Making use of an old smartphone. The Shed Project Returns!

Remember my strange Shed Project? I wanted to make use of an old smartphone and thanks to a solar panel and some software, I created a web server which didn’t need external power, then lumped in an API so I could remotely control the camera and check on the charge status of the phone.

All of this was lovely, but I had a couple of problems. First, the phone in question died. I don’t fully know why but it refused to accept charge from the solar panel or the mains. I also found that, in the depths of winter when the days were very short, there was insufficient charge to keep it going. Slowly but surely the charge times got shorter and the battery was boosted less and less.

Now it’s back. This time with a different phone and a different idea. Sure, having a web server seems like a good idea, but I couldn’t think of anything really useful to put on it.

So, I’ve gone for something a little more simple and arguably more useful.

Fold-out solar panel hanging in the window

There’s a number of apps which will make us of your phone to collectively solve problems or perform research while you charge. Stick apps like BOINC or the Vodafone DreamLab onto your phone and, while you sleep, they’ll crunch complex data, scanning DNA and solving problems to help fight cancer. All you need to do is install the app. It’ll run when you’re charging and probably whilst your asleep – stiching many smartphones together to make a big, distributed super-computer.

Great idea, and I figured that I could help with the power of the sun.

Cable tie. Everything can be fixed with cable tie.

You know the story by now. We’ve got a solar panel, an old smartphone and (hopefully) enough sunshine to keep the battery topped up in the day so it’ll remain powered on through the night.

So far it’s working rather well, but do take a look at our other stories in this feature if you have an old smartphone that could be doing something more useful.