Catalyzing the growth of the Kenya tech community

iHub Robotics Initiative

By John Kieti
iHub
  Published 05 May 2011
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Ihub Robotics Initiative

The *iHub_ Robot Initiative.

Since its founding over a year ago, *iHub_ has changed the Nairobi IT scene completely. The place is full of developers, creatives and VC’s looking to form partnerships and transform the local IT scene. Partnerships have been formed, deals have been struck, and the place is abuzz with new ideas all the time.

Since its inception, *iHub_ has been focused on software development (Specifically on mobile and apps) and this has been a huge success. *iHub_ is now looking to replicate this success to the computer hardware sphere, and more specifically in robotics.

You may ask, why robots? Well, it depends how you look at robots. Most people think about robots as the ones seen in the Transformer movie. But no, robots are actually more simple that that. Any device that uses a computer chip to perform a task is considered a robot. Just to give some examples, traffic lights are a form of robots (Actually in South Africa, traffic lights are called ROBOTS). Another example is a digital power meter. It may not look like a computer, but the chip in the meter qualifies it as a robot. A personal computer is also a type of robot, albeit one that needs human interaction to function. More familiar examples may be the extra-terrestrial vehicles on Mars or satellites in space.

Where does *iHub_ come in, and why is *iHub_ getting into robots? This question is best answered by looking where the telecommunication industry is headed. M-PESA is widely recognized as having a trans-formative impact in Kenya. It solved a need many people had and it solved it in a very simple and efficient way.

One of the key things about M-PESA is that it is a software solution that runs on a mobile platform. By combining hardware and mobile, we take the mobile revolution to the next phase. Also, due to the fact that the backbone of the Kenyan economy is agriculture, farmers interact with farm machines and equipment on a daily basis. By combining these two together, we approach exciting possibilities.

A few examples could be ‘smart farms’ that alert rice farmers when their water reaches a certain level, to prevent over irrigation, or a device that milks cows daily and sends farmers text messages about how many litres their cows have collected. These solutions will result from an interaction of hardware with the mobile platform.

This is what the *iHub_ robot initiative hopes to achieve. By fostering programmers with a hardware and mobile background, we can come up with solutions that could have a transformative impact in Kenya and beyond. Over the next few months, *iHub_ hopes to increase and develop hardware programming talent to come up with solutions that will hopefully have as big an impact as M-PESA.

Caine K. Wanjau for *iHub_ Nairobi.

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