There have been a few interesting developments on Steorn CEO Shaun McCarthy’s Facebook page over the past couple of days. Today we were given our first look at a physical OPhone (rather than the design illustrations we’ve been shown over the past couple of months). Here it is:
As expected, the OPhone is a simple non-smart cell phone. Steorn has announced plans to release an Orbo powered smart phone next year.
Next, McCarthy posted an image today of an OCube slathered in a gooey black substance, with the caption “At least I get to use the factory rejects! #pottinggonebad.” It turns out that “potting“, as a term in electronics, refers to “a process of filling a complete electronic assembly with a solid or gelatinous compound for resistance to shock and vibration, and for exclusion of moisture and corrosive agents. Thermo-setting plastics or silicone rubber gels are often used.” If the empty space in each OCube is going to be filled with a sticky gel, however, there will be consequences beyond protection from vibration and moisture. On the one hand, this would make disassembly and reverse engineering of the Orbo powerpacks within the OCube more difficult; increased security for their intellectual property may be Steorn’s interest in exploring this option. However, this would also make it much more difficult for buyers to test the Orbo powerpacks on their own, and would make it next to impossible to replace the lithium battery inside. In videos last year, Shaun McCarthy portrayed the OCube as a product that buyers could “tear apart” to figure out how they work, and said that its lithium battery (which is liable to lose capacity as the number of charge/discharge cycles grows) could easily be replaced. Does this photo mean that Steorn has decided their IP security is more important than giving OCube buyers what they need to put Orbo to the test?
Finally, speaking of Steorn’s security, apparently while doing routine installation of wiring through conduits in an office meeting room, a Steorn employee discovered a series of small “spy cameras” that had somehow been installed there without Steorn’s knowledge. This is a meeting room where brainstorming sessions are held, so it’s conceivable that someone installed them to try to get a better idea of what Steorn is up to. There are any number of possible explanations for this, ranging from corporate espionage to suspicious investors who want to make sure they’re not being conned, but the little we know raises many more questions than answers. Why, for example, would cameras be installed in a meeting room rather than microphones? What this story means, or even whether it’s just a case of mistaking some innocuous sensor for a surreptitious surveillance device, remains to be seen.