Highlights from Mobile World Congress

Ikea Announces Charging Furniture, FCC Tells Telecom and Energy Providers to Unite, and Facebook Looks to Build a Connected World.

MWCPhoto Credit: Pepcom

We’ve been at Mobile World Congress all week showing off our Upp and catching the latest and greatest that the mobile industry has to offer. Historically a meeting of the major telecom providers, Mobile World Congress has morphed into a show-and-tell of wearables and smart consumer products with much of the conversation focused on how we will power this newly connected world. In case you missed the highlights, let us draw your attention to some of our favorite announcements from Barcelona.

Ikea and Samsung Announced Wireless Charging Furniture

Get ready to ditch tangled bedside chords and unsightly wires in the living room. Swedish furniture maker Ikea announced plans to begin selling furniture with built-in Qi wireless charging, available in April 2015. The new furniture will be compatible with the Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 edge and covers will be available for incompatible iPhone and Samsung models. The idea is that you could place your smartphone on a piece of furniture embedded with the charging technology and it will power up wirelessly.


Photo Credit: Ikea

FCC Asked Telecom Providers To Work with Energy Companies

Aside from the obvious focus of FCC chairman Tom Wheeler’s talk on the commission’s move to regulate the Internet, he said telecom operators should be able to provide 5G specialized network services to a series of new industry partners, including those in the energy sectors. He noted, “the advanced 5G infrastructure is expected to become the nervous system of the digital society and digital economy.” And as we look to connect everything from cars and coffee mugs to hospitals and factories to the Internet, it will be critical to build a new and improved generation of communication networks.

Facebook Wants to Build a Connected World

Facebook Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg shared an update on the company’s Internet.org project, which aims to bring Internet access to “over 90% of the global offline population who live in developing countries.” According to the company’s newsroom, “for the past year Facebook has worked with mobile operators to grow the number of people accessing the Internet. Through the Internet.org app, more than 500 million people in six countries can now access useful health, employment and local information services without data charges.”

As always, GSMA put on an insightful and forward thinking conference that left us excited for building an ever-connected world. Notably one of the biggest themes was the evolution of wireless technology.  As people continue to embrace ubiquitous wireless technology, and as our data consumption increases, we are rapidly approaching a point where battery limitations and the hassle of power sockets are limiting our ability to be truly mobile. Until next year, Barcelona!


Getting Lucky at the Telegraph Outdoor Adventure and Travel Show

Last week, we took our personal hydrogen fuel cell charger Upp to the people who make it their goal to live life unplugged: the attendees of The Telegraph Outdoor Adventure and Travel Show. For the uninitiated, the Outdoor Show (as it’s affectionately called) is the UK’s largest exhibition for adventurers of all types. Whether your hobby is travelling, photography, climbing or watersports – or if you’d just like to pick up some new gear—the Outdoor Show is a must–attend. Beyond just practical shopping, it’s a great place to get inspired and check out what’s new in the adventure circuit. So of course, this was the perfect place for us to display Upp.

Go Outdoors 4
We were at London’s ExCel Centre for all four days of the conference, from Thursday, February 12 to Sunday, February 15. Of course, we had our work cut out for us keeping all of our fellow adventurers and conference attendees powered up and unplugged. While many attendees had scaled mountains before, sometimes there’s no more impossible feat than just keeping your phone charged at one of these marathon conferences.  But we decided to debut a special feature at this conference for those who were feeling particularly lucky: our very own Wheel of Fortune! How did it work? Conference attendees could spin to win an Upp, a cartridge or an Upp-powered device like a GoPro! There were no losers here – everyone who spun walked away with at least a lollypop.

As for the conference itself, we definitely got inspired for our next adventure. There were stands for destinations all over the world, climbing centres to test our abilities before hitting some real boulders, and even some downright bizarre displays of skills that we hope to never have to put to the test, like skinning rabbits and eating worms.

Did you attend the show? What there inspired you to want to live life unplugged the most?

TechCrunch Disrupt London Gets to #PowerUpp with Intelligent Energy

While we had a blast helping TechCrunch Disrupt SF live life unplugged a few weeks ago, we wanted to bring some of that great buzz closer to home. Fortunately, we got the chance to do just that this week at TechCrunch Disrupt in London. There are no shortage of bright minds and great ideas on our side of the pond, and so it was great to show off Upp amongst more local peers.

How did we fare on our home turf?  Better than ever! Once again, it turns out there’s nothing like wandering around a conference all day and draining your phone battery by noon to make you appreciate when someone hands you a portable hydrogen fuel cell. By 11 am both days, we had desperate attendees swarming the booth, many of them notified of our presence by the groundswell of enthusiasm for Upp on social media.

Tweet 1The TechCrunch attendees were not only incredibly appreciative of the convenience of getting to borrow a portable charger, but they were also completely wowed by the technology itself. Given the technical background of many of the attendees, they were fascinated by the sophisticated fuel cell technology compressed into Upp, and truly amazed that this kind of product will soon be available for them to purchase and use on a daily basis. The crew from ITProPortal even stopped by, and were so impressed by our demo that they featured Upp as one of the most exciting finds at the conference in their roundup of the action.

Tweet 2

Favourite moment? When a conference goer arrived at our stand with another battery pack, which he’d unfortunately forgotten to charge before heading out to TechCrunch, thus rendering it useless. It really brought home the benefits of Upp versus other portable chargers – why live your life attached to wall charging but just with a longer tether when you could abandon the socket altogether and live life unplugged? Upp saved the day, and we charged not just his depleted phone, but his battery as well. Needless to say, we can now count him as one of our successful converts.

It was another great event, and the buzz about Upp is only continuing to grow. Luckily, all of our devotees won’t have much longer to wait!

Mobile users’ habits are restricted by their battery life

As Mobile World Congress 2014 draws to a close, 1700 exhibitors have been busy unveiling their latest innovations in technology and mobile services.

It’s incredible what you can achieve using today’s smartphones with social networking, mobile banking, sales and marketing, travel and retail applications, and what’s in store with growing development in mobile payments and health. These services are built on the connectivity and computing power and graphics of today’s feature packed smartphones and tablets.  However, current battery technology has failed to keep pace with the power demands of faster 3G and 4G connectivity, larger screens and faster processors; this is restricting how people use their devices.

Intelligent Energy commissioned a study of mobile users in the UK, India, South Korea and South Africa. It found that 32% users entered their phone’s “red zone” for low battery charge every day, with 22% running out of battery at least once per day. 65% respondents also said their phone use would change when their battery was running low, prioritising how they used their phone.

How often do you completely run out of power on your mobile phone?

Users are clearly frustrated that having adapted to the portability and freedom offered by mobile services and smart devices, power limitations are now dictating how we live our lives. In a separate response 83.5% South African users said they would be willing to pay to charge their phone once it has gone flat.

This “mobile use rationing” isn’t just frustrating for the user. It’s bad for business.  Studies have shown that increasing the availability of power to charge mobile handsets increases the Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) for mobile network operators. Battery fail is a global issue that many readers will be able to relate to, but it is a problem compounded in regions where access to a reliable electricity grid is limited.  For example users in Kenya have pay as you go access to solar powered mobile charging equipment. Despite its merits, solar power has its limitations, most notably prolonged sunshine and an energy storage mechanism (such as a battery) to store energy and time-shift its release for when it is needed.

There has also been a proliferation in low cost external batteries in recent years, which provide portable energy wherever it is needed. However, these still require a power supply such as grid electricity to recharge the battery – and for the user to diligently recharge both the handset and the external battery pack. External battery packs can also leak stored charge over time if not replenished.

Upp personal energy device

Upp personal energy device

Intelligent Energy has taken a different approach, applying hydrogen fuel cell technology to address the needs of portable energy with the Upp fuel cell personal energy device. The different technology eliminates a number of these drawbacks, because it does not need any grid electricity. Instead, it works by releasing hydrogen from a cartridge containing a metal compound fuel to produce electricity. Each full fuel cartridge contains 25Wh stored energy, which is enough to charge a smartphone up to 5 times.

Suitable for use with a broad variety of Apple iOS and Android devices, the Upp can supply up to 5W, which is enough power to extend mobile usage or provide a full charge as fast as a mains socket. It charges via USB and intelligently charges USB 2 devices to deliver the correct charge and protect device batteries.

Intelligent Energy conducted field trials with a network operator to analyse the charging habits of African users, and the impact of introducing portable Upp energy. We wanted to know how people would behave if the limitations of battery life were removed, and what effect this would have on their network use. Over the course of a month the study found that close to 80% made more calls, with almost three-quarters of users making longer calls and nearly 70% using more data to take advantage of the longer talk time and freedom from impending battery failure. Network usage increased significantly, with calls rising by more than 30% with an increase in average call duration of almost 30% and a nearly 40% uplift in data usage by users.

Network usage increased significantly, with calls rising by more than 30% with an increase in average call duration of almost 30% and a nearly 40% uplift in data usage by users.

Daily trends showed users charging throughout the day with peaks in the morning, lunchtime and early evening. Whilst small in scale, these trials show how users take advantage of improved device availability as the battery life constraints are removed and the opportunity for network operators to increase the utilisation of their network.  These advantages also translate to business benefits for employers and service providers such as mobile payment providers and social networks.

The mobile power problem for many people is yet to be overcome, with many people experimenting with a range of solutions until they find something that works for them. For some this will mean carrying multiple handsets, for others external batteries and power cases could be the answer.  We believe the Upp personal energy device provides a distinct set of features to keep people connected all day long wherever they go.  With 508 operators currently investing in high-speed LTE in 144 countries and emerging market adoption of smartphones booming, Upp offers convenient instant power for the frustrated mobile user and a solution to the unreliable grid in emerging markets.

Fuel cells offer solution to mobile device energy challenges

There is no question; mobile devices are now integral to our daily lives. They are also an essential cog in the economic machinery of individuals and businesses throughout the world. This is especially pronounced in developing economies where mobile has transformed the way consumers and businesses operate, indeed increases in the use of mobile telephony are directly related to increased economic growth. Last month, the GSMA reported that the mobile ecosystem directly supported 3.3 million jobs and contributed US $21 billion to public funding in the sub-Saharan Africa and is set to double its economic effect by 2020.

With the exciting launch of the Mxit 7 social media app, LTE mobile Internet and m-payments topping the agenda at AfricaCom, last month it was all too easy to forget that even in South Africa the most important daily function of the mobile phone is for making calls – whether calling family, friends, or conducting the essential transactions that keep businesses growing.

But, take away the power for mobile devices and suddenly our connected world falls into disarray. The mobile world and all that it enables lasts only as long as its batteries!

There was a time, not so long ago before apps, Internet and super-resolution cameras when the deciding factor when choosing a mobile phone was their talk-time. Today, our phones and other mobile devices are getting smarter and more capable; and this means they are becoming more power hungry which further increases the demand on their batteries.

It would be fair to say that improvements in battery technology have not kept pace with the demands of today’s mobile technology and habits. How often do you have to recharge your phone in a typical working day for example? In fact, a study of South African mobile users conducted by Intelligent Energy showed that 30.4% said “every day” and 5.9% even charge several times a day.

Battery charging strategy

How often do you have to recharge your phone in a typical working day for example?

Even if you have access to mains electricity, it takes time to recharge and you may be competing with colleagues for power outlets. In South Africa, 37m people have access to power, but following a boom in device adoption, there are now 59m mobile devices. That’s a lot of competition for a socket if you’re caught short on battery. We found that an astonishing 83.5% of South African consumers are willing to pay to recharge their phone when it loses power.

Electricity vs mobile

It is not acceptable that progress, smarter working and economic growth are endangered because of battery limitations. Quite simply, ways have to be found to put more energy into people’s hands. We can’t afford to wait for a breakthrough in battery technology which may never happen, so what is to be done? Fortunately there is an answer, and it comes in the form of hydrogen fuel cells.

Fuel cells, such as those being commerclialised by Intelligent Energy and our partners, are suitable for a range of sectors. They are a highly efficient and clean way of generating electricity, combining hydrogen with air to produce power with no polluting emissions.  A highly scalable technology, they are being targeted at a wide range of applications, from cars, buses, and motorbikes to back-up and distributed power generation and for providing power to mobile devices.

At Intelligent Energy, we have been working to bring fuel cell technology and its compelling attributes into the world of consumer electronics. This came to fruition at AfricaCom when Intelligent Energy launched Upp, a personal energy device, to charge and power USB-compatible portable electronic devices, such as smartphones, feature phones, eReaders, tablets, portable gaming consoles, as well as digital cameras.

With billions of USB devices used by consumers worldwide, Upp delivers at least one week of charge even to the most demanding, power-hungry smartphones,  giving mobile consumers the energy freedom and independence to stay connected for longer. Now you can have your own personal and instant energy whenever and wherever you need it, whether you’re at home, work or on the road.

This year, we have carried out successful consumer field deployments in region and are now in the process of expanding and recruiting further mobile partners worldwide.  We believe Upp is a real game changer for Africa and we look forward to working with users and the mobile ecosystem to give Africa freedom from the grid.

For more information please visit www.beupp.com, and follow our journey as we free the world from the power grid with Upp personal energy on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

This blog was originally published on the Com World Series blog.