UCL Consultants Ltd


The Vodafone Booster Brolly: a cure for the summertime blues

16 October 2013


An integrated umbrella, mobile phone charger and mobile signal booster, developed by Dr Kenneth Tong with the support of UCL Consultants.

Anyone who's ever been to a summer festival or outdoor event in the UK will know that two things are essential - an umbrella and making sure your mobile phone is charged before setting off.

But all that may be a thing of a the past, as UCL's Dr Kenneth Tong (UCL Electronic and Electrical Engineering) has designed and built an innovative prototype of a revolutionary umbrella which incorporates solar panels and signal boosting technology for mobile phones.

The brolly was commissioned by Vodafone, which explains this exciting new prototype's name, after they approached him to develop a device that would act as a signal booster and charger for mobile phone users during outdoor events and festivals.

Powered by the sun

Kenneth's innovative design incorporates flexible solar panels, hand-stitched onto the canopy, to power the device, while a high-gain antenna together with a low power signal repeater boosts the mobile signal of anyone immediately under or around the umbrella.

UCL Consultants' Mark Sedgwick worked with Kenneth on a number of key aspects on the project, including:

  • advising on the financial side of the collaboration
  • negotiating the commercial terms of the device development
  • providing legal advice on the potential ownership of the prototype's intellectual property
  • researching possible future commercialisation opportunities.

Dr Tong has plans to refine and further develop the brolly, including a canopy with fully-integrated solar panels and using aluminium in place of components currently made of brass to lighten it. Naturally, UCL Consultants will be available to support him as he does so.

"We've put in all of this technology and it looks good," says Dr Tong. "In fact, it's a bit of a James Bond umbrella - you can't tell what it does from the outside."

Mark Sedgwick comments: "The Vodafone Booster Brolly is one of the most exciting projects that I have worked on at UCL Consultants. It was important to ensure that all of the key commercial conditions were clearly negotiated and agreed in advance."

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