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Upcycling: Teaching Old Smartphones New Tricks



With approximately 50 million tons of electronics discarded worldwide in the last year alone, innovations that improve sustainability and prolong the lifespan of devices are welcome. ‘Galaxy Upcycling’, a project team of C-Lab, Samsung Electronics’ in-house incubator, gave new life to old smartphones and won an award along the way.


Passionate about the environment, the 11-man ‘Galaxy Upcycling’ team repurposes older models of Galaxy smartphones and finds ingenious ways to link them to everyday objects and connect them to the Internet of Things (IoT). Upcycling preserves many of an original product’s materials, reworking or reconstructing them to give the product a new function.



How Galaxy Phones are Have Been Repurposed


Bonding over their nostalgia for old electronics, the ‘Galaxy Upcycling’ team saw great potential in previous models of Samsung’s flagship Galaxy devices. Only a few years old, the phones were still too smart to be gathering dust in drawers at home.


The devices are equipped with built-in cameras and network modules, meaning they could still take pictures and connect to the internet. With these functions, the team quickly realized that the Galaxy phones could be attached to everyday items, transforming them from unconnected objects into a whole range of IoT devices.


Team members looked all around them for objects to connect. The Smart Fish Tank and Smart Pet Bowl, for example were inspired by family pets. Thanks to its upgrade, Smart Fish Tank can now feed the fish whenever the owner sends a text message, and the Smart Fish Bowl sends a photograph whenever a pet cat eats from the bowl.



Building an IoT Community


By upcycling in this way, the possibilities for connected devices seem endless. The team hope to speed up the process of connecting everyday objects in our lives to the Internet of Things.


The project operates on an open-platform principle, encouraging people outside the team to create their own IoT devices using old Galaxy smartphones. Galaxy Upcycling will share its progress, as well as guidelines for the software and hardware they have developed.


What started as a team of 11, has become a whole community of upcycling enthusiasts. More than 6,000 people have signed up for notifications on the official Galaxy Upcycling website. the C-Lab project is now finished (completed), the teammates have moved back to their jobs in the Mobile Communications Business.


The team was recognized for their commitment to sustainability by the American Environmental Protection Agency and presented with the Cutting Edge Champion Award at the Sustainable Materials Management Awards 2017 in November of last year.


Check out the video to find out more about Galaxy Upcycling.


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