To Become Truly Mobile, We Must Reduce our Reliance on the Grid
Posted on August 29, 2013
Mobile devices have revolutionised the way that we interact with our world and with each other. Communicating with people across the globe is now just as commonplace as talking to your neighbour. We can stay in touch with those that we need to reach at any time, whether in a work or personal capacity, via phone or video chat as well as through sending emails, files or texts. Co- workers in a different country can now collaborate and agree decisions on the spot, making businesses more efficient. Similarly, those in developing and emerging countries that may not have easy access to banking services can now conduct purchases and financial transactions, all via their mobile device.
The value the mobile device offers is evident with 75 percent of the world's population now having regular access to a mobile phone.[i] The below graph from ITU World Telecommunication, demonstrates the extent to which mobile has exploded against other communication methods.
However, as mobile and portable devices continue to evolve and capabilities are improved, this in turn presents a new challenge. That of battery life or rather lack of it. While for some this is simply an irritation, for others that have come to rely on mobile devices, this can lead to reduced productivity, a decreased sense of security, and an inability to remain connected when it is most needed. For developing countries whose economies increasingly rely on mobile devices, a lack of reliable power can become a considerable concern - potentially jeopardising the economic growth possibilities on offer.
This lack of a consistent power supply means that five-hundred million mobile users worldwide are forced to travel to mobile charging shops or find alternative solutions to keep their devices powered. In these developing areas, individuals who have come to rely on mobile devices often need to walk several kilometres to reach a charging station.[ii]
In countries where the power grid is more stable, maintaining battery life on a range of mobile devices including laptops, tablets and mobiles is still a challenge. Mobile workers or frequent travellers, who manage their communications almost exclusively from portable devices, may find productivity and security compromised and less than optimum. They are plagued with continual dead and dying batteries and no plug socket in sight. In fact, a UK survey conducted by Intelligent Energy, found that more than 70 percent of UK mobile device users found themselves with a dead or nearly dead battery on a mobile device at least once a week.
As mobile device functionality continues to develop so does the drain on batteries. Developments in battery technology alone are failing to keep pace with an exponential rise in power demand. In order for mobile to truly mean 'mobile', the capability to power these devices on the go must equally improve and answers beyond batteries alone must be found.
Hydrogen fuel cells have emerged as a prime solution to address this challenge, offering extended operating times and energy security in a clean, highly efficient and cost effective manner. Intelligent Energy along with others across the globe are working towards commercialisation of the technology and bringing products to market - providing the power for both the present and next generation of mobile technology.
[i] Information and Communications for Development 2012: Maximizing Mobile, World Bank
[ii] GSMA Development Fund, Community Power from Mobile, November 2010