Dr. Tong, lecturer in antennas and microwave technology at University College London, and his team have developed the Vodafone Booster Brolly, and umbrella that catches radio-waves from a Vodafone transmitter thanks to an in-built antenna, and works as a repeater, boosting signal to other customers around. Thought as necessary festival-goers gadget, this revolutionary umbrella has attached a dozen of solar panels on its canopy are used to recharge the phones.
With only one month and half to develop a complete working model, Dr Tong’s team has been experimenting with different materials, technologies and possible designs. The solar panels are vital for powering the phone re-charger inside, but even after Dr Tong sourced flexible non-silicon versions from China, it proved difficult to actually attach them to the umbrella. The result is a hand-sewn canopy, stitched together with twelve 2V panels powering a battery that can either charge a mobile, or operate a torch to help find your tent at night.
Although more than pleased with the result, the truth is Dr. Tong is still working to get a refined version of the Vodafone Booster Brolly: using a single canopy with integrated solar panels, making an aluminium brass holder to make it lighter – the umbrella’s weigh now is 800g -, improving the switch, and even developing an app to control it from your phone.
The funniest fact is this is perhaps the first umbrella which is developed by scientists and nobody will notice it. “We’ve put in all of this technology,” says Dr. Tong, “but its not heavy, its not big – and it looks good. In fact, it’s a bit of a James Bond umbrella – you can’t tell what it does from the outside.”