As humanity creates more and more smartphones each year there is an unintended glut of still capable yet less desirable one-year-old or two-year-old smartphones that take the backseat to new models. While many of these retired smartphones still work and have usable sensors like cameras, accelerometers, touch screens and Bluetooth radios, large swaths of them remain unused or worse yet, end up in landfills.
At SXSW 2016, I spoke with the leader of the Phonvert project, Tomo Kihara, and he pointed me to research from IDC “that more than 280 million working smartphones were replaced without being recycled last year.”
With this info in mind, Tomo, along with Keisuke Shiro, Kosuke Takahashi and Seibe Takahashi, founded Phonvert, an open-source software platform that can convert retired smartphones into usable Internet of Things nodes.
You install Phonvert onto your old smartphone and then you can make it usable and valuable again for a variety of tasks like Fridge Cam, Mailbox Cam, Video Baby Monitor to name a few.
It’s important to note that the team — based in Tokyo — thinks of itself more as a movement than a startup. They are also open to collecting new ideas for how smartphones can be reused with their software on Twitter via the hashtag #phonvert.