Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Ushahidi Raising Kickstarter Funding for Rugged Hotspot BRCK

Ushahidi, the non-profit tech company best known for disaster mapping, is branching out into hardware.

BRCKThe Nairobi-based organization just launched a Kickstarter campaign today for the BRCK, described as “a backup generator for the Internet.”

Ushahidi Executive Director Juliana Rotich had dropped the news of the device at our D: Dive Into Mobile conference a couple weeks ago.

You can think of BRCK as sort of a hardier MiFi device. It’s built to automatically adapt to the changing availability of power and wireless signal by switching between AC power and an eight-hour battery, as well as Ethernet, Wi-Fi and mobile (via a SIM card). According to Ushahidi, the BRCK will support up to 20 devices within a generous signal area, with on-device software to help with collecting and managing data.

The impetus for the device came from frustration with Ushahidi’s own office connectivity, said Director of Software Philip Walton. “We envisioned the BRCK being plugged into our office network sitting silently until some aspect of our connectivity failed and then seamlessly failing over to its own connectivity and power ensuring that our resources stay productive.” Their concept grew to include connectivity for people working in the field and sensors and robots associated with “Internet of Things” devices.

Still, people who are working at offices in Kenya or in the field in a disaster zone may not compose a large part of the Kickstarter demographic. To compensate for that mismatch, Ushahidi is offering all sorts of schwag for backers, with the device itself associated with Kickstarter donations of $150 or more and the overall campaign trying to hit a goal of $125,000 to start manufacturing.

And people may think of other uses for the BRCK. As Rotich told us at D: Dive Into Mobile, Ushahidi likes to say, “If it works in Africa, it will work anywhere.”

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