of the energy used per year.

 

 

 

By 2020, 19.5% of all buildings in the US will be automated, with 50 million connected devices.

 

 

 

Focusing on HVAC, lighting, and some types of electrical loads, mid-sized buildings implementing a proactive energy management program can expect savings from 10% to 25%.

TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS

Here are just a few ways in which automation can help today’s workplaces do what they do…better.

 SMART BUILDING ENERGY MANAGEMENT:

Within a business environment, some controls can and should be in the hands of the people who work there (individual level control), while others automatically kick in based on whether people are actually in the space or not (occupancy level control).

For example, with individual level control, an employee can engage the HVAC system in a conference room using an interface on their IP phone, if they happen to be working after office hours or on a holiday. At the Occupancy Level, unused equipment or appliances will power on and off automatically, without any needed user intervention—like automated blinds that adjust according to heat and light, or lighting that turns on according to movement within a space.

In either case, tracking real-time energy utilization for any building from a central location can help a Facilities team determine energy consumption patterns, design spaces more efficiently, and identify areas of improvement across departments. Better awareness of energy consumption levels and their sources can also enable companies to negotiate power contracts and better verify the billing info provided by those utility companies.

To learn about Byrne’s workplace energy management system, visit their Circuitrac website here. 

ROOM RESERVATION:

Think of it as air traffic control for a company’s busy meeting areas. Employees can use a scheduling app on their phone to book a room. And even without an app, room sensors tied to the workspace reservation system can note movement and change the occupancy status within the system—effectively reserving the room to prevent employees from double booking. These same sensors can also tie into digital room signage and displays to indicate whether a room is available, reserved or occupied.

SPACE UTILIZATION:

Work space is expensive, so employers want to maximize its use wherever they can. In building automation, sensors record the use of a room, eliminating the need for employees to register that information themselves. Then space utilization reports can track when certain environments are being used, to help organizations make decisions about how to best allocate square footage—they can even help inform the creation of smarter workplace design layouts based on usage.

SO, HOW DOES IT ALL WORK?

In order for your building automation system to operate, you need five things:

 

 

SENSORS

The eyes of the building

 

Sensors measure information such as CO2 output, temperature, humidity, daylight or room occupancy and come in several types.

 MOTION SENSORS

These use passive infrared technology to detect heat and movement and are usually mounted to the ceiling or an area where the sensor has full range of vision within the room. Motion sensors deliver a 90-95% accuracy rate—accuracy may be reduced when people sit for long periods of time. While these sensors can detect if a person is utilizing a space, they can’t specify how many.

DESK SENSORS

These sensors utilize the same passive infrared technology as their motion-based partners and are designed to detect the presence of a person in a particular spot—desk, conference table, etc. As with the motion sensors, desk sensors may inaccurately capture data when people sit too long, which is why they tend to be more useful in gathering simple vacancy data.

VOLUME COUNT SENSORS

Unlike the sensors mentioned above, these are ideal for capturing the number of individuals entering and exiting a room. Mounted above the room’s doorways, companies can precisely track occupancy and analyze usage versus capacity. This data also helps improve office design by identifying where people are congregating and by providing data to adjust and improve wasted space.

 

SMART HUB (Controller):

The boss of the operation

 

The brains of your BAS (Business Automation System), these digital controllers receive input data, apply logic to that information (think algorithm, like Google does with their search data), then send out a command to other devices to adjust accordingly, based on the info gathered.

 

 

COMMUNICATION PROTOCOL

The channel your devices talk to each other on

 

The most commonly used communication channel, ZigBee radio communication protocol, is an openly available global communication standard that addresses the unique needs of low-power, low-cost wireless M2M (Machine-to-Machine) and IoT (Internet of Things) networks. In technical terms, it operates on an IEEE 802.15.4 physical radio specification and even on unlicensed frequency bands including 2.4 GHz, 900 MHz and 868 MHz. Zigbee offers a wireless range of 70m indoors/400m outdoors and uses military-grade AES 128 encryption for an exceptionally high level of information protection.

 

OUTPUT DEVICE

The IOT that controls your device

 

Once the controllers have gathered the data and determined what course of action your system should take, those commands are carried out by the system’s output devices. When the controller sends out a command, actuators and relays (the typical output devices) go into action—reducing or increasing the heat in a particular part of the building for example or dimming lights in unused areas.

 

DASHBOARD

How you view your data

 

Simply speaking, these are the screens or interfaces that work as a translator between a BAS system and the humans who operate it. This is where building data is reported (historical, consumable, run times, and system activity information) and can be used as a record of building operations. It also allows immediate diagnosis of a system without needing to be physically in front of the unit.

 

SMART JUST MAKES SENSE

Intelligent BMS systems integrate disparate BMS devices/networks onto a common network (IP) to enable unified automation and management, even though they may be manufactured by different vendors. In the future, we may even get to a single dashboard that can manage all BMS and Network/IT systems. Running a building should be a data-driven process. Analytics platforms like SkySpark, CopperTree, and others can pull in data from existing equipment and produce useful insights for facility managers to help make better operational decisions. Then the next logical step is to utilize that vast amount of operating data currently sitting unused by existing building control systems and turn it into actionable insights—so building operators can be free to focus on fixing problems, not out there searching to find them.

With today’s automated technologies, businesses are not simply in control of the function, safety and comfort of their buildings, they can operate those systems from a smarter position. One that not only increases employee satisfaction and informs better space allocation, but one that is sure to generate significant energy savings for years to come.

 

More than ever, people want to work where and how they work best. Thanks to the evolution of technology, that means taking advantage of outdoor spaces as well—but of course, powering up al fresco comes with its own challenges. The need for reliable outdoor power is not only increasing in the workplace, but in hospitality and residential spaces too. Here, we’ll cover the rising demand for integrated power in outdoor spaces, regulatory issues surrounding these solutions, options for powering and their pros and cons.

THE OUTDOOR CULTURE SHIFT

CORPORATE SPACES 

From impromptu meetings to other informal interactions, many of today’s companies are leveraging a variety of workspace options to attract and retain employees. For most workers, productivity, engagement and overall satisfaction go up in a flexible work environment. Employees also tend to gravitate to casual spaces where food and drinks can be enjoyed. These spaces hold mobility at a premium—with laptops, tablets, and smartphones everywhere—and with mobile tech comes the demand for charging power.

For many employers, the demand for alternative workspaces has naturally led to outdoor work-friendly areas, with the ultimate goal being able to work as effectively outside as you would indoors. When polled, 86% of indoor workers say they’d like to spend more time outside during the workday and 82% welcome the concept of a dedicated outdoor workspace. Large companies like Apple and Facebook have understood the impact of this trend on employee loyalty, productivity, and recruitment for some time. In fact, their outdoor spaces have been carefully planned and designed around this movement.

HOSPITALITY

The hospitality industry has also been increasing their efforts to expand and furnish outdoor spaces with comfortable seating, shading, and dependable charging options. Restaurant patrons are always looking for ways to charge their devices while visiting an establishment, and hotel guests have come to expect the same amenities in exterior spaces. Of course, movable tables and chairs are also an important way hotels and restaurants can support these environments.

While adding charging products to outdoor spaces does pose upfront costs, hotels are poised to see a healthy return on investment as guests tend to linger outside with increased food and drink purchases. According to Trip Info, “They’re staying longer at the pool, they’re eating more, they’re drinking more, so it’s actually turning into a good source of revenue for property owners.”

MULTI-FAMILY LIVING

Apartment complexes are creating communal areas and co-working spaces for those who work remotely or from home. Outdoor spaces such as pool areas, rooftop decks and community centers are being equipped with WI-FI and easier access to outlets. Apartment buildings with shared outdoor spaces mean greater curb appeal and a more desirable living experience for potential renters—generating increased competition when compared to other complexes.

And when it comes to cost savings, traditional pronged-outlet energy use in communal living environments—like college campuses—can be reduced by providing gathering spaces with shared outdoor power access.

THE CHALLENGES OF HEADING OUTSIDE

True outdoor power—with direct exposure to the elements—requires adherence to some pretty strict regulations. Some other outdoor locations, even those with a permanent overhead covering, need to be regulated as well. When it comes to regulating outdoor power, here are a few things you need to know:

OUTDOOR RECEPTACLES 

  • GFCI (ground-fault circuit-interrupter) protection is required for all outdoor receptacles. Specific exceptions may be made for snow-melting or deicing equipment. GFCI protection can include GFCI receptacles or GFCI circuit breakers.
  • Homes must have at least one outdoor receptable at the front and rear of the house. They must be readily accessible from the ground and positioned no more than 6-1/2 feet above grade (ground level). Homes with attached decks and balconies with interior access (including a door to the indoors) must also have a receptacle no more than 6-1/2 feet above the deck or balcony walking surface. As a general recommendation, houses also should have a receptacle at each side of a deck or balcony, accessible from the ground. 
  • Receptacles in damp locations (under protective covers, such as a porch roof) must be weather-resistant and have a weatherproof (sometimes called weather-tight) cover
  • Receptacles in wet locations (exposed to weather) must be weather-resistant and have a weatherproof “in-use” cover. This cover provides sealed weather protection even when cords are plugged into the receptacle.

OUTDOOR WIRING

The primary safety concerns with outdoor wiring are shielding against moisture and corrosion, preventing physical damage, such as run-ins with shovels, lawnmowers, and managing issues related to underground burial that could cause a bad short circuit. Outdoor wiring projects are generally classified into two categories: functional and decorative. Functional brings lighting to common areas such as stairs, gates, and walkways. Decorative adds design to exterior space such as highlighting trees and shrubs with lighting.

  • Exposed or buried wiring/cable must be listed for its application. Type UF cableis the most commonly used nonmetallic cable for residential outdoor wiring runs. UF cable can be direct-buried (without conduit) with a minimum of 24 inches of cover. 
  • Wiring buried inside rigid metal (RMC) or intermediate metal (IMC) conduit must have at least 6 inches of earth cover; wiring in PVC conduit must have at least 18 inches of cover. 
  • Backfill surrounding conduit or cables must be smooth granular material without rocks. 
  • Low-voltage (no more than 30 volts) wiring must be buried at least 6 inches deep. 
  • Buried wiring runs that transition from underground to above ground must be protected in conduit from the required cover depth or 18 inches (whichever is less) to its termination point above ground, or at least 8 feet above grade. 

For more details on outdoor wiring, check out this article

TEMPORARY OUTDOOR POWER

Short term uses that require power for hard to reach locations or spaces without electrical power may use temporary outdoor power units. Temporary power units are economical, portable single-phase power distributors.

Temporary outdoor power is often used due to it being a safe and convenient method to provide power to things such as portable power tools and temporary lighting systems.

To see how Byrne is able to use temporary power options in your outdoor space, visit the Vesta website here.

WATERPROOF POWER OPTIONS

When it comes to waterproofing your power devices, you have a couple options.

Waterproof USB’s are becoming a trend in the industry because it allows users to take their devices where ever they go. Creating a waterproof USB eliminates the environmental sensitivity aspect in powering up. USB Type-C’s are protected with rubber seal connectors which keep water out, so liquid is unable to provide an electrical path between hot, neutral and ground terminals. These connectors are rated for IPX6 water-ingression performance, meaning they are tested in continuous water immersion over 1 meter, allowing durability for the long haul.

Another option is to waterproof your circuit board. Rather than protecting the USB connector from water, the printed circuit board attached to the connector can be waterproofed. Doing this eliminates the chance of water damage to the electronics. This process is done by using a waterproof coating seal on the printed circuit board and all the components on the circuit board so water can’t get in and damage the product. However, if left out in the rain repeatedly, the products will at some point being to corrode. So, it’s recommended to store your devices inside when not in use.

BATTERY POWER

There are many reasons why battery power makes sense for powering your outdoor spaces.

Powering your object with batteries allow for a cordless option. Giving you mobility to navigate and position your outdoor spaces anyway you choose, without being tied down by a cord. Rechargeable batteries also offer a wide power bandwidth, which means they can handle both small and large loads with ease. They’re also seriously low maintenance—basic service includes cleaning the corrosion buildup on the outside of terminals and occasional performance checks. And when your battery runs out, simply recharge with a standard battery charger. Battery chargers can power a number of battery types and operate in various ways such as through a wall outlet, USB port or car port.

SOLAR POWER

Solar power packs a great marketing message, delivering timely lessons about sustainability by harnessing readily available solar energy to solve a problem. Renewable, inexhaustible, non-polluting—solar power checks all the boxes.

And outdoor charging wins the affordability award too—costing much less, in most cases, than installed outdoor outlets. According to One Block Off the Grid, a leading online solar energy resource, adding solar panels to your home may bring in monthly savings well above $100 in many states. Extend this windfall across two decades—less than the length of a typical solar panel warranty—and this can translates to over $30,000 back in your pocket.

With so many ways to power the outdoors, it’s easier than ever to think outside the box—or office, or hotel room—and plug into what’s important.

In 2018, work spaces are entirely different than even 10 years ago. The days of “traditional” work spaces are quickly on dwindling, let alone the days of the “cubicle farm.” So what designs do matter for work spaces in 2018?

OPEN FLOOR PLANS

Open Floor Plans have been around for years, but we’re starting to see an increase in the use of this concept, moving from private offices and cubicles.

You read that right. Not only do these spaces not need “open door policies,” there aren’t even doors to close. Open floor plan offices encourage collaboration, shared work spaces, and everything that comes with them.

Designing work spaces has changed from a layout having just a few spaces within office buildings that are open concept to nearly the entire space as open floor plan. While the C-Suite may still have doors to close, the rest of the building likely will be sharing desks, outlets, and screens.

HOTELING AS A WORK SPACE

Working doesn’t have to be done at an assigned seat to be productive anymore. In fact, many people that come to the office take part in a trend called “Hoteling” or “Hot Desking”.

Hoteling doesn’t mean that you live at a hotel or even work in a hotel, instead it refers to using a scheduling system to reserve a desk for the day or a few hours. Hot Desking is similar, but deals with unassigned seating by a first come, first served basis.

Each of these concepts is moving us away from having an assigned or static desk and moving to an environment where you sit where you feel you’ll get your best work done. Heads down work could be in a space with more barriers and a quieter environment, collaboration could happen when your team decides to sit together for a day or two.

This surge in providing unassigned workspaces is already changing the face of many offices and can be seen in the rise of Co-Working Spaces.

STANDING WORKSPACES

Standing work desks are more than just a passing fad. Their sudden rise in popularity is linked to more than just health benefits. From a facility point of view this is saving valuable real estate or even allowing new workspaces to be deployed within an existing footprint.

Standing desks increase collaboration, focus, and productivity. You may have heard the phrase “sitting is the new smoking,” but you may not be familiar with all of the benefits of standing.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR YOU?

As new workers arrive in the office we need the workspaces to meet their needs not just for doing a task, but also meeting their social needs.  That means that our workspaces are changing and how we design them up makes a difference. The goal of a great workspace design is to provide the tools that someone will need, so that all they need to do is sit down, plug in and get to work.

With every day and the improvement technology tools at work, the way we work changes. And when the way we work changes, workspace design needs to change too. How is it affecting you? Let us know in the comments of this blog.

Welcome to the wonderful world of being able to work wherever you want. Well, almost.

Coworking spaces and Makerspaces have been on the rise since the integration of technology into the workplace. While both spaces are slightly different and used for different types of work, they both help usher in a new era of developing the freedom to work away from your specific office.

Whether to make working while traveling easier or to give remote workers a home base (other than their dining room table), both spaces are unique in that they foster a work community outside of a company’s four walls.

COWORKING SPACES AND WHY THEY’RE IMPORTANT TRENDS FOR DESIGNERS AND MARKETERS

In 2005-era San Francisco, Brad Neuberg realized he could create his own coworkers. By attending networking events and slowly gathering a group of like-minded individuals, Brad discovered that all it took was a shared space and passion for people to connect. They didn’t need to be employed by the same company, and in fact they learned much more from each other than from their companies. And with this idea, coworking spaces were invented.

This incredible trend has continued (and swept the world with it) for 13 years now.

Coworking spaces have completely changed the way employers view the 9 to 5 landscape. Gone are the days having to sit in front of a screen for 8 hours a day in an office (heaven forbid in a cubicle…). This new style of space has created a new culture around working.

Designers focused on developing and improving coworking spaces can’t ignore the high level of technology integration. The ability to connect PC or Mac to any outlet and any other gadget is critical.

The importance of coworking spaces is just that – they allow collaboration and they work. It’s the seamless integrations that often make the space. Add in a banging modern facade and you have the total package in a coworking space.

MAKERSPACES AND WHY THEY’RE IMPORTANT FOR DESIGNERS AND MARKETERS

Makerspaces are directly engineered for prototypers. In fact, they might even be better known by their nickname: hackerspaces.

These spaces are an entirely new realm outside of coworking spaces. They’re developed in an effort to foster a community that likes to build, invent, create, and learn. Rather than creating a networking space that encourages like-minded computer dwellers to collaborate, Makerspaces encourage the handcrafted to gather together.

Typically outfitted with technology such as 3D printers, models, software, and other electronics that enhance crafting, Makerspaces are still a rare find. And their rarity makes them that much more marketable.

It’s ever-important for designers to keep in mind that while Makerspaces are still in their infancy, they will only explode from here. Discovering the right technology to integrate, layouts to develop, and freedom to collaborate through open floor plans are imperative.

In a world where people can work from home, why sacrifice the convenience and comfort in an office space?

Design and coworking spaces are constantly changing. And while it seems hard to keep up initially, understanding how wireless power is completely changing the way we designspaces is a big first step.

WIRELESS POWER IN WORK SPACES

Just a couple of decades ago, the workplace was designed around the significant technology explosion of USB and other cables. So many new technologies needed to be connected – to sync, to charge, and to function at all.

This required several changes to workplace design. In an effort to accommodate the cables and cords that were so prevalent in workspaces, furniture made a shift. Desktops and bench style tables were designed to include troughs or other under-surface cable organizers. Raised floors were invented in an effort to manage cables, cords, connections, and power charging without cluttering desks, conference rooms, and other shared spaces.

Even with these new design styles, designing new methods for cable management were the beginning of countless startups, technology branches, and other new designs. But as we’ve learned in Business School, leadership books, and TED Talks alike, incremental change isn’t the way to a blue ocean strategy.

Fast forward to the mid-2010s and we’ve seen massive changes in how the workspace is designed.

With the emergence of Bluetooth and wireless power, cables no longer need to be managed but rather sought.

Gone are the days of needing to charge your phone in your car during your lunch breaks. Office spaces, restaurants, and hospitality spaces are all finding the great value in wireless power within their walls.

 

WIRELESS POWER BENEFITS FOR DESIGNERS AND MARKETERS

Wireless power encourages smartphone owners to find the nearest pad, case, or any other home for inductive coupling. Rather than being chained to a wall by a 3ft cable, users can set down their phones on a surface that will charge their phones. Some of the biggest benefits include:

 

Reducing the need to use a car charger rather than plug in at work,

in airports, or at a coffee shop with wireless power

 

Eliminating the need to buy phone chargers by the dozen

 

 

These benefits alone can influence a decision on where to stay for vacation, where to work, what airport to use, and what brand of charger to swear by. As designers, it’s critical to maintain spaces that complement those who work within it. And as marketers, it’s just as critical to understand pain points that led to these design shifts.

While designing with these new technologies may force costs to be incurred sooner rather than later, they are quickly becoming the expectation for the base norm.

The Universal Serial Bus (USB) has quickly become an expected technology included in any new tech hardware. From smartphone chargers to flash drives and printer to computer connections. But what is the difference between the two most common USB versions, USB 2.0, USB 3.0 and USB 4.0?

5 KEY DIFFERENCES BETWEEN USB 2.0, USB 3.0 AND BEYOND

USB 2.0 was released in 2000 whereas USB 3.0 was released in 2008. In those 8 years, 5 major innovations improved the usage of USB 3.0. Coming in 2019, USB 4.0 will be released to address higher data transfer rates.

 

 

 

Transfer Rates (Speed)

 

USB 2.0 has a transfer rate of 480 Megabits per second (Mbps). Its counterpart USB 3.0 has a transfer rate of 10x that, offering a transfer rate of 5 Gigabits per second (Gbps). More recently, USB 3.2 offers a transfer rate of 20 Gbps and in 2019, we can expect the ratification of USB 4.0, which will offer 40 Gbps.  These transfer rates allow quicker uploads of data.

 

Physical Changes

 

In order to offer an increase in the transfer rate, the USB Type-A/B connector for USB 3.0 and higher requires more pins than USB 2.0, increasing from 4 to 10. To accommodate the physical updates, USB 3.0 required the design of new USB Type-A/B connectors.  Additionally, the arrival of the USB Type-C connector has 24 pins and allows for inverted insertion.

 

 

Bandwidth

 

USB 2.0 offers one-way communication between devices. This means that it can only handle data transfers one direction at a time. With USB 3.0, they contain two unidirectional paths, allowing them to maintain transfers in both directions at the same time. While the USB-C connector adds two more data paths for a total of four.  These are key innovations for improving data transfer load times and improving efficiency.

 

Power

 

While simultaneously sending data, USB 2.0 provides a maximum of 500 mA when charging devices. USB 3.0 offers up to 900 mA – cutting charging time nearly in half while sending data.  The categorizing of USB power has evolved and new standards have been released for power delivery.  Depending on the connector and wire type, up to 5A at 20V or 100W can be delivered to a device needing a charge. 

 

Compatibility

 

The USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) maintains that their revisions are always backward compatible.  This means that USB 2.0 devices are compatible with USB 3.0 – though only at USB 2.0 speeds.

If you are looking to learn even more about the USB versions available, be sure to check out our USB 101 blog.

 

Have you ever Googled “what is charging”? The funny thing is, it seems like such an obvious question until you see the answers.

What even????

 

Not that kind of charging. Today, when we talk about charging we’re almost always talking about our devices so we can stay connected. But what is charging really?

THE BASICS OF CHARGING YOUR DEVICES

Your phone battery is essentially a tiny compartment of chemical energy. Every time you plug your phone in to charge, you’re basically the catalyst to reset a chemical reaction which inside the battery. For those of you who passed chemistry, charging is the transfer of electrons from the negative end of a battery to the positive end (and for those who liked chemistry, electrons passing from the negative anode to the cathode).

Most smartphone or smart device technology now includes a Lithium-ion battery. Charging works the same way with these batteries, despite slightly modified components within the battery. But we won’t get into the details.

HOW AMPERAGE, VOLTAGE, AND WATTAGE WORK TOGETHER WHEN CHARGING

Amperage is the strength of an electric current often used to measure charging. In fact, amperage is the difference between a lightning quick full charge and an all-day trickle. Amperage is the defining factor of how quickly your device will charge.

Voltage, on the other hand, is the unit of current. Interestingly enough, it is actually a function of pressure – and in this case referencing the chemical reaction that creates charge. In simpler terms (kind of), voltage is equal to the pressure that pushes electrons through their conductive loop (or from the anode to the cathode).

Wattage, on the other hand, is the rate at which energy is either created or spent. Watts represent energy per unit of time. As an example we’ve all run into, when buying light bulbs, a 100W light bulb means that the light bulb will last for 100 Watt hours.

These three concepts tie together in this formula defining charge:

Watts = Amps x Volts

So, for example, a phone charger delivering 5 Watts = 5 Volts x 1000 mA.

According to this in-depth article from Wired:

“For example, consider these charging scenarios for the Retina iPad mini. You could use a Lightning connector plugged into a computer (via USB), an iPhone charger connected to a wall socket, or an iPad charger connected to a wall socket. A PC USB charger delivers 2.5 Watts of power (5 volts at 500 mA). An iPhone charger delivers 5 Watts (5 volts at 1000 mA). A Retina iPad mini charger delivers 10 watts (5.1 volts at 2100 mA).

“While all of these will charge your iPad, using the USB connected to a PC will charge your Retina mini four times slower than if you used the iPad charger it came with. Conversely, if you use a tablet charger for your smartphone, it’d charge up faster than normal (Note: Some devices like the iPhone will only draw up to 1A of current no matter the charger). If you play mix-and-match with these types of chargers like this, don’t worry – you’re not going to blow up your phone or anything crazy like that. And the myth that charging your device at a faster rate will reduce the life of your device’s battery is false. For some older devices, the higher specced charger just won’t work at all, while newer devices will just charge faster.

“Ultimately, it’s really the amperage that determines how fast a charger will supply power to your device. If you want quicker charging, look for a wall or car charger that delivers 2100 mA of current at 5 volts (or whatever voltage the device you’re trying to charge is specced at).”

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO UNDERSTAND RECOMMENDED WATTAGE, AMPERAGE, AND VOLTAGE WHEN CHARGING?

The age-old question: how fast of a charger is too fast? As you’ve noticed, the larger the brick, the quicker the charge.

Larger bricks accommodate for larger chemical reactions and pressurization – charging phone batteries even quicker. Naturally, an iPad requires more reaction to charge. Accordingly, an iPad charger will charge your iPhone quicker whereas an iPhone charger could equate to a trickle charge for your iPad.

The best way to know that you are protecting your devices and charging properly is to check their tags or manuals. If you don’t have either handy, a quick Google search will keep you on the right track.

But to reiterate the point from Wired’s article, it’s a myth that you will reduce phone battery life or blow up your phone by charging at a higher wattage than its standard charger offers. Newer, higher wattage chargers simply speed up the charging process.

We live in a day in age focused around Millennials. We want to know how they think, what influences their decisions, and how we can appeal to them. Many current design efforts are built to accommodate Millennial ideals, but are they the generation we should really be focused on?

THE I-GENERATION AND THE EXPLOSION OF TECHNOLOGY

I was at a Digital Marketing conference in Boston not too long ago and one of the presenters told a narrative that paints the perfect picture of how technology is affecting this youngest generation. He had been speaking to a group of teenagers and posed the question, “Would you rather have your phone taken away from you forever or have one of your fingers removed to keep your phone?” One girl raised her hand and asked, “Do we get to pick which finger?”

That sums up this generation. Their smartphones are an appendage, and an important one at that.

The i-Generation, born from 1996 to 2010, is a segment that was immersed into connective technology from the start of their lives. Baby boomers grew up during the expansion of television, Generation X had the introduction of computers, and Millennials were raised with the internet bursting onto the scene. i-Gen had all of these technologies at the touch of a finger from the get-go. Social media and constant connectivity has shaped this generation to possess an “always on” mentality.  (2019, Dimock)

They were born in an era of exploding technology – smartphones, tablets, integrated home tech, bots, and Alexa. They went to elementary school with iPads and grew up with the ability to make a HotSpot if they ever found themselves without internet. They are being raised having never known a life without instant and constant Wi-Fi.

This is the way evolution happens. Each generation makes leaps and bounds in one direction, and the next generation either gets to ride the wave or change direction. So far, this “i-Generation”, or Gen Z, has been able to ride the Millennial tech wave.

WHAT DOES GENERATION Z HAVE TO DO WITH ARCHITECTURE AND DESIGN?

They can figure anything out online. They can solve problems, find groups, communicate, play games, get jobs, study, take classes, and even have full relationships online. Probably most of the things they do on their devices they don’t even realize actually require internet.

So what does this mean for you when you’re designing spaces?

The next generation doesn’t expect to be able to stay connected everywhere they go. They assume they will be able to.

Restaurants that add in power strips after they were built and hotels that hire electricians to build more outlets are missing the point. New spaces need to be designed with this assumption in mind – that anyone and everyone will be able to charge and stay connected 24/7 no matter where they are.

STAYING CHARGED, CONNECTED, AND POWERFUL THROUGH BEAUTIFUL DESIGN

With the ascension of cables being tucked away under floors and behind walls, released into the open through grommets, power and charging has become an accessory for spaces. Constantly updating colors, designs, styles, materials, configurations, and utility, these accessories not only fit into design – they enhance design.

These charging accessories lend themselves to Generation Z and every generation before. They’re solutions to problems that designers are constantly running into because they solve for today and for tomorrow. And they do so with grace and beauty.

After all, why give up a finger for a phone that you can’t keep charged?