What began as a prediction 14 years ago that we’d have on-the-go tech lifestyles using mobile devices requiring power data outlets, is now a thriving multi-million-dollar company.
Aussie company Mainline Power is an innovative power track that lets anyone add, remove or reposition power and data sockets, wherever you are.
It’s now selling in 100 countries, making a major impact on the retail sector as it provides flexible power infrastructure. The power and data plug is under seats in lecture theatres and auditoriums in universities.
It’s also being used in work places, schools, retail outlets, on boats, in homes, in hotels and even integrated into furniture for practicality. It also means you don’t need dozens of double adaptors behind your entertainment unit or in the home office.
Mainline Power CEO Johnathan Clark shared his journey with us.
The idea of a future power point is fantastic – where did the idea come from?
The original idea came very simply from an engineer being frustrated by never having power outlets in the right place. This is easy to relate to by just taking a look around you at work or at home, when looking for a power outlet to plug into. Invariably you will notice two things. There are never enough and they are never in the right place. This is what Mainline addresses. Mainline is a safe and simple power track around 5 cm high, with a slot in it. Push a Mainline adaptor into the slot, turn it 90 degrees and you have a power outlet right where you need it. We use the tag line ‘add, move, reposition’ to reflect how easy Mainline makes it to add or move outlets.The Mainline business started from this observation about power outlet: there are never enough and they are never in the right place.
Was it a ‘no brainer’ in terms of knowing that there would be a huge market for this?
Absolutely! The founder of Power & Data Corporation, Peter Higgins, who, with his brother Rod, also founded Mortgage Choice, saw the idea some 14 years ago. He immediately saw this as a simple, safe and effective way of solving the problem of having enough power outlets available to plug in personnel devices to charge them, i.e. phones, camera, etc. Although Peter knew that the number of electronic devices we use in daily life could only grow, even he did not foresee how incredibly that vision would be come to pass. According to GSMA Intelligence’s website, there are now 4.9 billion individual mobile subscriptions in the world and 8 billion separate mobile connections – that is an awful lot of devices that need regularly plugging in to charge up.
Was it a long time between the idea, the invention and getting it to market?
Yes it was. An electrical product needs to be practicable to install, but primarily also needs to be safe. As such a long process of development, electrical safety certification processes and patent filing ensued before the first major Beta sites went into the filed at St Joseph’s College in Sydney in 2008. Every new student at St Josephs is actually issued with a Mainline adaptor, so that they can access the Mainline track at any of its many locations around the school. From the start in Australia the business then expanded to the UK 2009, into Europe in 2012, the Middle East and South East Asia in 2013 and at the end of last year into China.Mainline power started in Australia in 2008 and are now operating in Europe, Middle East, South East Asia and China.
What sort of impact is it having on retail?
In retail stores, requiring a lot of power outlets, Mainline future proofs the store for access to power. As displays are reorganised or re-laid out, power sockets are moved with them or easily added. As an example, many of the Pottery Barn stores in Australia have Mainline fitted flush into the joinery of their shelving cabinets. The white track flush in the white joinery, just looks like an accessory slot. If no electrical items are on the shelf, there are no sockets or extension cords visible, keeping a clean display. If a lamp is placed on a shelf, a socket is simply pushed into the Mainline slot, close to where it is needed, keeping the shelf free of extension cables distracting from the product.
Is it an exciting time for Australian innovation?
Yes it is. Australia has traditionally punched above its weight on the world stage in terms of innovation. With government and large businesses actively encouraging and setting up start up incubators, there is a great environment for more innovation and development, creating a great pool of people to network with and learn from. The Australian culture of working hard, whilst also having great humour and being open to others, helps in gaining audiences around the world looking seriously at what we have to offer.