Hand crank for cell phones lets you call when you're powerless

It's almost summer, and you know what that means — rolling blackout season is here! During these dark times, having a light and the ability to communicate is vital. Enter the hand-cranked cell-phone charger. While other crank systems generate light, this useful device goes one further by not only providing up to 20 minutes of illumination from five LEDs, but can also power a cell phone for quick 2- to 8-minute calls. It's small too, about the size of a regular flip phone, which means users have no reason to leave home without it.

As often as I'm stuck in the middle of nowhere with a dead cell phone, I'd really like to have one of these as part of my road-warrior kit. Unfortunately for now, the ECO is only available in Japan, a country plagued with earthquakes making this a necessary piece of emergency gear. If it's a success there, it's bound to make its way to the U.S. soon.


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