Under normal circumstances, I would have assumed the gleaming white, person-sized box standing next to me was some kind of high-end appliance. Things are rarely so straightforward at CES's Eureka Park, though. It was actually what Hong Kong startup Ampd Energy calls a "silo." Turns out, the thing on top of which I had casually rested my camera was an array of 1,792 batteries designed to keep critical buildings up and running -- all without the nasty environmental effects typically associated with using diesel generators.
According to co-founder Brandon Ng, a single, 17kWh silo can power a 10-person office for three to four hours before running dry. Need even more power? Up to three can be daisy-chained together to keep even larger buildings running when the power goes out, and they should kick on with incredible speed; it's possible people inside those buildings won't even notice the transition. People outside won't notice either, which Ng says is crucial to the company's vision. For a startup so physically close to China's air pollution problem, the appeal of helping dial down noxious emissions is undeniable.
And yes, as I pointed out earlier, the Ampd Silo is surprisingly sleek in design. It clearly draws inspiration from home appliances and modern consumer tech trends, making it what might be the friendliest backup power solution out there. Consider how you keep tabs on silos in action: The team ultimately wants to build a way to manage them remotely, but for now you just walk up to a unit and start fiddling with a clean touchscreen interface. Seriously, it looks like something you'd find on a pricey piece of connected home gear. In a way, though, Ng hopes you never have to use the touchscreen. The silos were designed with a system of micro-fuses that will trip to prevent massive failures. And since the whole thing is solid state, the risk of breakdown should be minimal.
The concept has proven popular enough that the team recently locked down $3.7 million in seed funding, which is pretty substantial as far as Hong Kong startups go. For now, though, the team's focus is on building around 1,000 first-run units to test in Indonesia, India and the Philippines in early 2017.