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Solio Creator Christopher Hornor on Ecofriendly Products

TMO at MWSF - Solio Creator Christopher Hornor on Ecofriendly Products

by , 4:00 PM EST, January 12th, 2005

San Francisco, CA -- Here at MWSF we have already covered one of the show floor's hottest products, Better Energy System's Solio. Today we spoke with Better Energy's founder and CEO Christopher Hornor. A veteran of the dot-com boom, he started working on this project in the "lull" of the last three years.

"I've always been fascinated by renewable energy," Mr. Hornor explained. As cell phones, PDAs, and iPods got bigger screens, more features, and better functionality, battery technology struggled to keep up. "There was a power gap between all these new features and the lithium-ion technology."

Mr. Hornor's solution was Solio, which uses three solar panels to charge a single 3.7 Volt battery. That battery, in turn, powers whatever device you hook up to it: iPod, cell phone, or PDA. The technology required to make that happen is, as an engineer might say, non-trivial. Using a combination of circuitry and software, Solio uses that single built-in 3.7 Volt battery to produce a power supply anywhere between 4 Volts and 10 Volts. As an end-user, all you have to do is attach an adapter that connects to the device you want to charge.

If you find yourself thinking this device sounds clever, you are far from alone. Better Energy's booth has been mobbed for the last two days, and there's no indication the interest will wane. "It's been a busy two months," Mr. Horner says. The company ran a limited product release in France and the London to test their marketing and distribution before deploying in the US. Mr. Hornor is clearly pleased with his company's progress, and with good reason. Chances are you'll see Solio racking up a pile of "Best of Show" awards later this week.

Solio, by Better Energy Systems

So what's the mentality behind the product? Mr. Hornor is wary of the marketing approach used with most "green" products. "We don't want to have this browbeating strategy" of getting people to buy environmentally friendly products. "There's a lot of [ecofriendly] product that's going unnoticed because of poor marketing and design," Mr. Hornor said. The approach he advocated would use clever products with good design to help promote environmentally friendliness.

The Better Energy booth. Christopher Hornor, right, demonstrates the Solio.

To that end, Mr. Horner said he intends to integrate recycled and recyclable materials into every possible aspect of their product design, so that their products, while cool and useful "also happen to be environmentally friendly."

As for what's next from the company, Mr. Hornor is keeping quiet. He said only that "We've got several things in the pipeline," and included evasive phrases like "new materials" and "higher power." In the meantime, Better Energy seems to have enough on its plate: in addition to the Solio rollout, Mr. Horner is getting married in a few months. Apparently when it rains, it pours.

Stay tuned for a complete review of Solio.

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