The innovators: portable solar panels that can be unrolled like a carpet


Talk is not cheap in the mountains of Nepal. Getting a mobile phone charged can cost $5 in areas where there is no electricity and backpackers have to rely on diesel generators used by locals to power up.

John Hingley had a solution stuffed in his rucksack: a thin and lightweight portable solar panel that unfolded and could generate enough energy to power his phone, camera and computer. As well as keeping him charged in the mountains, the simple device commonly used by travellers and outdoor enthusiasts gave him an idea – to make a much bigger version.

“The reason why this worked so well was because of the big surface area that you have got … and I started working on ways to scale this sort of concept,” he said. Three years after returning from his world trip, Hingley has developed a large steel container that contains a long spool of solar panels, all attached together on a strong flexible fabric that can be pulled out into a 50 metre long system in two minutes.

The portable  solar system ( for example: GOAL ZERO NOMAD 13 ), which stores generated energy in batteries in the steel housing, is expected to be used for disaster relief where power systems have been knocked out, by armies on the move, and in mining stations located in areas without any power. “The market for off grid energy is huge and growing – 24% of the world is off grid but everyone needs energy these days,” said Hingley.

The system uses copper indium gallium selenide solar cells (CIGS) that are bonded with a tensile fabric. The strength of the combined material can cope with being rolled in and out, said Hingley, and it can be in full operation a few minutes after it is deployed. “It is like a microgrid in a box. It has all of the components integrated into it that you need to run a 24 hour microgrid.”

The spool of solar panels is typically pulled out by a vehicle, which takes about two minutes, but can also be done manually, albeit by a number of people. When ready for market, after it goes through regulatory checks, Hingley’s company Renovagen will make the solar power systems bespoke, according to what size the buyer wants. The surface it is placed on does not have to be flat, he said.

An initial prototype had a capacity of 6KW, about twice that of a solar array on a typical family home. The current generation will have a capacity of up to 18KW, said Hingley, and similar levels of efficiency to solar systems sold for homes in the UK. However, since they may be used in countries where the demand for energy is much less, the Renovagen system will be able to serve many more homes than a comparable solar array in Britain, he said. The steel unit in which the spool of panels is housed has lifting rings on the top which can be attached to helicopters so that the unit can be dropped by air.

When the Philippines was hit by Typhoon Haiyan in 2013, Tacloban City was cut off from supplies and while hospitals had diesel generators, there was no diesel to fuel them. It is occasions like that where the Renovagen system could have been used to best effect, said Hingley. “I could see that if we could drop this on the ground at the beginning, right after the disaster, then it could have powered all of that equipment in the hospital,” he said

The protection of fuel convoys has resulted in large numbers of military deaths, Hingley said. “You have to protect the convoys, you have to protect the flights going in, so it can cost. The US army estimated that it can cost up to $400 per gallon to deliver fuel to those bases.”

Mining companies which may be exploring in specific areas for short periods at a time, and need to be able to up and move, are also potential customers, he said. “You might only be at a particular site for a few weeks and then you might move a few miles [and] be on that next site for a few weeks. And all of that might be so remote that you would have to fly fuel in for the diesel generators that you would be running.”

So far, Renovagen has received orders for three prototype systems from an unnamed client. Hingley expects them to get full regulatory approval in four months so they can start to make and sell them on the market. The early versions can cost between £50,000 and £110,000 although he expectsthe price to drop substantially as the business grows and the cost of solar and battery components comes down.

The company is targeting sales in markets where there is a need for off-the-grid power, such as the United States, Canada and the Middle East. Hingley also hopes to attract interest from Chile, where there is a large mining industry.

Other possible uses could be at festivals and in filming, where quiet energy generation is needed, he said. Future plans are for a much larger-scale solar power unit, which will be the size of a shipping container but will have a capacity of up to 150KW across an array measuring 5 metres wide and 200 long.


Facts and Fancies: Quilts


A favorite quilt can bring its owner comfort, warmth and security. It can be an heirloom that is passed down to future generations, reminding a family of their history. I am a self-taught quilter who has been quilting for the last 15 years. As a member of the Quiltsy Team here on Etsy, I participated in quilting the giant quilts for Etsy’s new office.

In this quilting installment for the Facts and Fancies series, I’ll give you some insight into the different materials used in quilts and the varying styles and techniques of quilts.

Before we start, Webster Mirriam’s dictionary defines a quilt as “a bed coverlet of two layers of cloth filled with padding (batting) held in place by ties or stitched designs.” While this holds true for most, not all techniques considered quilting fit this definition, and I will introduce you to those, too.

It is important to know your sizes when buying a quilt for a bed. Before purchasing a quilt, you should take the mattress size of your bed and measure all around the bed for the amount of overhang you would prefer and add those measurements to the mattress size to get the quilt size you need. You can find the standard dimensions for mattresses here.

Most quilters like to use 100% cotton quilting fabrics. There are different grades of fabric in the manufacturing process. Normally, a mill will run tests on new designs to test for colors. This fabric is often sold to discount stores at a lesser price. Keep in mind that this test fabric often has a lower thread count and will shrink more and the colors may bleed and/or fade due to this. Most quilt shops sell the better grade with higher thread count. This fabric is more expensive, averaging about $9/yard in the U.S., but if taken care of properly, it can last for centuries and is well worth the investment.

Recycled materials are increasing in popularity with the push towards more environmentally friendly products, though upcycled quilts have been, for quite some time, a traditionally thrifty way to make do with fabric scraps.

Tech Time Warp of the Week: The 1972 Digital Watch That Cost More Than a Car

ON MONDAY APPLE is expected to announce more details about the Apple Watch. It could be the product that finally brings wearable computing into the mainstream. But as far as high-tech watches go, it’s hardly the most ambitious.

In 1972, the Hamilton Watch Company announced the Pulsar Time Computer, billed as the first digital watch. In the video above you can see—and hear—how grand the company’s vision for the future of timekeeping was.

“Time. The endless river,” the ominous voice intones as a clock ticks in the background. “Transporting some. Engulfing others. A stream upon which information explodes, communications multiply, technology accelerates into ever new life.”


The “Time Computer” bit was mostly marketing hype. It didn’t double as a calculator or address book, or have any of the other bonus features that later digital watches would include. All the vintage Pulsar watch did was tell time. But in an age when computers were still enormous, lumbering machines, the prospect of wearing anything that could be construed as a computer on your wrist was downright science fictional. And much as today’s watches tout sensors to monitor your heart rate or activity, the Pulsar boasted a light sensor that could adjust the brightness of the LEDs so that they looked the same to the eye regardless of the lighting conditions.

“That model sold for $2,100, which was more than a new Ford Pinto went for at the time,” journalist Harry McCracken wrote in a retrospective on early digital watches. A Pulsar even appeared on James Bond’s wrist in 1973’s Live and Let Die.

But that prestige didn’t last long. Technology companies soon flooded the market with new products. Back before Commodore International—the company behind the iconic Commodore 64 and Amiga computers—got into the PC business, it released its own LED watch in 1975.

Other computer companies, including HP, Intel, and Sinclar, also got in on the action. “In short, the 1970s watch business was a preview of the 1980s PC business,” McCracken observes. “For the first time, a bunch of electronics companies which had previously specialized in scientific equipment and business machines started learning about selling gadgets to consumers.”

Commodification doomed most of these efforts as a prices for digital watches went from thousands of dollars to just a few bucks in the late 1970s. Commodore, HP and the like soon moved on to the more lucrative and exciting PC market. But now, like the hour hand slowly ticking its way back to 12, the computer industry is returning to the watch businesses.

7 Popular Goal Setting Strategies That Will Help You Achieve Great Things on Social Media


Podcasts have become one of the most popular content mediums, and it’s difficult to say why. The number of active podcasts on iTunes has skyrocketed from just 10,000 in 2008 to over 250,000 today, with more than a billion worldwide subscribers. Does their popularity stem from the fact that you can listen to them on the go?

Related: The Books, Podcasts and TED Talks You Need to Stay Committed to Your Goals

Is it the sheer quality of content that’s available? Or, do people just want an alternative to video and written content?

Whatever these listeners’ motivation is, podcasts should be a part of your daily content consumption, too. They’re frequently hosted by major authorities and offer some super-practical tips on everything from starting a business to growing a social media campaign. If you’re in the marketing space, as I am, I highly recommend listening to these eight awesome podcasts on a regular basis:

1. Copyblogger FM

Copyblogger FM is a podcast currently hosted by Sonia Simone (it was formerly hosted by Demian Farnworth and Jerod Morris). Previously known as The Lede, Copyblogger FM is dedicated to exploring new trends and topics specifically related to copywriting and content marketing. Each week, Sonia Simone hosts a new expert (or experts) in the marketing game and explores some new topic or idea.

2. #AskGaryVee

#AskGaryVee is a podcast hosted by, you guessed it, Gary V. (Gary Vaynerchuk). The show covers a wide range of topics of interest to marketers and entrepreneurs, but where the show truly shines is its expertise in social media marketing. Typically, the show releases two new episodes a week, and prioritizes collecting and answering user questions. So, if you have a question to submit, you’ll likely hear it featured in the next episode. Because these episodes are filmed, with the sound extracted, videos are available, as well.

3. ConversionCast

ConversionCast is a podcast started by Lead Pages, which you may recognize as an authority in the lead-generation and conversion-optimization niche. Accordingly, you’ll probably be able to guess what its main topic of interest is: conversion optimization. In each episode, you’ll find a solid case study of a marketer or entrepreneur who used a new tactic to improve conversion rates or lead flow. It’s a good source of inspiration if you need help in this area (or just want to squeeze more money out of your campaign). Plus, the episodes are super short — usually around 15 minutes — so it’s definitely worth a listen.

Continue reading “7 Popular Goal Setting Strategies That Will Help You Achieve Great Things on Social Media”

Can You ‘Feel’ It? How to Use Emotional Decision-Making in Marketing


When it comes to marketing, most brands are sneakier than you think. To be successful, a modern company can’t just create a product that appeals to your pain points and offers a solution.

Related: Connecting With Customers: How to Market to Their Emotions

Instead, your favorite businesses create a connection with you on a deeper level. This is why you can sum up the advertisements and marketing schemes that prompt people to share and buy with a single word: emotional.

“But, surely we make decisions based on rational thought!” you’ll protest. Um, no.

While many people think rational thought wins out, studies show that people rely more on emotion than information to make purchasing decisions. Human beings are emotional by nature, which means that many of our decisions — from what we eat, to what we buy — are influenced by how we feel on any given day.

After all, if you think about it logically, your favorite pair of shoes is probably the same in structure as thousands of other pairs, but you rationalize that that favorite pair is better in some way.

The reason is that we’re all emotionally compromised. The marketing efforts that companies make form a deeper connection with us, and force us to fall in love with whatever they’re selling. In fact, the most-shared ads of 2015 were those which used emotional content.

If you’re a marketer, this focus on emotion should be particularly important to you. After all, while it’s important to educate your customers about your services and products, it’s even more important to make them feel something.

So, if you’re ready to get touchy-feely with your advertising efforts, it’s time to start looking at the world of human decision-making and how you can use it in marketing.

Peering into the emotional brain

According to Antonio Damasio, a professor of neuroscience at the University of Southern California,  we need emotion to make basically any kind of choice. Through emotions, we connect brands and products experiences with our personal feelings and memories.

For example, if the first time you ate a burger from a local fast-food restaurant, you ended up being sick for several hours, you’re probably going to associate that restaurant with disgust. It doesn’t matter that you might have just had a one-off bad burger; your experience is still going to influence you in the long run.

Related: Why TD Bank’s Emotional ‘Thank You’ Video Is Marketing Magic

In the same vein, if you associate going to that local fast food restaurant with fun moments bonding with your family, then the chances are that you’ll go back time and time again — regardless of whether you really like the food or not. That’s because our emotions create preferences which influence decision.

Damasio made his conclusions by studying people who had suffered damage to the emotional and rational parts of their brain. These people had no connection between those segments, and while they could process information, they weren’t able to make decisions. Why? Because they didn’t know how they felt about the options they had.

Delving a little further into the scientific part of marketing, Psychology Today has outlined some core areas where emotions interact to facilitate human choice. For instance:

  • Positive emotions, such as happiness, delight or satisfaction are more likely to build customer loyalty than anything else. Simply put: If you can make your customer happy, that matters more than all the great guarantees and refund policies in the world.
  • Popularity is crucial. Finding ways to make yourself more likable isn’t a practice that stops after high school. In marketing, likability plays a huge part in brand perception, and whether an advertisement makes a positive impact.
  • Emotional advertising can have a much larger impact on a customer’s choice to purchase a product than the content within that ad. In other words, it’s the emotions you convey — not necessarily the product features — that sell your item.
  • Neuro-imagery shows that customers use their emotional brain rather than their logical brain to evaluate brands.

Think about the last time you really enjoyed an advertisement. The chances are, you didn’t like it because you just thought the information was intriguing; you liked it because it was funny, touching, smart or interesting. We like advertisements for all the same reasons we like people.

Continue reading “Can You ‘Feel’ It? How to Use Emotional Decision-Making in Marketing”

The Best Days to Send Email Campaigns and Other Email Marketing Tips


Reportedly, 83 percent of marketers consider email their primary lead generation channel. While email marketing can be a cost-effective way to reach new prospects and stay in touch with existing customers, its popularity as a marketing tactic demands that you understand how to optimize your email campaigns in order to cut through the clutter.

Here are some important email marketing tips to keep in mind when you design your next email marketing campaign.

The day of delivery matters.

The “best time” to send emails depends on your unique product/service, customer base and content, but there are some general best practices email marketers can use to optimize when their campaigns arrive in inboxes. Based on the email provider’s analysis of billions of email campaigns, it found that emails sent on Thursdays generally receive the highest amount of opens, followed closely by those sent on a Tuesday. With the exception of campaigns promoting hobby and recreational content, its data indicates that weekends are the least ideal time to send an email marketing campaign.

Continue reading “The Best Days to Send Email Campaigns and Other Email Marketing Tips”