OPhone shown; Steorn deals with security issues

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:

Shaun McCarthy shows off a working OPhone

Shaun McCarthy shows off a working OPhone

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?

An experiment in OCube pottery

An experiment in OCube pottery

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.

One of a series of possible hidden cameras found in a Steorn meeting room

One of a series of possible hidden cameras found in a Steorn meeting room

2 thoughts on “OPhone shown; Steorn deals with security issues

  1. Hmmm, so it appears the first gen phone won’t be “Orbo-powered”, which raises the question of why, and suggests the move is designed to further dupe naive investors.

    There’s very little evidence that a device like this would need potting. It’s not high reliability or mission critical, military, or intended for use in extreme environments. Consumer electronic devices are rarely potted, for the good reason that it simply isn’t necessary. This could be a move to dissuade reverse-engineering but it won’t help, so it’s probably more an insurance policy so that anyone claiming to have disassembled it and found it lacking will have voided the warranty, providing a nice way for them to claim that the chemical or mechanical removal of the potting mix damaged the ‘generator’ component.

    And why on earth is that USB cable covered in goop? If doing a vibe test, just pot the plug and socket. But we can forgive such carelessness… real engineers stay well away from this kind of thing.

    Incidentally, I wonder how many of the investors have realised they’ve been had, and are now actively in cahoots to get their money out… Enter the MLM investor scam.

    And while I’m on a roll pointing out the holes in this picture, why have they not applied for IP protection? (Or have they?). I can’t find the guy on any patents, granted or applied. If you had something, you’d patent it. It can’t remain a trade secret once shipped. This may be the most damning evidence that it’s a have.

    • The OPhone being released now is (claimed to be) Orbo-powered. It is a “dumb phone” though, with no internet connectivity. Steorn said that they would release an Orbo-powered smart phone next year, because smart phones consume more power and Orbo’s power-to-volume ratio would need to be improved before it would be practical to power a smart phone with it.

      I agree that the potting would do little to protect their intellectual property, but a lot to get in the way of everyday buyers who’d like to put the thing to an honest test.

      As for patents, Steorn has filed some. (Several are listed here: http://freeenergy.news/steorn-patents/) I don’t know if any of the patents cover the core principle that (supposedly) makes Orbo work, however. In fact the USPO will reject any patent claim that they consider to violate the laws of physics, thus in their eyes preventing it from meeting the criteria of being “useful”.

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