If you have a smartphone you have reached that point where you are away from a charger and need a charge. In a frantic search you begin to ask those around you if they have a charger you can borrow, even if it’s only for a few minutes. After asking a dozen people you finally find someone who carries a charger with them and will let you borrow theirs. You shut down your phone so you can take full advantage of those few precious moments you have with this charger before all too soon the kind stranger comes claiming their charger and is on their way leaving you with only a few more percent on your battery than before and the frantic search for a charger continues until you reach where ever you decided to leave yours that day as you vow to never leave it behind again.
Perhaps this scenario rings true with you everyday, maybe you are one of the people who are asked if they have a charger, or maybe you are sitting on the sidelines with your old flip phone wondering why someone needs a charger that bad when you can easily make it two days without even thinking about needing to charge. One thing is for sure though, charging technology is not conductive (pun not intended) to the high speed life so many of us are living. What if there was a way to use light to charge your phone? We’ve heard of this solar energy trend, so why not for the smartphone?
One obvious hurdle here is that most people carry their smartphone in their pocket or a bag. This would render any solar charging useless. Unless you want to have the solar panel separate from the phone and plugged into your pocket, but that sounds like more work for keeping the phone charged, not less. Another is that solar charging, quite frankly, still isn’t the most efficient way to charge something and that’s using sunlight, moving indoors with mostly artificial light and solar charging might as well not even exist in most cases.
Enter Microsoft and their R&D team. They are working on a way to utilize a form of solar charging that would replace a charger. It would be similar to these wireless charging pads you may have heard about, with one key difference. A wireless charging pad is small and your device has to be placed directly on it, not really a problem for most people, but not really great either. Microsoft’s system would use a whole desktop (no, not your computer screen but an actually desk) to emit light that your phone would use to charge. You can read all the details here if you really want to, but I’ll sum it up below.
Basically, Microsoft would use a camera to sense the phone is near the light source and then emit a light beam onto the phone that would then charge it. If you read their current results they are saying it is as fast as having your phone plugged into a wall charger, which is quite a feat. If this holds true the only hurdle is how to make the detection of the smartphone, and the charging process, simpler than having to plug your phone in or using a wireless charging pad if your phone supports it.
Microsoft has a few interesting ideas planned, but I think the charging table is the only way to make this a better solution than plugging into a wall charger or using a charging pad. You could just place your device anywhere on the table surface and it would begin charging your smartphone. Now that would be simple. You could just walk through the door and set your phone down and it would begin charging.
Solar energy still has a long way to go before it is seeing use on all of our electronic devices, but this is a great start. As I look forward to this solar powered future, and those who have talked to me about it know that it is where I think we are headed, I will continue with plugging my phone in and relying on the coal powered electricity to charge my phone.