Under normal circumstances, I would’ve assumed the gleaming white, person-sized box standing next to me was some kind of high-end appliance. Things are rarely so straightforward at CES’s Eureka Park, though. It was actually what Hong Kong startup Amp’d Energy calls a “silo” — turns out, the thing I had casually rested my camera on top was an array of 1,792 batteries designed to keep critical buildings up and running without the nasty environmental effects that come with using diesel generators.
According to co-founder Brandon Ng, a single, 17kWh silo can power a 10-person office for between three and four hours before running dry. Need even more power? Up to three can be daisy-chained together (for now, anyway) to keep even larger buildings running when the power goes out, and they should kick on with incredible speed — it’s possible people inside those buildings won’t even notice the transition. People outside won’t notice either, which Ng says is crucial to the company’s vision. For a startup so physically close to China’s crazy air pollution, the appeal of helping dial down noxious emissions is one that can’t be denied.
And yes, as I pointed out earlier, the Amp’d Silo is surprisingly pretty. It clearly draws more inspiration from home appliances and modern consumer tech trends, making it what might be the friendliest backup power solution out there. Consider how you keep tabs on silos in action: the team ultimately wants to build a way to manage them remotely, but for now you just walk up to a unit and start fiddling with a clean, touchscreen interface. Seriously: it looks like something you’d find on a pricey bit of connected home kit. In a way, though, Ng hopes you never have to use the touchscreen. The silos were designed with a system of micro-fuses that’ll trip to prevent massive failures, and since the whole thing is solid state, the risk of breakdown should be minimal.
The concept has proven popular enough that the team recently locked down $3.7 million in seed funding, which is pretty damned substantial for as far as Hong Kong startups go. For now, though, the team’s focus is on building around 1,000 first-run units to test in Indonesia, India and the Philippines in early 2017.
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