It is estimated that around 700m people with access to a mobile phone do not have power, including 300m in India alone. Two product design companies, A2E and Wideblue, along with tech start-up BuffaloGrid, have come up with a solution for this problem by designing a mobile phone charging hub which has internet connection and can charge multiple phones at one time with power supplied by solar panels. This new hub will help unconnected people across the world to access digital services to support their internet adoption process.
The mobile phone has become vital in many countries worldwide for accessing information, doing business, education, paying bills, entertainment and providing health care advice. They are known as ‘mobile phone-first users’. They don’t have laptops, tablets or PCs. Everything is done through their mobile device. However, the problem is phones need power and in many countries the power infrastructure is poor, unreliable or non-existent.
Tech start-up BuffaloGrid has come up with a solution in the form of this new solar powered mobile phone charging hub. The prototype device is being used in mobile operator shops in rural parts of India where the electricity supply is unreliable and intermittent and in refugee camps across the world. This means users can charge their phones for free when the electricity supply is down. The company has also teamed up with Techfugees to provide free educational, health and other digital content via the hub in East Africa and the Middle East. BuffaloGrid is planning to commercially supply hundreds of new hubs in the next 12 months and is in talks with the United Nations regarding projects in Uganda, Papua New Guinea, Haiti and Rwanda.
When it came to designing the prototype hub BuffaloGrid turned to Scotland-based A2E and Wideblue, two companies in the Pivot International group, to help with the technical details. Wideblue worked on the mechanical design and A2E on the electronics and software. When the device goes into volume production Pivot will handle manufacturing through its production facilities in Asia.
“This has been a very interesting and worthwhile project to work on as it has used the technical capabilities of the whole group. We take power supply for granted in the developed world but there are many areas of the world where it is unreliable and unpredictable. BuffaloGrid has come up with a highly innovative solution which will allow many more people in developing countries to connect with the internet and all the benefits this can bring to their communities. Designing the hub to carry out all the functions required has presented some technical challenges which we have successfully overcome.”David Ross, Managing Director, A2E
“Working with Pivot, A2E and Wideblue has been the perfect solution for our needs. When producing hardware having the link between developers and manufacturer within the same group makes things extremely efficient and safe. In the past, we had struggled in the transition from development to production but with Pivot’s team the development and manufacturing path has been flawless. I would recommend any tech start-up developing hardware to follow this path.”Daniel Becerra, CEO, BuffaloGrid