Portable Smart Device Charger
Figure 1: First attempt on portable high performance smart device charger
Computing has moved into the mobile era where smart devices have become an important and common platform for computing. With the ever gaining popular smart devices, the charging of the smart device's battery becomes critical. Unless there is a consistent power supply to allow these devices to be charged through their standard charger adapter, otherwise it can be quite challenging to get them charged in the rural environment. Smart devices' battery lasted about a day as most of them operate 24/7 and it requires charging almost every day. In the rural environment, without the grid power, power provision can only be made possible through either diesel generator set or some form of renewable energy infrastructure such as at the Telecentre. For most households, if they do not own their personal diesel generator set, charging these smart devices can be very inconvenient and may cost money if they are to charge at places that rent power socket.
The need to charge smart mobile devices has made popular some of the solar power portable chargers that run on one small panel. Many have bought some of these so-called solar chargers but it charging effectiveness and durability are usually not as expected. For example, not all smart devices can be charged using any of the small solar-powered chargers aiming for travelers or casual charging. Owing to their differences in power and charging requirements, a lot of time, these chargers are inappropriate. Another need for charging is for people traveling to the remote rural with lots of equipment and they need to be able to travel light and at the same time has quick charging for their devices while the sunlight is available. The experiment on our first design on high power portable solar charger in 2013 has produced an effective proof-of-concept in charging heavyweight smart devices such as iPads.
When we first switch our main computing platform from desktop/laptop computers to smart tablet computers during the TPOA program, to charge the smart devices effectively so that they can meet the operating hour requirements can be quite challenging. The situation gets tougher when we create smaller off-telecentre sites in villages that do not own power supply. Hence, adoption of an effective solar power charging system is crucial as if these devices cannot be charged fast enough or having enough capacity to achieve full charge for the next day operation, these devices are basically useless.
Hence, we put serious attention when come to adopting a suitable portable or modular solar charging system for smart devices particularly the main operating devices for our project, the iPads. Some enhancements and adjustments have been carried out to make sure even under bad weather condition, there should still be enough power to resume charging. So far we have been adopting a charger system from technology partner but we felt it would be advantages if the charger has more intelligence to regulate charging based on the criticality of the appliances to be charged. Research in progress.