A recent initiative by Samsung allows users to put a completely new operating system on old phones, bringing them back to life. To show exactly what they can do, the company built a bitcoin mining rig entirely out of 40 old Galaxy S5 devices.
The novelty rig was revealed at a recent developers’ conference in San Francisco, according to Motherboard. Instead of physically breaking used phones to resell parts, the “upcycling” involves repurposing them. Samsung also demonstrated other innovative and fun concepts relating to the upcycling initiative.
Samsung’s C-lab is a team of engineers committed to producing creative projects exhibited a range of different use-cases for old Galaxy phones and tablets. Also, these devices were equipped with the new OS.
Other Projects That Repurpose Samsung Devices
The engineering team, in addition to building the phone-based Bitcoin mining rig, showed off other objects made by repurposing the company’s old devices.
Other innovative concepts were an Ubuntu-powered laptop repurposing a Galaxy tablet, using a Galaxy S3 to oversee a fish tank, and a used phone turned into a facial recognition device in the form of an owl, to guard a house entrance.
Samsung turned down all specific questions about its smartphone mining rig. However, a fact sheet at the developers’ conference outlined that eight galaxy S5 devices have more significant power efficiency than a typical desktop computer to mine bitcoins.
There’s no word on how much BTC the rig mined — though comparing its efficiency to a desktop mining rig would suggest not much. Still, nice to know it’s possible.
Samsung Upcycling for the Environment
Samsung spokesman Robin Schultz wrote in an email to Motherboard: “This innovative platform provides an environmentally responsible way for old galaxy mobile devices to breathe new life, providing new possibilities and potential extended value for devices that might otherwise be forgotten in desk drawers or discarded.”
The company plans to make available both the software and strategy of the project online for free. Repurposing is one of the best ways to make use of used phones which otherwise would be worthless, or even toxic landfill.
Old Hardware Needs New Software to Be Useful
Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit, told Motherboard: “The challenge with keeping old electronics running a long time is software.”
He added “With the phone, in particular, the old software is insecure and doesn’t run the apps. So the question is, if you have this perfectly functional piece of hardware that doesn’t have good software anymore and you want to keep it running for ten years, how do you do that?”
When asked whether engineers plan to move the project to an open source platform, Samsung replied, “Stay tuned”. With the bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies’ markets escalating, the idea surely is an exciting one. More tech companies should come up with similar or better philosophies.
The smartphone market is growing day after day, resulting in companies working 24/7 on innovative ways to stay competitive against rivals. People’s perspective has changed too — from holding onto a phone for 5-6 years, to changing it after a couple of years. With carriers themselves competing with upgrade deals, that time is getting even shorter.
Most people keep old phones for an emergency. However, in the majority of cases, these phones never get used. In tech terms phones in the closet are generally referred to as “e-waste”. Samsung’s upcycling action turns this stored waste into something useful — potentially even profitable.
Maybe the mining rig is just a proof of concept, but what do you think of “upcycling” in general? Please share in the comments below.
Images via Samsung, Android Central