At an intimate gathering of supporters that has helped Novelsys in their journey since 2013, including mentors, fellow startup owners, industrial partners, and friends, the prototype of ampere was revealed in the form of a smartphone sleeve that is capable of charging your smartphone as well as other devices within range. While the prototype at first glance doesn’t seem invoke awe and wonder in its look and design, the technology behind it hints at a larger and more optimistic future.
Before arriving to their final prototype, the company went through several prototypes, which they proudly displayed at the gathering. From 3D printed plastic slabs to hand-sewn felt pockets with the logo drawn on, the range of options explored showed the journey that the company has had in less than two years. Some prototypes, like the early handphone sleeve with the logo drawn on, helped Novelsys win several awards, though others, Novelsys co-founder Kenneth Lou admitted, had cost them dearly in time and money.
To date the company has won 8 awards, including Global iTic, the Youth Pre-Start-up category at the 2014 Global Talentrepreneur Innovation & Collaboration (GlobalTiC), as well as SiTF (Singapore infocomm Technology Federation) Awards for Best Startup, Best Consumer Product and Best Tertiary Startup. With this much achievement under their belt even before a fully functional prototype was released, it’s clear that I’m not the only one to thinks that the company has a bright future ahead.
First Peek At Ampere
I was lucky enough to get a chance to take a good look at ampere, and I have to admit that at first glance I was a little disappointed. The black leather casing oozed masculinity, and it was slightly heavier than I had expected.
But for a startup releasing their first functional prototype, it was a big step. The weight, while surprising, was in hindsight a quarter of the weight that most portable chargers have, without any of the clunkiness. And while I was not a personal fan of the black leather, it is still a small piece of a larger picture, and a feature that could be easily changed with time and ample resources.
Another thing that surprised me was the fact that the charger came with a receiver. It’s a small little tab that is stuck behind the phone itself, and plugged into the charging port of your phone. It’s not a common sight to see for any portable charger, but it is an easy change for anyone who hates charging cables that get tangled inside your bags.
It can charge your phone for up to 10 hours, and even has ports if you prefer wired charging instead.
“When you compare it to other charging options, let’s say power banks, ampere provides a more seamless charging experience,” said Mark Keong, ‘Engineering Prodigy’ and co-founder.
It’s not so good for those who prefer a naked phone – the phone used to demonstrate ampere had a bit of sticky tape stuck to it – but with a suitable phone case, the phone receiver hides easily from view and instantly charges upon contact, without any need for bluetooth pairing or configuration. Imagine placing your phone into your purse or pocket, and having the device begin charging instantly.
The wireless charging capabilities aren’t the only thing that ampere is capable of. Its joint app provides an “automated charging experience”, what Keong said was the “world’s first”. It notifies you when battery life reaches a pre-set threshold, and helps you monitor both the battery life of your devices and of ampere. It even has a track-and-find function, that allows you to track your phone with ampere, or track ampere with your phone.
The price tag is a little hefty, USD119 in retail, possibly a result of first production inertia. A much better price of USD84 will be available at their upcoming Kickstarter campaign in January 2015.
What Ampere Means For Mobile Charging
Inductive charging isn’t a new thing – there have been charging mats and platforms available for the past year or so. A portable wireless charger, however, is a new sight. Novelsys has chosen to bring ampere onto a lifestyle route, designing it mainly for personal and mobile usage
“Ampere is a lifestyle product for you and I, something that anyone, any gender, would appreciate,” said Delane Foo, Design Extraodinaire, co-founder of Novelsys. “We retained the idea of a sleeve because it is something that people are familiar with.”
Mobile wireless charging inspires a whole new range of ideas, should the product take off. While the technology is still in its infancy, the thought of any surface or item being capable of Near Field Power Transmission is mind-blowing. Imagine visiting a restaurant and having your phone charged on the table by your meal. Imagine movie theatre seats that charges your phone in your pocket. Imagine a wallet, a bag, or even pants, that charges your devices as you travel. It’s all possible.
With Singapore gearing for its goal to become the next Smart Nation, and implementing charging ports in several public places, perhaps they should be exploring the wireless charging options instead.
While I believe that ampere has fallen slightly short on its mark to make a lifestyle product that “any gender” can appreciate, that is a personal opinion, and a design option that can’t be changed easily at this point. It doesn’t take away from the fact that ampere is an amazing product that I’m gearing to get my hands on when their Kickstarter campaign launches. It doesn’t change the fact that I will be keeping my eye on Novelsys in the years to come.
When the event began, CEO and co-founder of Novelsys’ Kenneth Lou’s opening phrase was, “We are Novelsys, and we want to power the world.” With the right support and resources, I think it’s very possible that they will.