Future festival goers in for solar tenting treat
By Paul Ridden
June 24, 2009
The future of music festival tenting has arrived. Well, not actually arrived as such. Let me start again. The concept of music festival tenting for the future has arrived. Mobile phone, broadband and telecommunications giant Orange is using its regular slot at the UK's most talked about music festival to announce its vision of ultra- comfortable camping for lovers of all things live and musical. The future is bright, as the advert goes, the future is the Orange Solar Tent.
Orange has pitched its own tent at the Glastonbury music festival for more than a decade and uses the event to showcase some of its innovative ideas for the future - for example, a foot pump powered mobile phone charger was announced earlier this month - whilst also providing festival-goers with free power for their mobile devices courtesy of its Chill n Charge tent. And up to the minute news, timetable and location information via the GlastoNav mobile phone application.
The company first introduced its idea for a solar-powered camping experience at Glastonbury 2003 and followed this with the "Text Me Home Dome" the year after - a tent that the lost or drunken camper can send a text message to and it will light up, flash or otherwise glow to reveal its location. Working with US design consultancy Kaleidoscope, the latest concept offering has taken into account previous designs, currently available or likely to become available technology and feedback from folk lucky enough to test drive previous incarnations, then thrown everything in the concept think tank and ended up with something rather promising.
Extreme camping this won't be, the proposed solar tent definitely nods more towards the "glamping" market (glamping is a portmanteau of glamorous and camping - it's camping whilst ensuring you aren't missing out on all the luxuries modern living has to offer). Green extravagance is the name of the game here. The company's vision for the festival tent of the future will incorporate tech first shown in 2004's SMS activated piece where weary campers will be able to use their mobile phones to text and light up or glo-cate (get it?) their tent.
Rigid solar panels may soon be old news as the latest research into solar tech is hinting at more pliant, bendy materials becoming available in the very near future. It is thought that the tent could utilize specially coated solar threads woven into the fabric allowing hosts of new possibilities for capturing the sun's energy. Directional glides made up of this special photovoltaic weave would be positioned outside the tent and could be adjusted by the happy camper from time to time to ensure the most efficient energy capture.
Inside the tent, power generation and consumption information and wireless internet surfing will be available via a touchscreen interface. A device that will allow cable-free charging of mobile devices by using magnetic induction technology to generate electric charge will also feature. And if it gets a bit on the cold side after dark, don't worry - your tent will look after you. The tent's groundsheet will have a heating element embedded into it which will automatically activate when it gets below a certain temperature to provide some welcome warmth as you cozily doze.
When can I make my pitch?
The solar tent is still very much in the concept stage, technology has to advance a little bit further before anything like it gets the opportunity to make an appearance. But it does serve to give some indication that in the future, enjoying some time in the great outdoors might not mean giving up on those familiar creature comforts or your mobile gadgetry.
Potentially of course, there is quite a serious design flaw with the new concept. It's being unveiled in the UK and it's a solar powered tent. Britain and hot sun are terms not often used together - perhaps a powerful wind turbine or a manageable water-wheel on the side of a tent might be better suited to the overly wet and gusty English summers (just my opinion based on 40-odd years of living in Blighty!).