Smart Hardware

The GenerBee will be mobile-enabled for a GSM cell phone / text messaging chip, Bluetooth, or other telecommunication technology.   This makes it possible to sell it by Pay-As-You-Go micro-financing to poor people.  This is already done over mobile payment networks in Africa and India where millions of people are buying small solar lanterns and paying a few dollars a month for them.  Our partner Lumeter Networks is expert in this technology and its use in emerging economies.

The World Bank’s Consultative Group to Assist the Poor has just (Aug 12, 2014) released a new paper on Access to Energy via Digital Finance: Models for Innovation.   This paper provides an overview of the digitally financed energy access sector, highlighting advancements in business models and product offerings. The focus is on businesses deploying PAYG solar photovoltaic products using digitized payments and unique hardware to control the use of energy services.

“Based on currently available data, there are at least 25 companies actively deploying a PAYG solar solution across Africa, Asia, and Latin America. To date, at least 150,000 PAYG solar products have been sold globally.  Another 100,000 customers will access modern energy through a PAYG solar product by the end of 2014.  In the next five years, at least 3 million PAYG solar systems will be sold globally, demonstrating the potential for such models to disrupt the energy access sector.”

We are developing the NetBee accessory that enables the GenerBee to become a node in a wireless mesh network which can be vital for communications in blackouts, or for creating self-powered Local Area Networks. In the event of a big blackout, a PowerBee or two on every block can be a wireless internet transmitter and relay, allowing cell phones to reach a distant cell tower otherwise unavailable. Read a very helpful article about wireless mesh networking from the New York Times here.

The NetBee’s open-source Arduino micro-computer and circuit board allows hackers to equip it with a video camera, motion detector, environmental sensors, GPS or any other programmable micro-electronic device. A cell phone app to control functions can be downloaded direct from the PowerBee by USB cable to a smart phone or PC. Hydrobee SPC Adviser, Frank Sanborn, leads our development of this application.

In a city with no electricity, a GenerBee with NetBee and charging accessories in every building can create mesh communications powered by free renewable energy, even if there is no sunshine.

A wireless mesh network (WMN) is a communications network made up of radio nodes organized in a mesh topology. Wireless mesh networks often consist of mesh clients, mesh routers and gateways. The mesh clients are often laptops, cell phones and other wireless devices while the mesh routers forward traffic to and from the gateways which may, but need not, connect to the Internet. The coverage area of the radio nodes working as a single network is sometimes called a mesh cloud. Access to this mesh cloud is dependent on the radio nodes working in harmony with each other to create a radio network. A mesh network is reliable and offers redundancy. When one node can no longer operate, the rest of the nodes can still communicate with each other, directly or through one or more intermediate nodes. Wireless mesh networks can self form and self heal. Wireless mesh networks can be implemented with various wireless technology including 802.11, 802.15, 802.16, cellular technologies or combinations of more than one type.

From LDLN (pronounced “Landline”): “In the wake of a natural disaster, the physical infrastructure of any affected region is compromised, leading to a severe crippling of the information and communications infrastructure. This leads to an inability to efficiently gather feedback from local communities in need, and ultimately to a poor distribution of resources and a lack of data needed to foster resilience going forward. LDLN is a New York company that makes use of open source software and Raspberry Pi – a low-cost, low-powered computer – that act as an information hub in order to solve the problem of the allocation of resources and the tracking of missing individuals in the wake of natural disaster when physical communication infrastructure is damaged.

Low-cost, low-powered computers act as information hubs to empower people moving back and forth to act as communication lines, supplementing the compromised physical infrastructure. Raspberry Pi devices on the ground allow automated syncing from offline mobile apps that can be used to collect information from survivors. Once information is recorded to the hub, daisy-chained Pi hubs sync to the Internet and can integrate with any third-party data source or services provider.”