BRCK Keeps The Internet On When The Power Goes Off, Even In Africa


Even in the developed world the power goes out, your internet provider goes down and Amazon Web Services occasionally crashes your favorite apps. What is an annoyance here can become a life-threatening situation in Africa and other parts of the developing world in the throes of natural disasters and civil strife. The internet—and increasingly the internet of things—is part of the fabric of our everyday lives and we depend upon it for almost everything.

No one is more aware of this than the founders of Ushahidi. The project began in 2008 when engineers David Kobia, Juliana Rotich, and Erik Hersman built a crowdsourced mapping platform in response to the post-election violence in Kenya (“Ushahidi” means “testimony” in Swahili.) In such a situation, timely access to information can mean survival, and yet maintaining relaible connectivity there proved to be exceedingly difficult.

BRCK works much like a cellphone, “by intelligently and seamlessly switching between Ethernet, Wifi, and 3G or 4G mobile phone networks.” It gains connectivity through a standard SIM card and/or ethernet or WiFi connections, and has a smart battery the seamlessly kicks in for 8 hours if the power is interrupted. The BRCK connects to the BRCK Cloud, a “website that you can access from anywhere to check how network connections and electricity are performing on your device. You can also manage alerts and applications remotely from your phone or computer, as well as gather data reported from attached sensors or computers.” The BRCK also has 16GB of memory on board that can be synced to Dropbox and other connected devices and applications.

Ushahidi says that the BRCK is “like a backup generator for the internet.” It is extremely small, and designed to be the easiest possible networking device to set up. Once operating, it can connect up to 20 devices with a WiFi signal that can cover several rooms. And it’s tough, following the group’s motto, “if it works in Africa, it will work anywhere.”

Not only can the BRCK provide connectivity to workers on the ground, it can also allow information to flow continuously from sensors in one location that can be monitored remotely and securely. In this way, Ushahidi hope to create robust bridges between sites and sensors in Africa, India, indonesia and elsewhere to the cloud and then anywhere in the world.

The BRCK will be available for pre-orders through Kickstarter for $200 and the first 50 early-birds can get one for $150. I predict that the campaign will be a huge success because it is both a worthy cause and a cool thing to have—two of Kickstarter’s major food groups! I know I want one for my survival kit.