A cure for the summertime blues – the Vodafone booster brolly

7 August 2014

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.

person holding phone

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 Vodafone Booster Brolly was commissioned by Vodafone, which explains this exciting new prototype’s name, after they approached Dr Tong 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.

Mark Sedgwick, UCL Consultants Ltd, 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.

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