Monday, 24 October 2016

PHONEBLOKS: A Phone to Keep

Hundreds of years ago, the idea that one could access all of the information the world has ever known with a device that could fit in pocket was unfathomable. With the invention of the internet, this idea began to become a reality as society made major strides in the advancement of communication technology. In recent years, the smartphone has reigned as the primary method for non-face-to-face communication due to its features of being portable and easily accessible, and was the first true device to be able to carry out this “unfathomable” feature of unlimited access to information. It seems like most people get a new cellphone every year– and while that’s good news for phone manufacturers and telecoms industry, it’s not helping our wallets or the environment.

One negative consequence of the smartphone, however, are the amount of hazardous waste produced each year by the world’s booming population. This high volume of hazardous waste is contaminating the earth on an immense scale, and needs to be addressed in order to support a sustainable planet. Project Ara, a project headed by Google, addresses this problem by creating a modular system for smartphones in which only certain components of a smartphone need to be disposed of at a time, as opposed to disposing of an entire smartphone for one minor flaw.

A Module Phone - “Modules are the building blocks of an Ara phone. They are the hardware analogue to software apps. These are physical components that implement various phone functions. There are two major classes of modules: Front modules, which make up the front of the phone and generally provide user interaction or interface affordances such as the display, speaker, microphone, etc., and rear modules, which provide the bulk of the phone’s back-end functionality.

Environmental Implications of Phonebloks:

In addition to being able to customize the phone, users can mitigate hazardous waste by replacing only the components that are expired or undesirable, as opposed to disposing the entire smartphone.

"Usually a phone is integrated into one solid block and if one part gets broken you have to throw away the entire phone,". "But this has different components, so if  your battery is broken you can replace the battery or if you need a better camera you only upgrade the camera component. So you don't throw away the entire phone; you keep the good stuff."       

The whole idea is to generate lots of buzz, so companies see there's a huge market and realize that they really need to make a phone like this.

The Phonebloks concept features electronic blocks that snap onto a base board, which links all the components. Two small screws lock everything together. Users can choose components from their favourite brands or make their own modules.

"You can customise your phone, replacing the storage block with a larger battery if you store everything in the cloud, or replace advanced components you don't need with basic blocks like a bigger speaker," says the video explaining the concept.

Phonebloks will lead to fewer phones being thrown away, thereby reducing waste. Electronic devices are not designed to last. This makes electronic waste one of the fastest-growing waste streams in the world and our phone is one of the biggest causes.

Ms. Sakshi Chhabra
Assistant Professor
Dept. of Management Studies

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