Booster Brolly: The solar-powered, signal-boosting umbrella
By Dave Parrack
June 15, 2012
To really get the most out of the summer you have to head out of the city and into the country. Whether it be for a camping trip or a festival outing, the great outdoors is the best venue for sunnier days. Unfortunately rain can ruin a great day, as can a lack of mobile reception and the inability the charge your mobile phone. Vodafone thinks it has the answer to all three of these problems with the Booster Brolly, a humble umbrella turned all-in-one tool.
The Booster Brolly was designed for telecoms company Vodafone by PhD students at University College London led by Dr. Kenneth Tong. The lecturer in antennas and microwave technology calls his creation "a bit of a James Bond umbrella" due to the fact that "you can’t tell what it does from the outside.”
To solve the problem of mobile phones needing to be charged on a regular basis the Booster Brolly uses a similar technique to that of the Powerbrella - solar panels stitched into the canopy of the umbrella. The 12 x 2 volt panels turn the sun's energy into electricity which is then stored in a battery hidden within the handle. This can be hooked up to a mobile phone or other mobile device via USB (bad luck for iPhone users) as and when the need arises, and the company claims a smartphone can be charged in under three hours. Any excess power can be used to light the LED torch that also sits inside the handle.
To solve the problem of spotty network coverage the Booster Brolly uses a combination of high-gain antenna and low-power signal repeater to collect radio waves from the nearest mobile phone transmitter. These then create a signal shower above the user's head allowing them, and the people around them, to connect to the network. Despite this added tech the Booster Brolly still weighs in at just 800 grams (1.8 lbs).
A prototype of the Vodafone Booster Brolly is set to be trialled at the 2012 Isle Of Wight Festival later this month. This should prove to be a good test of the umbrella's usefulness in shielding people from the rain ... let's just hope there will be a period of sun prolonged enough to power the solar panels. In terms of the weather English summers typically last days rather than months.
Source: Vodafone Blog