Print options

May 14, 2013

Device Keeps Internet On When Power Goes Off

by Michael Scaturro

A team of Americans and Kenyans has developed a new Internet router - and it's creating buzz. That's because it is an affordable, reliable solution for people without consistent Internet access. It can run while plugged in or on battery power, jump between networks at will, and become a mobile hotspot for multiple devices. The team presented the device - called the Brck [pronounced Brick] - at the Re:publica tech conference in Berlin.

Erik Hersman and his team in Nairobi have created what they say is the first router made especially for Africa. It's battery powered and rugged. And it's gaining attention in Europe and the United States. In just a week, the team has met half of its cash target on the fundraising website Kickstarter.com.

Hersman gave the keynote speech about the Brck at the Re:publica tech conference.

"What we have right here is the version six prototype. It will be decreasing in size. Already it's about this footprint and thinner."

Brck is rock solid

The Brck device works with unreliable power and unreliable Internet to provide connectivity to entire villages.

Blogger Al Banda of Cameroon said he saw the device for the first time this week in Berlin. The device drew his attention because it could solve an issue that he has experienced.

"In Cameroon, in my community, we constantly have power outages, and you won't get access to the Internet. We constantly have the ISPs for any random reason just not providing the service they claim they're providing us, so a solution like that is an African answer to an African problem," said Banda.

James Clardy, a venture consultant from Texas, said he's already bought a Brck and thinks it might be a hit in developed countries as well.

"I'm exploring uses of these technologies for building telehealth, building telemedicine. So having a portable device that can connect to the Internet is of as much value to me as a technology developer," said Clardy.

Production stage nears

Hersman said the device works on any available Internet or power sources.

"If you have an Internet connection problem, it will "fail over" to the sim card, so you'll have 3G connectivity, which means that you can completely unplug it and take it with you wherever you want to go, and have connectivity along the way," he said.

Hersman told audiences at Re:publica that production will start when the company meets its Kickstarter goal of $125,000.   

The company plans to make 500 to 1,500 devices during the first production run, with most going to Africa and India.  

Each device is slated to cost about $100.