Thursday, September 5, 2013

From Kenya, robust, mobile ‘brick’ provides internet access when the internet is down

While slimline routers and ultra-thin batteries may be suitable for urban environments where mains electricity and wifi hotspots are in abundance, it’s not the same in rural Africa. We recently covered the rough-and-ready eChaja kit, providing solar-powered device charging for remote areas, and now the BRCK aims to keep Africans connected even when the power turns off and the internet drops out. Created by Kenya-based nonprofit tech startup Ushahidi, the device is designed to be used in tough conditions and takes the form of a rugged metal brick. BRCK is essentially a modem that is able to connect up to 20 devices at a time and seamlessly switch between wifi, 3G, 4G and Ethernet connections automatically, depending on what signals are available. In moments of very low connectivity, BRCK uses the best available source to provide uninterrupted internet usage. Even if there’s a power blackout, the device comes with a battery that provides up to eight hours of use that is automatically activated when the AC is disconnected. BRCK also offers users an interface accessible from their devices, providing data about signal, usage and performance, as well as management of the network.

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