Seven years ago we first covered the Magic Box That Does Everything, the Ecos LifeLink. I titled the post It Generates. It Internets. It Cools and Refreshes. And now, apparently, It Exists. It doesn't appear to cool and refresh with the water purification anymore, but it does still generate and internet, with up to 15 Kilowatts of power. Director and intellectual property strategist Dean Becker gushes in a press release:
This innovative patented solar technology has the potential to be one of the most important solar patented innovations of our generation.
Did I mention it is patented? Indeed, it is covered by US patent US 8593102. I looked it up to try and figure out what was in fact patentable in covering a shipping container with solar panels and filling it with batteries and routers; it seems pretty obvious to me. And indeed, inventor Dennis McGuire notes in the application that "there exist a multitude of mobile and portable power stations that supply electricity to field hospitals, emergency aid units, and water filtration systems." However not many of them are solar powered, and his is different:
None of the aforementioned prior art disclose the space saving arrangement of solar panels in the stowed position on top of the container of the inventive station. Nor does the prior art teach or suggest symmetrically arranging the solar panels in the deployed position to enhance the stability of the station.
OK, so it's all about the drawer system and I guess that's patentable because they got it. They anticipate military, humanitarian and disaster relief applications and are looking for deals.
The Professor of Sustainable Design in me would question whether this is the best approach; solar panels are not as effective horizontal as they are angled toward the sun, and in dusty areas where the military goes a lot, they would have to be cleaned regularly. Solar panels have got really cheap since McGuire started playing with this in 2006, (see: Swanson Effect) and here, the mounting of the panels in these drawers is going to be expensive. I can't help thinking that just sending a container full of panels on adjustable racks that could be placed on the ground wouldn't be cheaper, generate more power, and be easier to clean. They can throw in a router.
But hey, I spent five years and a lot of money trying to patent something that nobody wanted or needed either, it becomes an obsession. I wish them luck.
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