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.

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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!

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Air Quality Today – The Cost of Doing Nothing

All around the world, our air is literally killing us. According to a report from the World Health Organization, polluted air accounted for seven million deaths globally during 2012. To put that in perspective, this is the entire population of Hong Kong.

air quality image

Not surprisingly, the developing regions were hardest hit, with 5.9 million air pollution-related deaths in Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific alone. In India, a generally heightened reliance on oil has combined with increased coal consumption to trigger a 4.4 percent rise in CO2 emissions, leading to pollution that’s eating into crop yields. In China, cities such as Beijing, where air quality index (AQI) readings commonly exceed levels that the WHO considers unsafe, have at times been declared “almost uninhabitable.”

But dangerous levels of air pollution aren’t limited to the developing world. In London, nitrogen dioxide pollution in the Oxford Street shopping district reached its legal limit for the year just four days into 2015, and the London Mayor is under pressure to “reduce pollution a lot sooner than 2020 and cover a wider area,” said the London Assembly. In Japan, CO2 emissions reached a record high of 1.2 billion metric tons released during the year ended in March 2014. Even the tiny Persian Gulf island nation of Bahrain, one of the world’s richest, was among the 10 countries with the most polluted air in the world during 2014, according to the WHO.

One of the greatest hopes for reversing this alarming trend rests with alternative energy sources, and that’s why we at Intelligent Energy believe we’ll be able to help take a bite out of this problem during 2015 and beyond.

Our business in India aims to bring reliable and cleaner energy solutions to more than 10,000 of the country’s diesel-reliant telecom towers. We believe we can help those partners reduce the diesel consumption of each tower while also increasing uptime, and we’re aiming to replicate this activity across more towers during the year.  Our own fuel cell initiatives are obviously a key part of this.  Such efforts dovetail with the Indian government’s commitment to alternative energy sources.

On the vehicle emissions front, governments in France, Germany, Japan, the U.K. and the U.S. are drawing up plans to introduce hydrogen refueling networks to support a new generation of fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs). Meanwhile, Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London has gone so far as to mandate that all new taxis must be zero-emission capable by 2018. In concert with efforts such as these, leading automotive manufacturers such as Toyota, Honda and Hyundai have announced their intentions to make FCEVs available to global markets, and this has already begun, with Toyota’s Mirai FCEV for example, already being available to consumers in Japan and expected to hit the roads in the U.S. and the U.K this summer.

It’s clear that the world is waking up to this important issue, and Intelligent Energy is well positioned to make important contributions to the cause. Our fuel cell technologies for the consumer electronics, distributed power and generation and motive markets, are precisely what government and industry around the world need to reduce emissions to safe levels. Working with organizations in the private and public sectors around the globe, Intelligent Energy can help make our air safe to breathe again. If that isn’t important work, then we don’t know what is.

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.

To become truly mobile, we must reduce our reliance on the grid

Mobile devices have revolutionised the way that we interact with our world and with each other. Communicating with people across the globe is now just as commonplace as talking to your neighbour. We can stay in touch with those that we need to reach at any time, whether in a work or personal capacity, via phone or video chat as well as through sending emails, files or texts. Co- workers in a different country can now collaborate and agree decisions on the spot, making businesses more efficient. Similarly, those in developing and emerging countries that may not have easy access to banking services can now conduct purchases and financial transactions, all via their mobile device.

The value the mobile device offers is evident with 75 percent of the world’s population now having regular access to a mobile phone.[i] The below graph from ITU World Telecommunication, demonstrates the extent to which mobile has exploded against other communication methods.

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However, as mobile and portable devices continue to evolve and capabilities are improved, this in turn presents a new challenge. That of battery life or rather lack of it. While for some this is simply an irritation, for others that have come to rely on mobile devices, this can lead to reduced productivity, a decreased sense of security, and an inability to remain connected when it is most needed. For developing countries whose economies increasingly rely on mobile devices, a lack of reliable power can become a considerable concern – potentially jeopardising the economic growth possibilities on offer.

This lack of a consistent power supply means that five-hundred million mobile users worldwide are forced to travel to mobile charging shops or find alternative solutions to keep their devices powered. In these developing areas, individuals who have come to rely on mobile devices often need to walk several kilometres to reach a charging station.[ii]

In countries where the power grid is more stable, maintaining battery life on a range of mobile devices including laptops, tablets and mobiles is still a challenge. Mobile workers or frequent travellers, who manage their communications almost exclusively from portable devices, may find productivity and security compromised and less than optimum. They are plagued with continual dead and dying batteries and no plug socket in sight. In fact, a UK survey conducted by Intelligent Energy, found that more than 70 percent of UK mobile device users found themselves with a dead or nearly dead battery on a mobile device at least once a week.

As mobile device functionality continues to develop so does the drain on batteries. Developments in battery technology alone are failing to keep pace with an exponential rise in power demand.  In order for mobile to truly mean ‘mobile’, the capability to power these devices on the go must equally improve and answers beyond batteries alone must be found.

Hydrogen fuel cells have emerged as a prime solution to address this challenge, offering extended operating times and energy security in a clean, highly efficient and cost effective manner. Intelligent Energy along with others across the globe are working towards commercialisation of the technology and bringing products to market – providing the power for both the present and next generation of mobile technology.


[i] Information and Communications for Development 2012: Maximizing Mobile, World Bank

[ii] GSMA Development Fund, Community Power from Mobile, November 2010