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Judges’ Choice:
Samsung Electronics America

Samsung Galaxy Upcycling

What the Judges Said…
“A creative approach to reusing old materials that reduces landfill and electronics waste. The novel concept could be a STEM opportunity for a school group, scout, 4-H, family project, or individual accomplishment.”

Samsung Electronics America’s Galaxy Upcycling (GU) is a service that enables Galaxy users to identify new opportunities for used, broken, or obsolete phones that may be unsuitable as communication devices but still functional and adaptable for other purposes.

Through GU, a user can turn a cell phone into new products such as an Internet of Things hub, a smart pet feeder, an arcade game console, a closed circuit television, an LED billboard, a camping beam projector, and a development laptop. Samsung provides resources and tools including platform software, project application software, peripheral hardware, how-to guides, and developer guides through the central GU website.

The GU project began in February 2016 when Samsung Creative Labs was exploring opportunities related to the circular economy. Their software experts studied how older used Galaxy devices could be turned into new value applications. They also looked at how the maker movement trend adapts open hardware.

To support the GU effort, Samsung needed to migrate from an Android to a more general Linux operating system. The team researched the development of peripheral devices and developed a universal dock with a general-purpose input output pin interface support to control external components. Based on this design, several project ideas with expanded functionality were prototyped from upcycled phones. Finally, Samsung turned to open hardware communities for social networking in order to scale up the GU platform.

Reuse and repurposing of electronic devices is not a well-established practice, but its benefits are well established within the context of circular economy principles, Samsung says. Repurposing obsolete mobile phones through upcycling can reduce the need to purchase new electronic devices. Consumers can create and customize the project and functionality they want, rather than be forced to accept a mass-marketed commercial product that may not truly fit their needs.

Upcycling can result in new products that are cost-effective and tailored to users’ needs. This helps reduce the sourcing of raw materials for new electronic devices and break the paradigm of a disposable economy, the company says. Their goal is for every Galaxy phone to be repurposed and upcycled without being discarded prematurely, leading to billions of devices that have extended useful lives.

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