GOOD

Online Anywhere You Go: A Backup Generator for the Internet

BRCK is the vertical integration of the data collection market. The modem is the gateway between our devices and the wider world of the internet, but it is has been left ignored, blinking in the corner, looking much the same as it did ten years ago.

I'm an American male in the Bay Area working for a Kenyan tech company called Ushahidi. I think that’s pretty cool—and that really couldn’t have happened five years ago. Ushahidi’s mission is to improve the way information flows in the world, and the BRCK is a natural extension of this. We build tools that help people collect and share data, information, and stories.

Our latest project, the BRCK, is a redesign of the modem for the changing way we connect to the web. It has an eight-hour battery backup, fail over to a SIM card, the ability to connect 20 devices, 16 GB of storage, an API, and it’s a software-infused device with a smart cloud system that can collect data from attached sensors and hardware and give real-time usage metrics and feedback.


The modems used around the world were designed for the United States and European markets more than a decade ago. They assume ubiquitous electricity connection, years of fiber and DSL infrastructure, and are designed for a single household with a single desktop computer in their office.

That scenario is outdated. It’s not the use case for the one billion additional people who are expected to get online by 2015. Even in the developed world, the way we connect to the web has drastically changed, Many people have three devices and are constantly on the move. Our smartphones and laptops move with us as we work from coffeeshops and on the road. But our antiquated modems are stuck at home.

We thought it was about time the modem got a makeover.

At Ushahidi, and we have seeded innovative technologies and projects, from the open source Ushahidi software that builds tools for data collection and seeds entrepreneurship, from Crowdmap, which allows anyone to crowdsouce information, to the iHub, an innovation incubator in Nairobi.

These are solutions that came from an African context to fix real problems, and the success of the products around the world has shown that great ideas can come from anywhere.

We launched a Kickstarter campaign to move the BRCK from its current prototype phase into a fully produced, field-ready product. We need your help to achieve this goal of taking the prototype to production. We have raised more than $105,000 of our $125,000 goal and have just about a week to go.

In many ways, the BRCK is the vertical integration of the data collection market. The modem is the gateway between our devices and the wider world of the internet, but it is has been left ignored blinking in the corner, looking much the same as it did ten years ago.

As a software company, Ushahidi is seeing that some of the most innovative products out in the world today are born when the agile, intelligent aspects of software and data are brought to an outdated piece of hardware. Think of the way Square revolutionizing the credit card swiper, for instance.

‘If it works in Africa, it will work anywhere”

This has been one of Ushahidi’s favorite sayings, and it remains true for our new product. The emergence of a hardware product from an African company marks a phase-change point for tech invention. The BRCK shows that great ideas can come from anywhere, that innovation comes from solving real problems with constrained resources.

Change happens at the frontier.

This project is part of GOOD's Saturday series Push for Good—our guide to crowdfunding creative progress.

Articles

October is domestic violence awareness month and when most people think of domestic violence, they imagine mostly female victims. However, abuse of men happens as well – in both heterosexual and homosexual relationships. But some are taking it upon themselves to change all that.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture

At this point most reasonable people agree that climate change is a serious problem. And while a lot of good people are working on solutions, and we're all chipping in by using fewer plastic bags, it's also helpful to understand where the leading causes of the issue stem from. The list of 20 leading emitters of carbon dioxide by The Guardian newspaper does just that.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via International Labour Organization / Flickr and Michael Moore / Facebook

Before the release of "The Joker" there was a glut of stories in the media about the film's potential to incite violence.

The FBI issued a warning, saying the film may inspire violence from a group known as the Clowncels, a subgroup of the involuntarily celibate or Incel community.

Incels an online subculture who believe they are unable to attract a sexual partner. The American nonprofit Southern Poverty Law Center describes them as "part of the online male supremacist ecosystem" that is included in its list of hate groups.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture

Since normalizing relations with Communist China back in 1979, the U.S. government and its companies that do business with the country have, for the most part, turned a blind-eye to its numerous human rights abuses.

In China's Muslim-majority province of Xinjiang, it's believed that over a million members of its Uighur population are being arbitrarily imprisoned and tortured in concentration camps. Female Uighurs in detention are being given forced abortions and subjected to sexual mistreatment.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture

The vaping epidemic is like a PSA come to life. A recent outbreak of vaping-related deaths and illnesses has affected people from across 46 states. More than 800 people fell ill, and at least 17 people died from vaping. In Illinois and Wisconsin, 87% of the people who got sick said they used THC, and 71% of people also said they used products that contained nicotine. Symptoms of the illness included coughing, chest pains, shortness of breath, nausea, and fatigue. We finally might now why.

Researchers from the Mayo Clinic believe toxic chemical fumes, not the actual chemicals in the vape liquid, might be the culprit. "It seems to be some kind of direct chemical injury, similar to what one might see with exposures to toxic chemical fumes, poisonous gases and toxic agents," Dr. Brandon Larsen, a surgical pathologist at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona, said in release.

Keep Reading Show less
Health