SEATTLE — To provide a fail-safe Internet connection in remote areas experiencing intermittent power supply and unreliable connectivity, techies in Kenya developed BRCK (pronounced as BRICK).
Since its launch in 2014, the product has grown and is now being sold in 54 countries across five continents.
The device is the brainchild of Ushahidi, an African non-profit technological company that develops open source software and digital tools. Ushahidi developed what they term as a “backup generator for the Internet.”
Over the past one-and-a-half years, the software has become even bigger with off shoots such as BRCK Education and the development of the Kio tablet and the Kio Kit.
Emerging nations all around the world are in need of last mile Internet connectivity. This is essential in enabling these countries to bridge the digital divide that causes them to lag in development. However, attempts to do so have been marred by poor electrical and telecommunication infrastructure.
Another challenge facing developing markets is the use of Internet technology designed for other regions of the world. “While existing technologies work well in modern cities, the demands of emerging markets necessitates a rethinking of how technology is engineered, packaged, delivered, and supported,” says the BRCK team.
The problem of Internet connectivity in emerging markets and remote regions has corporate tech giants such as Google, Microsoft and Facebook earnestly searching for solutions. Spotty Internet is also a phenomena in remote parts of developed nations with poor infrastructure.
Step in BRCK, a solution for Africa designed in Africa.
BRCK is a small device weighing about 500 grams that delivers uninterrupted Internet connectivity in the most demanding environments. It is travel-friendly and syncs with SIM cards from any country.
The device can support up to 20 wireless connections and can be synced to connected devices and other storage clouds. It can also work as backup server because it has 16 gigabytes of space.
Another feature of the device is network switching, where you can switch between wired and wireless Internet. The BRCK selects the strongest and best network around a user without requiring them to do a thing.
One of the most defining aspects about the BRCK is its eight hour power back up. The device can be charged using a car battery or plugged to a solar charger. It can then be used to charge small electronics.
The BRCK team has subjected the product to testing in remote environments across Sub-Saharan Africa.
Recently, BRCK Inc. created BRCK Education, a new division of the organization, which went on to launch the Kio Kit in September 2015.
The Kio Kit is comprised of a BRCK router, 40 Kio tablets and a wireless charging station. All this comes in a secure waterproof suitcase on wheels.
The Kio tablets have been tested to ensure that they are rugged, adaptable and functional to suit the needs of the young first graders who live in harsh environments and will be using them.
The Kio Kit makers aim to drive education beyond the four classroom walls by providing students with access to educational resources including digital textbooks and interactive educational games. They hope to have a powerful impact on the manner in which education is delivered across Africa and in other emerging markets.
The team is also developing Crisis Stack, which is an application that provides a means for stacking disaster related software on a BRCK+PI micro server. The aim of Crisis Stack is to allow first responders to be more efficient in handling humanitarian disasters by utilizing technology in areas where it normally doesn’t work.
BRCK is poised to grow in the niche market that it has created for itself. CEO Erick Heisman affirms that the company has future plans to create an enterprise version of the BRCK that will have greater computing power as well as a larger battery.