Trekking in the Arctic wilderness with a solar powered phone

With a population of just 184 000 people, or just two people per square kilometer, Finnish Lapland is one of the least densely populated places in the world. If, then, your job involves spending days in the wilderness, you want to make sure you have a reliable way of keeping in touch with civilization. That’s one reason, Esa Karpoff, has been testing Lokki, our solar powered mobile prototype. To find out some of the other reasons, and learn more about his adventures in the wild, check out his diary below.

An action packed life

Diary: I had the Lokki solar mobile phone hanging around with my neck for the first couple of weeks. The strap, however, proved to be weak for my action-packed life, and the phone dropped everywhere, once even into the bottom of my boat where there was some water. Luckily, I always noticed and picked the dropped phone up. The new “neck bag” is certainly more secure, but more disturbing, for example, when I need to bend down to tie fishing lines. A sleeve strap with a bag could work well, or some other attachment, the stops the phone from swinging around so freely.

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Meet the man who invented Nokia’s solar mobile prototype

Solar power has fascinated some of the world’s greatest inventors for centuries. In the 1515, Leonardo De Vinci developed the first industrial use for solar energy utilising concave mirrors to heat water. Four hundred years later, Albert Einstein won his 1921 Nobel Prize for Physics, not for his theory of relativity, but for his experiments with solar energy and photovoltaics.

Following in their illustrious footsteps, Heikki Paananen has made his own contribution to the evolution of solar power, by inventing Lokki, our solar powered mobile phone prototype. To find out more about the challenges he faced we hooked up with Heikki at Asamalab in Japan.

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Life with a solar powered mobile phone in Sweden: Part 1

Some of the most passionate mobile phone users are youngsters. Recent research from GFK shows that 90% of under 16s in the UK have a mobile phone. In fact, devices are becoming so popular that many schools have had to ban them. In New York, for example, school children pay a dollar a day to store their cell phones. With the next generation so enthusiastic about mobile technology, we wanted to see how a teenager would cope with Lokki, our solar powered mobile phone. Thankfully, Aino Aaltonen, a sixteen year old girl scout, was up for the challenge. Here’s her first report.

Diary: 24th July

Tomorrow I’ll leave for World Scout Jamboree in Sweden. The World Scout Jamboree lasts for around two weeks, which is longer than the usual scout camps that are normally less than a week. There will be over 38 000 participants in the Jamboree. I don’t expect to learn all their names!

I got my solar mobile phone a few days ago, so I’ve had a little time to test it. However, because it’s been raining and because it doesn’t charge too well through a car window, I decided to cheat a bit and charged the phone with a charger. This has given me a little time to learn how to use it before the camp. I wonder how the charging will work during the camp, as we have a busy schedule and I do most of the activities holding my phone.

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Listening to football on a solar powered mobile

Kenya has 16.5 million mobile phone users. Yet only 15% of the population have regular access to electricity. These two facts alone make Kenya the ideal place for an affordable solar powered mobile phone, which is why we’ve been keenly following Amos Omondi, our Kenyan tester. To find out how he’s progressed, check out our latest report from the African country, which includes Amos’s diary as well as data and analysis from Technology Manager Matti Naskali.

Diary: 30th June

I woke up at 5 a.m. and prepared myself to go to my workplace which is about a two kilometer walk. It was a chilly day and I was shivering but I put my phone out, placing it on a pillar next to the gate where I work.

The sky started clearing at around noon and that is when the phone started charging. For that day I did not do all that I had expected because the phone did not get enough energy. I however managed to listen to the radio for about half an hour and then the phone went off when I started browsing the internet.

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Life with a solar mobile phone in the Arctic Circle: Update 2

Our solar charging tester, Ilkka Syvänperä, has now been using our prototype, Lokki, for over a month up in the Arctic Circle. Will a solar powered phone work better in a place where the sun doesn’t set? Find out in our latest report from the Land of the Midnight Sun, which includes data and analysis from Technology Manager Matti Naskali.

Diary  June 23rd – July 12th

When I woke up I found the battery discharged and the Lokki phone turned off during  the night. Friday, I kept the phone off and tried to charge the battery, however, the weather was pretty cloudy. The phone charged enough that it could be turned on again.

I went on holiday for a few weeks, but carried the phone whenever it’s possible.

We live in an “almost” finished house, which kept us busy. Construction work makes it difficult to keep Lokki hung around my neck, so most days I hung the phone to a backyard patio pole in the morning, and then later in the day I moved it to a fence. The weather during the holiday was changeable, mainly low rainfall, but not too sunny. At times, however, when the sun was shining it felt almost hot with temperatures reaching nearly 25°C. Once, there was also some really hard rain with hail.

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A closer look at the technology powering Nokia’s solar mobile phone

Charles Fritt, an American inventor, is credited with creating the first working solar panel way back in 1883. He coated the semiconductor material selenium with an extremely thin layer of gold, creating a panel with just 1% efficiency. Things have come a long way since then. To see just how far, let’s take a closer look at the technology behind Lokki, Nokia’s solar powered mobile prototype.

What is Lokki?

Lokki is a Lithium-ion battery charger and data logging unit that’s been especially designed to charge and track the charging of a Lithium-ion battery. It works by using either solar power or electricity. For the field test, Lokki has been integrated into a battery cover that fits onto a Nokia C1 mobile phone.

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Why Kenya is the perfect place for a solar powered mobile phone

Our Kenyan tester, Amos Omondi, has now been making the most of Lokki, our solar powered mobile phone prototype, for the last couple of weeks. We’re especially keen to see how Lokki fares in this East African nation because the country fulfils key criteria for a place where a solar powered phone would be really useful.

Not enough power to the people 

First there’s the fact, that charging your phone in Kenya isn’t always easy. The United Nations estimates that 1.5 billion people across the globe still live without electricity, including 85 percent of Kenyans. For many, the desire for electricity begins with the purchase of their first mobile phone, a lifeline for everything from receiving small money transfers, keeping in touch with friends to listening to radio. But if you live in a rural village often the only option is to travel to the nearest town and drop off your mobile phone in a shop. Not only is this method time consuming but money consuming, too. Continue reading

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Why’s it so challenging to make a solar powered mobile phone?

The sun has been used to power gadgets ever since 1834 when British astronomer Sir John Herschel invented a solar thermal collector box to cook food during an expedition to South Africa. Why then, after nearly two centuries, are we still waiting for a fully solar powered mobile phone?

We’re too power hungry

First off we need to look at power and the difference between how much a mobile phone needs and how much a solar panel produces. To get a sense of how power hungry mobile phones are, let’s take a look at solar powered watches. A watch consumes about 1 microwatt (µW) of power. That’s about 1/10000 of what a mobile phone needs just to stay on with a blackened display. Yet, when you leave your solar watch indoors, it still stops running. So, to have any chance of a functioning mobile phone, you have to make sure it’s kept in the sun and catches the rays incredibly well.

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Ilkka’s first report from the Arctic Circle

I started to walk around with the phone hanging around my neck on June 14th. In the afternoon I did some jobs outside and later at home I cleaned the yard. The weather at the time was partly cloudy, but the battery seemed to charge at least periodically.

On June 15th I was working in the forest near Pulmankijärvi throughout the day, the weather was sunny and the charging light frequently flashed. However, to get the charging light to strongly flash, I needed to point the solar panel directly at the sun. Even when the sun came slightly from the side it didn’t seem to give much charging power.

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The evolution of the Nokia solar mobile

The Nokia Solar Charging Project wouldn’t be possible without the Lokki, the unique prototype developed to give us a greater insight into mobile charging. While the device may look simple enough, its evolution has been anything but. To find out more about the people, the processes and the passion that turned a concept into reality, we spoke to Matti Naskali, Technology Manager and solar power guru.

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