There is a term for what results when two or more inventions combine to form a new invention -- technological convergence. Under the loosest definition, a 3-in-1 toaster oven coffee maker and frying pan would be a prime example. It's good for making breakfast in a rush, but normally convergence is reserved for emerging technologies, usually in the telecommunications field. Phone lines combined with computers led to the Internet. E-mail clients combined with cell phones, LCD displays and SMS messaging to create cell phones. Devices are being mashed together to create myriad hand-held portable gadgets.
As energy becomes more valuable, especially in these environmentally conscious times, manufacturers have sought new ways to power these convergent devices. Melding supplemental forms of energy production into conventional sources -- like rechargeable batteries -- seems to be the new hallmark of converging technology. One of those devices created in the midst of this new era is the Iqua VizorSUN.
The Iqua VizorSUN is a little hands-free Bluetooth car kit that, as its name suggests, clips neatly onto a car's sun visor. Its small size -- the slim device measures less than 6 inches (15.2 centimeters) wide and less than 4 inches (10.2 centimeters) deep and weighs less than 6 ounces (170 grams) -- means there's a lot of technology packed into a little box. Like other hands-free Bluetooth kits, it allows drivers to easily take calls that are rerouted from their cell phones to the VizorSUN. What makes this device unique is that it combines Bluetooth with renewable energy technology in the form of solar cells embedded in the VizorSUN's top.
Find out about the underlying technology behind the VizorSUN on the next page.
Mechanics of the Iqua VizorSUN
Solar cells use the element silicon as a semiconductor. Silicon is a great material for allowing the flow of electrons (which we know as electricity) because of its atomic arrangement. Silicon's outer electron layer has four electrons, but there's room for eight. This means that pure silicon is very stable -- the atoms share their electrons and fit together nicely. But adding impurities (specifically boron and phosphorus) to the silicon creates an imbalance.
Phosphorus has five electrons to share, so pairing up with silicon means that it has one to spare. This spare electron could easily be knocked loose. Here's where the sunlight comes in. Sunlight is composed of tiny packets of energy called photons. Depending on their wavelength, photons carry enough energy to knock free electrons loose from their orbit. This is called the photoelectric effect, and it creates a negative charge. Simply knocking electrons loose wouldn't create electricity, though. That effect comes from the boron added to the silicon.
Boron shares three electrons, which leaves a gap when added to silicon. Remember that silicon likes to connect to four electrons. This means one less boron electron, which allows the positively charged nucleus to dominate. This domination creates the positive charge. The natural tendency to seek equilibrium means that the open bond at the boron/silicon site will attract the free electron left over by the phosphorus/silicon bond. This creates the flow of electrons -- otherwise known as an electrical field. By adding an external load (in the case of the VizorSUN, a rechargeable battery), this electron flow is stored for use.
The other component of the VizorSUN is Bluetooth. Bluetooth wireless technology uses radio waves to allow one device to communicate with another. With all Bluetooth-enabled wireless devices operating on the same frequency -- around 2.4 megahertz -- and with communication between these devices transpiring automatically whenever one comes in range with another, things could get garbled. But Bluetooth emits radio transmissions at extremely low power, between one to 10 milliwatts (one-thousandth to one-tenth of a watt) [source: Northstar]. Even when a multitude of wireless devices are within close proximity to one another, garbled and rotating transmissions are prevented by each device operating on several different frequencies within a single second. This means the changes of two operating on the same frequency unintentionally are decreased.
The VizorSUN marries solar and Bluetooth technologies into a coherent whole, with the solar cells providing an electrical charge to the battery, which, in turn powers the Bluetooth radio, the digital display, speaker, microphone, volume setting and the one-touch call technology.
Find out about more benefits of the VizorSUN on the next page.
Benefits of the Iqua VisorSUN
The VizorSUN extends the life of the battery through its solar cells, by as much as 20 hours of talk time by recharging the battery. It can also stand by on a full charge from the solar cells for 500 hours [source: Apple]. Since it clips to the visor, which is more often up than down, the solar cells may be hidden from the sun. To get the maximum amount of sunlight exposure, the device comes with a dashboard plate that's held fast by suction cups.
If you live and drive in a sunny climate, this could conceivably mean that your VizorSUN will never leave your car. Drivers who live in Fargo, ND, have little reason to fear. In the dead of winter (or spring, summer or autumn), the device's internal battery can be recharged via USB hook up.
Since the Iqua VizorSUN is a hands-free adapter for wireless phones, it offers the benefit of safety by definition. The interface is plainly clear; push one button to talk or disconnect and another for volume. If your phone has voice-activated dialing, then the VizorSUN does too, which makes it a fully hands-free device. Aside from an indictor that shows the level of the battery charge, that's about it for the interface. The device also clips to the car's sun visor, which puts it within reach of the driver, and in the same line of sight as the road.
About one million drivers on U.S. roads are talking on their cells phones at any given moment. These drivers are four times more likely to get into major car accidents than drivers who aren't using a handheld cell phone [source: Edmunds]. Talking or texting on handheld cell phones and even using Bluetooth headsets or earphones fall into the category of distracted driving (so do fiddling with an iPod or a navigation system, as well as unruly children in the car). It makes sense; focusing one's attention on finding the perfect song for the perfect moment, telling one's kid to pipe down or texting sweet nothings at 80 miles per hour can lead to trouble along the road.
Completely hands-free calling may lead to easier calling, but even when using a hands-free device like the VizorSUN, you should pay attention to the road and avoid calls when possible [source: AAA]. Even with the most advanced of technologies, when something as unpredictable as humans is factored into the equation, nothing can be perfect.
For more information on the VizorSUN and other gadgets, visit the next page.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- Dupagne, Michel and Garrison, Bruce. "The meaning and influence of convergence: A qualitative case study of newsroom work at the Tampa New Center." University of Miami. 2006.http://com.miami.edu/car/JStudies06.pdf
- Helperin, Joanne. "Driven to distraction." Edmunds. Accessed February 5, 2009.http://www.edmunds.com/ownership/safety/articles/43812/article.html
- "Distracted driving." AAA. Accessed February 5, 2009. http://www.aaapublicaffairs.com/Main/Default.asp?CategoryID=3&SubCategoryID=35
- "FAQ for Northstar Bluetooth peripheral set." Northstar. Accessed February 5, 2009. https://www.northstarsystem.com/web/bluetooth/pdfs/NorthstarBluetooth_FAQ.pdf
- "How to connect your mobile phone with Vizor Sun?" Iqua. Accessed February 5, 2009.http://www.iqua.com/new_pdf/vizorsun_how_to.pdf
- "Iqua VizorSUN user guide." Iqua. Accessed February 5, 2009. http://www.iqua.com/new_pdf/vizorsun_userguide.pdf
- "Iqua Vizor SUN Bluetooth car kit." Apple. Accessed February 5, 2009. http://store.apple.com/us/product/TS770?mco=MTIxOTM#overview