Ushahidi, a Kenya-based non-profit technology outfit, has created the answer to spotty internet connectivity; their BRCK device can connect users to the internet irrespective of where they are and whether they’ve got electricity or not.
When In Africa
Juliana Rotich, executive director of Ushahidi, explained the reasoning behind BRCK’s development; BRCK is a natural progression considering Ushahidi’s DNA, when we encounter a problem; we try to find a solution. One of our biggest problems in Nairobi is frequent power cuts. I suppose the BRCK is really about scratching our own itch. We’re addicted to the Internet, but in a difficult environment.
The non-profit actually focuses on disaster-mapping software development, but recognized the need for a sturdy ‘back-up generator for the internet’ due to the often spotty internet connectivity and power cuts in Nairobi (which of course is a situation repeated in many African countries and almost all remote locations).
BRCK (pronounced brick) is a essentially a Wifi router and mobile modem in one, which can be connected to an office’s ethernet but can seamlessly switch to either 3G or 4G if the line goes down. It connects via a standard SIM card and /or wifi and ethernet connections.
The idea is that you’ll remain ‘online’, without noticing that the Ethernet connection has been lost, as BRCK is constantly switching between connections as needed, all of which is great news for virtual desktop users in remote locations.
The hardware can support up to 20 wireless connections at any given time and can also be used as a back-up drive as it as has 16 GB of storage. BRCK also has eight hours of battery life to keep it going during a power outage.
Geek reports that Ushahidi has managed to connect BRCK to a global database of cellular providers to which the device syncs automatically. The trick is to use a SIM card that’s accepted in your area.
If it Works here, it will Work Anywhere
Philip Walton, head of software for BRCK, told Mashable that; â€œIn building a solution for Africa, you have to take into account that just getting across town requires a four-wheel-drive. So if I build something that survives in these conditions here in Africa, it’s going to survive anywhere.
BRCK has been built to withstand the heat and dust of Africa as well as any rough traveling, meaning it will work pretty much anywhere. It’s also designed to be easy to use; with an intuitive dashboard interface which will automatically configure to meet your cellular provider’s requirement.
Get in on the Action
BRCK is a Kickstarter project and Ushahidi hopes to raise $125Â 000 in order to start manufacturing the device. To date the project’s managed to raise $50Â 000 in about three days, attracting 340 backers (including technology author Clay Shirky and Ethan Zuckerman, director of the MIT Center for Civic Media).
Ushahidi is selling the first 50 units at $150 where after BRCKs will be available online at $200 a pop. The Kickstarter money will fund the production of the first 2, 000 units but Ushahidi is hoping to manufacture more, brining the price down so that the price-sensitive market will be able to afford it.
Interested investors can visit the kickstarter.com page for more information.