Books written by Ray Sullivan

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Facing Up To The Charges

Keeping your phone charged is a daily problem.  Most phones these days will survive a full day of normal usage - checking Facebook, Twitter, reading emails, even sending texts.  Throw in a few decent phone calls, though, and you may struggle to read your eBook on the train home.  It's the same with tablet computers too, but without the phone calls.  They're just too darned useful for watching films and Skyping, I guess.

There's been a few attempts to address the problem, most noticeably through better batteries and by making the devices more efficient in use.  That makes a lot of sense, but despite the best endeavours they still seems to fail some of us some of the time.

And of course the remote charging idea is floating around out there.  I've written about this before and although I believe it's coming I'm still a little sceptical that it will prove to be a major benefit.  For example in our house we leave the RT, an iPad and a HTC phone charging on the breakfast bar overnight.  It works, the cables are tidy thanks to an enlightened electrician who persuaded me to fork out for twice as many sockets than I thought I'd ever need when he rewired our kitchen.  Now, to move to contactless charging would require me buying a contactless charger large enough for all of these devices, assuming that we replaced them with models that supported contactless charging and they all used the same system - because just like in the bad old VHS/Betamax tradition there are competing versions being produced.  So at home I'm unlikely to use contactless charging and the big push is to mount these charging devices into the table tops of overpriced coffee emporiums so I can sip a latte while staring at my inert mobile remotely charging in front of me. 

Don't take this the wrong way Starbucks, but I'd rather you left me to sort my own charging problems out and reduced your prices instead.  And paid your taxes.

However a French startup, SunPartner Group, has taken a different look at the problem.  They've worked out that although many of us insist on popping our mobile phones in our pockets for much of the day, we actually pull them out more often than we might like to admit - you know, double checking for those missed calls that we didn't get, sneaking a look at our Facebook timeline, posting the odd informative tweet - just been to the loo, again - and sending the occasional text or fifty.  And unless you're a contortionist you probably hold the mobile face up with the screen facing you. 

They've come up with a way to embed solar charging panels in the front screen of the phones.  It's a tricky process that involves stripes of sensors alternating with clear screen.  The stripes are very thin and it seems the clear gaps, while helping with the day job of reading your phone screen, help to focus the light anyway.  Obviously you can't expect to get all those solar panels in front of you without some light transmission loss and currently it stands at 82% transparency, which doesn't sound too bad.  The aim is to achieve 90% which means you may need to boost the screen light levels by a fraction, hopefully not enough to negate the extra charge gained through this process.  The cost of the screen is expected to add less than $2.50 to each phone.

If it works then I expect it might be adaptable to tablet screens as well - let's face it, they could benefit from a little extra charge while on the go.  And maybe they'll provide a bit more anti cracking resilience to the blighters. 


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