UCL Innovation and Enterprise


UCL Consultants supports Dr Kenneth Tong in developing innovative Vodafone Booster Brolly

11 July 2012

UCL Consultants

A UCL academic has designed and built an innovative prototype of a revolutionary umbrella incorporating solar panels and signal boosting technology for mobile phones.

The brolly – designed by Dr Kenneth Tong (UCL Electronic and Electrical Engineering) – was commissioned by Vodafone, after they approached him to develop a device which would act as a signal booster and charger for mobile phone users during outdoor events and festivals this summer.

The innovative design – now officially known as the Vodafone Booster Brolly – incorporates a high-gain antenna together with a low power signal repeater to boost the mobile signal of anyone immediately under or around the umbrella. It also incorporates flexible solar panels, hand-stitched onto the canopy, to power the device.

“We’ve put in all of this technology 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,” said Dr Tong, in an interview for Vodafone VIP, who commissioned the device.

UCL Consultants’ Mark Sedgwick worked with Kenneth to advise on the financial side of the collaboration, negotiate the commercial terms of the device development and provide legal advice on the potential ownership of the prototype’s intellectual property. He also advised on possible future commercialisation opportunities.

“The Vodafone Booster Brolly is one of the most exciting projects I have worked on at UCL Consultants,” says Mark. “That was why it was so important to ensure that all of the key commercial conditions were clearly negotiated and agreed in advance.’

Dr Tong has plans to continue to develop the Brolly: he already has plans to refine it, including a canopy with fully-integrated solar panels and lightening it by using aluminium in place of components currently made of brass – and UCL Consultants will be available to support him as he does so.

About UCL Consultants

UCL Consultants Ltd. (UCLC) is the gateway to access the expertise of leading academic staff.

The areas of expertise, skills and facilities offered by UCLC cover the breadth of UCL’s world-class research-based expertise across over 100 departments houses in nine faculties and world-renowned institutes.

It connects UCL experts with national and international organisations that are seeking to resolve specific, targeted problems or gain critical advantage in their market.