Inveneo News Archives
- Posted by Inveneo on November 23, 2015 in the categories: News
Inveneo is proud to announce the launch of its Generosity (by Indiegogo) campaign, which aims to raise $50,000 to deliver Solar Powered Digital Libraries to 15 remote, rural schools in Haiti. We are grateful to craigslist’s Craig Newmark for his generous contribution of $10,000!
Throughout the developing world, millions of schoolchildren lack (or only have limited access to) books and basic learning resources, much less computers or the Internet. Transporting volumes of books or computers to schools can be expensive and logistically daunting. Digital libraries – tablets or computers (PCs) loaded with thousands of e-books and other educational resources – have begun to enhance learning opportunities in the developing world. However, many existing digital library solutions require Internet or power.
Inveneo’s Solar Powered Digital Library (Solar Library) is ruggedly designed for schools lacking educational resources, Internet, and power. It includes thousands of e-books, lectures, and other educational resources (e.g. Wikipedia) that can be accessed completely off-the grid.
Call to Action
Donate Today! Please join our campaign by donating today! We are extremely grateful for any level of support you can provide. Thank you!
- Posted by Inveneo on September 14, 2015 in the categories: News
Are you interested in digital content for both hardware and software? Do you live in San Francisco or the Bay Area? Inveneo could be looking for YOU!
Inveneo is investigating new and innovative technologies to deliver digital content to rural schools in developing regions which are off-the-power grid and have no Internet connection. Two technologies we would like hands-on help with include Outernet and Rachel Pi.
The work would entail:
- setting up the hardware and software of these systems
- testing their approach, benefits, and limitations
- investigating (from a software approach) how to integrate these systems together to work in a rural school
We ask the volunteer to work a minimum of five (5) hours per week, primarily in the San Francisco office. The individual would work directly under the Engineering Department, and additional comprehensive work may be requested for ICT support. This position could continue after the initial research is completed.
Please send your resume and a brief cover letter to Jana Melpolder if you would like to apply. Applicants will be accepted on a rolling basis.
- Posted by Inveneo on September 11, 2015 in the categories: News
Note: Inveneo, in partnership with ARM Limited, LeMaker, and Protocase, is pleased to announce that a winner has been selected for its recent $10,000 Micro-Data Center Design Challenge. Congratulations to William Weatherholtz and his team “Micro Weather” who are the winners of the $10,000 challenge! Coming in second place is “RuggedPOD”, a team from France who was lead by Jean-Marie Verdun. Each member of RuggedPOD will receive a Google Nexus 7 tablet as a prize for his or her hard work and design.
They have different interests. One teaches dance. Another is a helicopter pilot-in-training. One is a software engineer. Another is a carpenter. Still another, a studio artist. But they came together with a shared purpose: to try to improve conditions in Third World countries.
Meet William Weatherholtz and team, who just won the Inveneo solar-powered Micro-Data Center Design Challenge ( Bruce Baikie) for their Micro Weather station design. The team’s winning entry is an object lesson in how creative methodology, a diverse team and carefully considered components selection just might help transform developing societies.
“I have a soft spot for Third World countries and I’m really interested in finding ways to improve conditions there,” Weatherholtz said in an interview. “I felt like this was a project that played to my strengths and my desire to educate.”
The design criteria for weather stations is unique: How do you deal with rain, rust, long-term durability, a lack of power sources, and little critters that like to gnaw on things in the wild? Weatherholtz (pictured to the far right of the nearby photo) and his team (pictured, L-R: Garrett Johnson, Victoria Johnson, Kelly Weatherholtz; not pictured Joshua Wickern, Bradley Weatherholtz, Landon Weatherholtz) embraced a unique methodology that included using Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats philosophy. The approach is designed to help improve team perspective and collaboration during projects. This was a particular interest because the seven team members were dispersed across the country.
“Everyone was assigned a different perspective,” said Weatherholtz, a mechatronics engineer. “So for example, someone was assigned an aspect of the design that only considered price; someone else would focus on aesthetics, and so forth.”
The team rotated through these different considerations and perspectives and then amalgamated different parts of the design into the one they liked.
The team started by identifying the customer needs and translating those into engineering characteristics:
- What type of battery was required?
- How much back-up power would be needed? (the team targeted five days for it to run on back-up power initially but ended up at 2.5-3 days—more on that shortly).
- What other design considerations might be unique for a developing country?
- What were the environmental needs of the device casing?
Here’s a look at how the team tackled some of the design considerations.
This was an extremely critical component that needed to be as reliable as possible. Additionally, the team had to understand how much power they could pack into a small space. Should they push the limits for longer back-up power capability and accept the consequences? Additionally, what type of batteries could be shipped internationally?
“We tried to pick a battery with a very high energy density and moderate size, but the battery is still pretty heavy and large,” Weatherholtz said. “Adding another battery would mean another cubic foot of space and an extra 60 pounds in the design.”
At the end of the day, two and a half days backup capability seemed good enough for most applications, he said. That meant the battery could recharge in four hours with sufficient power, and most places get at least five hours of good sunlight, he added. The team ended up selecting an absorbent glass mat (AGM) battery—essentially a golf cart battery—that doesn’t spill, tip or have vulnerable components inside.
This was one of those developing-country considerations, where ready reliable power sources are hard to find, if not non-existent. Even though it was the team’s first time working with solar, adopting the technology was key. “It’s a fantastic solution in a remote data center application because a data center is a static structure,” Weatherholtz said. “It allowed us to take advantage of that big fusion generator in the sky.”
The team considered plastic but wanted the system to be able to take a pounding. So they settled on aluminum, a reliable material, which conveniently could serve as a sizable heat sink. They designed to a worst-case scenario of 50C ambient temperature with direct sunlight, no humidity, and no moving air.
“One of our main design criterion was to make the enclosure—and enclosed electronics—reliable. For us, that meant it needed to be completely sealed with no moving parts,” Weatherholtz said.
Single Board Computer
The contest criteria specified the SBC. As a designer and engineer, Weatherholtz said he doesn’t really like being shoehorned into a solution, but, that said, “the Banana Pi boards were hard to beat,” he acknowledged. The Banana Pi, based on ARM Cortex-A7 with Mali-400 GPU and running open source software, is designed to be inexpensive, small and flexible.
The technology was “robust, open source and low power,” he said. “When you’re dealing with IoT applications and micro data centers, you don’t have a lot of power and you can’t have a lot of heat, so ARM is best.”
One challenge is that boards such as this typically have two sources of heat — RAM and processor. The team undertook considerable thermodynamic analysis and determined that getting rid of heat was key. The Banana Pi boards were ideal, Weatherholtz said, because the two sources of heat were on the bottom face and as a result, the team was able to direct the heat in the optimal direction. Had the CPU/RAM been on top, then it would have been more challenging to get the heat out, he added.
What was his biggest lesson?
Weatherholtz and team spent a total of 150 engineering hours on the project, for which competitors used ARM-based solutions to create the “micro-board chassis” designs. They will share the $10,000 prize and the design will be built and deployed in the developing world.
“I really can’t overstate the importance of thermal analysis in projects like these,” Weatherholtz said. “If heat doesn’t have a good way to escape, it’s going to build up and cause high temperatures that make your electronics fail, or at least fail prematurely.”
“For us, making a low thermal-resistance path out of the case was a main design consideration. We identified where the heat was being generated (see image right), and then got it out. Everything centered on that. Where we placed components, what we placed them on, how we connected them to what they were placed on… everything.”
Written by Brian Fuller, an employee of ARM. This post was originally posted on ARM Community and was republished with permission from the author.
- Posted by Inveneo on August 4, 2015 in the categories: News
The Inveneo team has been privileged this summer to welcome onto its staff Mariela Machado Fantacchiotti, a graduate student currently enrolled in the Master of Public Administration in Development Practice department at Columbia University. Mariela came to Inveneo highly recommended from the program’s manager, Ms. Debi Spindelman.
Mariela is a telecommunications engineer with 5 years of work experience in the ICT sector and describes herself as “passionate about applying ICT for development issues of education, health, agriculture improvements and poverty reduction”. This passion started back in 2006 when she worked for an ICT for development project for the Peruvian NGO EHAS, where she designed and implemented an Internet and IP phone for a local health center. In addition, she speaks five languages and previously earned a Master’s Degree in Information and Communications Technologies in Spain.
Throughout her Inveneo internship, Mariela will be spending most of her time working alongside the engineering department, developing a new M&E approach for new existing Inveneo projects and studying drones for Inveneo’s upcoming Drones 4 Good project. Inveneo has also asked her to research current Internet connectivity in Cuba, including national policies and laws related to ICT and freedom of speech. Additionally, she will be testing the new promise of ICT4D for rural areas called Lantern from Outernet. This device claims to provide Internet connectivity from the satellite for educational purposes, providing offline libraries to rural settings that lack ICT infrastructure. The results will be published on ICTworks.
In her spare time this summer, Mariela is also conducting research for the Earth Institute together with Jeffrey Sachs that will be presented to the United Nations General Assembly this fall. She is looking into how ICT could be an enabler to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) related to health, education, energy and financial inclusion. She is focusing on the health sector and how ICT innovations could help improve health outcomes in the world. Be sure to look for a snapshot of her research and findings on ICTworks, coming early this fall.
Welcome to the team, Mariela! We’re so glad to have you on board!
- Posted by Inveneo on June 12, 2015 in the categories: News
Longtime Inveneo friend and colleague Dr. Laura Hosman has led her students this past semester on an exciting digital library project at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, California. One of the project’s leaders, Cecillia Tran, is a 5th year Liberal Arts Engineering Studies Major, and she recently spoke with Inveneo to give an explanation of the ICT project. She has been inspired by how people can make a powerful impact just by using older technology in inventive ways. Read the interview below.
- Inveneo: What is the SPELL Project?
SPELL stands for Solar Powered Educational Learning Library. Students in the Federated States of Micronesia as well as Vanuatu have no access to Internet or electricity in their schools. Our solution was to create and donate 50 solar-powered mini servers, pre-loaded with educational content, that could be connected to any WiFi enabled device through a WiFi dongle. The educational content our team curated onto an SD card was based through extensive research of what levels of education were needed on the islands. Some of the materials used were various Khan Academy videos on subject matters such as math, writing, and science. Due to a recent typhoon, we also decided to upload weather related content so students are better prepared if another accident were to happen.
Dr. Laura Hosman (left) with several of her students working on the SPELL project.
- Since the Banana Pis are going to Chuuk, will the educational content be in English, Chuukese, or another language?
The educational content will be in English, since students are required to learn English in the classroom. However, there will be some content that is in Chuukese.
- What is the role that students play within the SPELL Project?
We divided into four teams. There is a contents and deployment team who are responsible for researching and curating the educational materials that is put on the SD card. There is a design team responsible for creating the outer shell for the mini-server itself so that there is a protective casing and an attached solar panel to power the server. We also have a SPOT team (systems performance optimization team) that is responsible for testing and configuring the Banana Pi (mini server) and WiFi dongle. And also, we have a promotions team that is responsible for the marketing and branding of the project. We even created a website and logo for the team.
- How will this project made a difference in Micronesia?
This project will give students who don’t have access to Internet or electricity a new way to receive their education. They will have the chance to be able to interact with electronic devices that many of us are fortunate enough to have easy access to. Our contents team is working very hard to provide a good, substantial amount of information and educational materials that would be helpful. The platform could possibly open their minds and eyes like never before.
- What lessons have you learned from this project?
I think we learned a lot of real world skills, especially teamwork; our class was composed of students from many different backgrounds of education. For example, we have many liberal arts and engineering studies majors, as well as electrical engineering, computer science, journalism, graphic communication, and political science. We’ve gained a lot of knowledge and have seen many different perspectives as we’ve moved along through different parts of the project. We also learned that projects will not always go as planned. We have hit many bumps in the road and have had to change directions, but it was a good experience for all of us. We managed to work our way through them. Finally, we learned a lot about Chuuk and the islands, what educational access they have, and how we can make a difference. That’s what excited me about this class: this project really could make a difference and we could reach out to people who are in need. It’s exciting to be a part of a project that would go beyond the classroom and make a tangible difference that matters in the world.
- What can the ICT community learn from SPELL’s experience?
I think it’s amazing what a difference a small group of 15 people can make. We were donated 50 Banana Pi brand units, given as part of LeMaker’s non-profit educational program. We turned them into a powerful educational tool that we believe could make a real difference in Chuuk students’ lives, as well as other countries, that may not have Internet access or electricity in their schools.
The ICT community should be aware that anything can make a difference. Products that one may think is outdated can be turned into something incredible that would help people. Sometimes it’s the small but innovative changes that can make a big impact.
- Posted by Inveneo on May 15, 2015 in the categories: Economic Development, Education, News, Projects
From 2011 to 2013, Inveneo has been widely involved in the Haiti Rural Broadband Network (HRBN), a program created to bring broadband to Haiti in many rural areas. Inveneo worked extensively throughout the project, but when funding ran out, the system Inveneo put in place has experienced setbacks, and achieving sustainability has been a challenge.
These school kids could benefit from Inveneo’s Haiti Connected Schools program.
Inveneo’s San Francisco-based Project Manager Kelly Doley recently traveled to Haiti to join Inveneo’s Haiti-based Project Manager, Michelet Guerrier, to assess the HRBN project.
Haiti Benefited from the HRBN Project
Although the HRBN project has experienced challenges, about 50 schools that participated in Inveneo’s Haiti Connected Schools program initially received improved Internet connectivity through the HRBN. Inveneo is happy that it fulfilled its mission of expanding broadband in areas, and the HRBN infrastructure remains in place. However, the HRBN needs a sustainable business model and strong management from one of Haiti’s many Internet Service Providers (ISPs) for networks to grow or continue, especially in the absence of continued donor funding. However, Inveneo has noticed that multiple ISPs have learned from the HRBN and used the same technologies as Inveneo in building out their own networks to reach remote areas.
Struggles of BATI
Some of Inveneo’s approximately 50 BATI still work for ISPs to conduct outreach and repairs for the HRBN project. BATI are young Haitians with information technology (IT) skills who have been trained by Inveneo to deploy high speed, broadband wireless networks and new, relevant technology. All BATI benefitted from Inveneo’s training and working as part of the HRBN network. BATIs have a lot of respect for Inveneo and would like Inveneo to expand its presence in Haiti. Inveneo greatly respects the BATI, and recognizes they are a great local and skilled resource that could be tapped into Haiti.
Inveneo Moves Forward
Internet connectivity remains a challenge in Haiti, and the HRBN was a successful initiative to expand broadband in remote areas. As with all development projects, achieving sustainability – in this case maintaining the HRBN after the project officially ended – has been a challenge. However, the HRBN infrastructure remains and could be leveraged to help connect the unconnected in Haiti.
Ongoing Inveneo Projects in Haiti
The Inveneo team is currently working on the successful Transforming Teaching Through Tablets project to improve the skills of and resources available to teachers in Haiti. To read more about that project click here.
- Posted by Inveneo on April 20, 2015 in the categories: Healthcare, News, Relief
Inveneo team member Eric Zan serves as a Senior Field Engineer in the Ebola Response Connectivity Initiative (ERCI). He recently explained his thoughts on the ERCI Project and the difference it has been making in Ebola-hit Sierra Leone. Read his story below on what country is like now almost one year after the virus hit.
- What is Sierra Leone like one year after the Ebola virus hit?
Inveneo visited a case management and burial management team in Sierra Leone. Photo Credit: Eric Kuhnke/Inveneo
“Although I haven’t been in Sierra Leone throughout the entire crisis, I can see that Sierra Leone used to be a place where ‘doors were closing’ in almost all areas for the residents. What I mean is that there were serious limits on migration, how much people moved, and where people congregated. In addition, several businesses left Sierra Leone which drastically affected opportunities for individuals. The overall economic landscape was hurt from this, and often people had to change their jobs. And even if you did not contract the Ebola virus your life was still drastically altered.
Today, humanitarian organizations of Sierra Leone are transitioning to more of a “recovery” mode. Ebola is still active there, but it is concentrated in different provinces. Priorities are changing theses days since many regions are not experiencing new patients and are devoting their resources to the economic and social recovery. Not surprisingly communities have experienced different levels of fallout from all this. However, through it all, communication is the biggest factor we are concerned with and it was good to see local communities having trust in the global community.”
- What were your daily activities in the ERCI project?
Eric Zan organizing materials for the ERCI project.
“It was constantly different because every day presented new challenges. In general I was the logistics coordinator and helped direct the Field Team on where they could go.
- I made sure there was a way to gather details and share them with the team about where to go and when to take precautions.
- I would liaise with our project partners in order to come up with a plan for integrating our equipment into their core network.
- Also, I’d discuss how to build out each tower in a coordinated way, how to ensure bandwidth strength, and how to monitor the network.
Those items were the “big picture” parts to my day-to-day activities. But they add up when working in a crowded and limited-resource environment.”
- How is the ERCI project making a difference?
“First, the Internet will help main hubs coordinate with their field offices because a lot of decision making and resource allocation happens in the capital. Before getting an Internet connection, main offices sometimes had to wait days or weeks to get information about what was going on in the rural areas. By then it’s often too late to respond to the key needs in an efficient way. Second, the organizations can get data back almost instantly. This communication helps them coordinate with other organizations which overall helps paints the big picture for everybody.
Photo Credit: Eric Kuhnke/Inveneo
As a last note, the Internet generally helps people and organizations be more efficient in their missions, whatever their mission is. This may include having more time for projects, less need for travel, and better cost-effective strategies.”
- What precautionary health measures did you and your team take while in Sierra Leone?
“The health measures were mainly based on behavioral changes; they were all behavioral-based policies that we established for the team to follow. The ABCs meant Avoid Body Contact at all times. We were taking our temperatures at least twice a day, and we worked alongside a health a safety member from NetHope from their Icelandic Search and Rescue Team. Also, communication was important and people checked in with me. We also had a group chat on Skype going, and I was constantly coordinating with others in case someone needed to go to the hospital or wasn’t feeling well.”
- In your opinion, what ICTs would be the most effective in stopping Ebola from spreading?
“Although many people have mobile phones in Sierra Leone, they may not always be the entire solution. For example, mobile phones are not reliable to transfer large amounts of data. Instead, what is needed is a reliable Internet link and a better system for gathering and aggregating data in an automated way.
Another important part is the building of local capacity. Training is very important and it must be coordinated with local support and knowledge. Information should be made available to communities and more members of an organization’s team, too, and not necessarily to just the Project Coordinator.
Over the last few months I’ve realized that those living in Sierra Leone are incredibly resilient people, and they have so much that they are already offering. Combining these skills with ICT has the potential to play a significant role in bringing an end to this tragic Ebola crisis.”
- Posted by Inveneo on March 30, 2015 in the categories: News
Inveneo has partnered with Protocase on the ARM Ltd. solar powered Micro-Data Center Design Challenge. The top prize for the competition is $10,000 and the winning design will be built and deployed in the developing world.
To support the challenge, Protocase will be providing resources such as its free 3D design software and guidance on designing electronic enclosures, and will precision-fabricate the top designs.
Inveneo is seeking students, engineers, researchers, and innovators to submit their design of a solar powered micro-data center. Given the harsh environments present in much of the developing world, designers will need to create a functional micro-data center that can be powered with a solar photovoltaic system, withstand intense heat and humidity, and run completely without access to standard air conditioning.
Candidates will use ARM based solutions to create the “micro-board chassis” design that will use off-the-shelf ARM based processor micro boards (i.e. Raspberry Pi, Banana Pi/Pro, ODROID, etc.). Inveneo has partnered with LeMaker, which is offering a discounted 15 Banana Pro kit that can be used to build a prototype micro-board chassis.
“We are excited to have Protocase as a partner as its CAD software will help innovators design their submission,” says Bruce Baikie, Executive Director of Inveneo. “Even more exciting is that they will be building the winning designs.”
The contest is open to applicants who are at least 18 years of age, in teams that range from three to seven members. The contest’s panel of judges includes industry experts from Inveneo, ARM, and LeMaker, among others. The top two winning designs will be announced on July 15, 2015.
If you are interested in entering this design challenge or to find more information, please visit this page.
Protocase: Engineers and designers throughout North America and the world recognize Protocase as a world-class facility that manufactures custom electronic enclosures, sheet metal parts, machined parts and components in two to three days, with no minimum orders. In addition to offering its own free downloadable 3D design software, Protocase works with customers in science, engineering and innovation to fine-tune their designs to their exact needs before all aspects of the product’s manufacturing is completed within the company’s cutting-edge production facility.
- Posted by Inveneo on March 9, 2015 in the categories: Education, News
UNESCO and UN Women’s recent Mobile Learning Week conference in Paris was an ICT-focused event that brought together over 1,000 participants from more than 70 countries. As a participant representing Inveneo, Media Manager Jana Melpolder traveled to Paris to determine best practices on using technology to educate and empower girls and women around the world. She was pleased to run into several key ICTworks’ authors at the event, including Linda Raftree and Jim Teicher.
Ms. Raftree made a presentation titled “10 Myths About Mobile Learning and Girls’ Empowerment”, and it made a big impact in the way she thought about how mobiles affect girls. Several of her key myths of mobile ownership included:
- Cost being the largest barrier to owning a phone (which is not always true due to family pressures or societal norms that prohibit a girl from easily owning a phone)
- Mobile phones can’t address the real needs of girls (when in reality mobile phones can address important issues such as domestic violence, information for rape victims, and more)
- Vulnerable girls don’t have access to mobile phones (when in reality a girl may be borrowing a phone from friends, etc.)
Ms. Melpolder appreciate the insights that Linda Raftree and other speakers offered, and there were many terrific tech-related resources that were promoted for teachers throughout this event. However, the greater focus at the Mobile Learning Week conference should have been how parents could use technology to empower and educate young girls. Parents are a solid backbone to a girl’s education, and she believes that more technological resources need to become more easily available to them.
Technology that parents already own can be better utilized to push a girl’s education further and better prepare them for modern jobs. For example, since mobile phones are widely used in emerging regions, parents should more often utilize text messages about assignments that are due, or they should receive daily or weekly messages on what children are learning while at school. Additionally, teachers should use mobiles more often to communicate to parents what lessons a young girl is currently working on in school.
Engaged parents are vital to the education and empowerment of young girls everywhere, and resources should be made available to them just as often as they are made available to teachers. She hopes there is a better balance in the future – one where educational tech tools are brought equally to the hands of teachers and parents to make an even greater impact for young girls around the world.
- Posted by Inveneo on March 2, 2015 in the categories: News
UNESCO and UN Women recently held their Mobile Learning Week conference in Paris. Located at the UNESCO headquarters, which is quite close to the Eiffel Tower, the event brought together around 1,000 participants from over 70 countries. Individuals gathered together to discuss how technology is being used to help women and girls gain access to quality education, better job opportunities, and an equal share to ICT tools.
Inveneo’s Media Manager Jana Melpolder traveled to Paris to represent both ICTworks and Inveneo at the event. She was able to meet (in person) the ICTworks writers Linda Raftree and Jim Teicher, in addition to many other inspiring ICT figures. Check out a few of the best photos below from the week-long conference!
Mobile Learning Week was hosted by UNESCO and UN Women.
Outside the UNESCO headquarters in Paris.
A panel discussing equitable access on the second day of Mobile Learning Week.
The main UNESCO office located in Paris.
Inveneo’s exhibition booth that was showcased during Mobile Learning Week.
UNESCO is celebrating its 70th anniversary throughout 2015.
A final panel of speakers moderated by ICTworks’ author Linda Raftree (far left). The panel discussed gender sensitive content and pedagogy.