Control AA-powered devices using a smartphone with ingenious new invention

It’s said that the best answers are often the simplest ones. So, how much genius is involved in a small thin plastic case with tiny electronics embedded into it that fits around an AA battery, which is then inserted into a typical battery powered device, like a child’s toy or a baby monitor…and then allows that device to be turned on and off through a Bluetooth connection to an iOS or Android smartphone?

According to, it’s amazingly simple:

The Bluetooth people have been on the hunt for new and cool uses of the popular radio technology, and they have certainly found one in Tethercell. Tethercell is an app-enabled battery adapter that lets you control and monitor AA battery-operated devices using your smartphone or tablet.

The small company who made Tethercell, Los Angeles-based Tetherboard, launched its product as a crowdfunding project on And last week, the product was announced as the winner of the “Prototype of the Year” award from Bluetooth SIG (Special Interest Group) at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. Tethercell also won the overall prize of “Breakthrough of the Year” in Bluetooth innovation.

Part of Tethercell’s appeal is its simplicity. It’s just a small piece of plastic housing that fits around an AA battery. You need only put the Technocell around one of the batteries in the device you want to control; interrupting or restoring the power from one battery will control the operation of the device. Examples include baby monitors, bike lights, and battery-operated toys.

A mobile app (iOS or Android) running on your phone or tablet turns the battery-powered device on and off, or schedules times for the device to be on or off. Tethercell can also monitor battery’s power level and display it in the app.

[See the Tethercell demonstration video.}

Tetherboard will continue raising money on Indiegogo for another 48 days, but has already surpassed its $59,000 funding goal.


A mockup of the Tethercell battery adapter with circuit board

In the meantime, the company continues to build new bells and whistles into its product.

Most recently the it added a “locate” feature to Tethercell that lets you find your battery-powered device by measuring the Bluetooth signals between your phone and the Tethercell inside the lost device.

Tetherboard’s Indiegogo funders will be the first to get their hands on a Tethercell. Then, the company hopes to package it and sell it widely. No word yet on retail pricing or distribution channels.

The biggest problem I see with this is the limited range of Bluetooth, typically 100 meters (about 328 feet). So, you couldn’t turn on the portable radio from across town so there would be music playing when you got home, for example.

Still, every idea can be a stepping stone to the next one. It will be interesting to see how this develops.

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