Anyone who has worked in the field knows the huge hassle, and sometimes impossibility, of finding and sustaining an internet connection outside of the urban grid. What’s baffling is the fact that places like Kenya and India use the same equipment as that used in the bustling metropolises of London and New York, despite entirely different conditions. As is the case with many breakthrough ideas, the solution came about, not in a quiet air-conditioned cubicle, but in a time of crisis, in a place of limited resources and constrained infrastructure. Developed in Kenya by nonprofit open source tech company Ushahidi (Swahili for ‘testimony’) is the BRCK: a smart little back-up generator for the Internet that will get you a solid connection, anywhere.
“If it can work in Africa it can work anywhere,” explains the team. Versatile? Check. The BRCK works much the way your cell phone does, intelligently and seamlessly switching between networks, be it Ethernet, Wifi or 3G and 4G. Mobile? Check. Power is redundant, if your AC power fails, BRCK falls back on its 8-hour battery without needing to be told. Durable? Check. BRCK's enclosure is rugged enough to withstand field work in the most complex situations while still attractive enough to bring to the office or cafe, drawing additional sales from the Western geeks and business crowds. Accessible? Check. The BRCK is a software-infused device, operating in the cloud with its own website, accessible from anywhere to check how WiFi and electricity are performing, or manage alerts and applications. Affordable? Check. Since it’s developed by a nonprofit and crowdfunded on Kickstarter and open with it’s pricing and costs, international pre-sales are indicating a larger, sustainable market beyond the local need.
To add to this, it’s built for innovation. Ushahidi’s focus on open source software means that good ideas are coming in from all over. Presented as an Internet of Things component and supported by a documented software API that allows anyone to develop apps for it, potential keeps growing for this to revolutionize how we connect (and stay connected). It also holds 16 GB of memory, allows you to sync your data directly to your Dropbox, other connected devices, or other applications. What started as periphery-group solutioneering has catalyzed a big idea that the world can take and run with.