The loss of a cell phone is not only costly but also inconvenient. Few people go to the trouble of writing down all their phone numbers in an address book, so that when a phone goes missing, it can mean irreplaceable numbers are gone forever.
There may be an answer to this problem.
Paul Stokes, a 49-year-old businessman from Shankill in Dublin has hit on what he hopes will be a winning formula. He has invented an “intelligent phone charger.” The idea is that every time a phone is charged, all the information in the phone memory will be saved by the charger.
On the off chance that a phone is lost or stolen, all the names and numbers will be safely stored in the device. Extracting that information would be easy –simply charge up your new phone with the same device and all the details will be transferred to the new handset.
“The software in the charger would interrogate the software in the phone,” Stokes explained. “It would back up and save all the information.”
Like an ordinary phone charger, it would contain a microprocessing chip that would store all the information.
The genesis of this project was a phone theft in Dublin last year.
“It was August and I was having lunch with Derek in a pub,” remembered Stokes, referring to his business partner, Derek McGovern. “Derek had his phone on the table and I told him that he would forget it. Of course, after lunch we were driving away when he realized that he left it there. It was gone when we got back.”
As McGovern bemoaned the loss of his phone and list of contacts, Stokes had a brainwave. What about a device that saves all the information?
Today, he and McGovern are proud holders of a patent that allows them world-wide protection for a year.
They hope to invest by buying patents in other countries, a move that will cost them up to euro 18,000.
Once Stokes had the patent, word spread quickly. He was interviewed on the popular RTE “Pat Kenny Radio Show” in Ireland, after which he was approached by the BBC News for an interview. Then, the international advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi saw the article on the BBC website and got in touch with Stokes.
The agency invited him to take part in a competition called the Innovation in Communication Award 2002-03 in New York. Stokes was chosen as one of 11 contestants and was in the city last week for the final.
He did not win the prize, valued at $100,000, but he hopes that the exposure in New York will work in his favor.
Stokes has plenty of experience in the technology field. In 1997, he sold a company that he had started up for the manufacture of wire binding, a coil used for binding calendars and notebooks. While there, Stokes tweaked some of the machines for a more efficient handling of products and taught himself the rudiments of computer technology. It is this background that gives Stokes much of his confidence in his invention.
One aspect of his success that puzzles Stokes is the apparent lack of interest from some phone companies. To date, no one has offered to buy the patent from him. “I don’t understand why it hasn’t been taken up,” he said. “If I was told it was not feasible, I could understand, but I know it is workable.” Stokes added that the additional costs would be minimal.
One possible answer is the lack of a prototype. For the Saatchi competition, Stokes has made a promotional CD that uses animation to explain how the microprocessing chip in the phone charger would work, but that might not be as convincing as a sample of the real thing.
Another potential problem for investors is that the charger would require small design modifications for the phone. “The architecture of the phone would have to change slightly,” said Stokes. “Also, the software would need to be a bit different.”