Kenya Based Company Develops BRCK-Kio, a ‘Classroom-in-the-Box’
The Nairobi based company BRCK is a team of software developers and engineers that have been a catalyst in the changing tech landscape in Kenya. They are known for the BRCK, a device that provides electricity in blackouts, mobile connectivity and is used primarily by those in areas who need a stronger connection to the internet.
BRCK co-founder Juliana Rotich says that the company wants to send the message that Africans have the wherewithal required to manufacture high-tech, world-class solutions to the challenges facing the continent, and which can also be exported world-wide.
Now, the company is expanding into education with the BRCK-Kio. This educational tablet employs the BRCK technology to help Kenyan children in the classroom. What makes the tablet revolutionary is that it is water and dust resistant, drop proof and runs for up to eight hours. It was designed for those living in rural areas so that children can always have access to the information highway.
“We are delighted to launch the Kio, which is a breakthrough solution that can run multimedia content and offers a lighter technology footprint with an intuitive interface designed for children,” said President of BRCK Education, Nivi Mukherjee, in an official statement. “The BRCK-Kio will not only pique children’s curiosity to learn and understand more but also go beyond memorizing education content.”
According to a report by ITWebAfrica.com, the education division of BRK has partnered with multiple companies, including Pearson and Intel- Education. BRCK is completely invested in the well being of their product and the people it serves, so manufacturing will be moved to Kenya soon. That also means that many local people will be employed while they invest in their children’s futures.
The BRCK-Kio is now available for pre-order, along with many of the company’s other great products.
When we set out to build the BRCK, we wanted to take care of the rampant connectivity and power issues that prevent many people in the developing world from being as efficient or as effective in their jobs. We did this, and we ended up becoming one of Kenya’s first consumer electronics’ companies. We were very excited about this, and the recognition we were getting, but the BRCK was built to be much more. When it was designed, we included a USB port and a micro web server, that at the time, just seemed like cool features. Over time, we came to appreciate that they were so much more. You could access content from the BRCK but we felt this was not enough, so we combined the BRCK with a Raspberry Pi computing module to give it a bit of a boost. This enabled access to rich and interactive websites and content, from the same rugged form factor as the original BRCK.
There are numerous challenges facing education in developing countries. Since the BRCK together with the Pi, enables access of locally-cached and web-hosted content, we thought it could prove a useful tool to both teachers and students if they could access up-to-date educational materials, and give them an edge and enable them to compete with schools with more resources. This was in line with our ethos of promoting equality in education and levelling the playing field by using the same technologies as the rest of the world but tweaked to our particular context. At BRCK Education, we do not think the only sources of knowledge and information in a classroom should be teachers and textbooks. The four walls of a classroom should not limit a child’s access to learning, playing and growing. This technology, however, cannot replace the role of a teacher. It makes access to information much easier.
The easiest way to deliver educational content to students is through tablet computers. Initially, tablets, even the ones made for schools, were not durable and did not have the kind of features we needed: a long battery life, an easy-to-use interface and some sort of durability. Until now. Due to the demands of our environments, and the fact that children are bound to drop and spill fluids on the tablets, we designed and engineered the Kio Tablet, to be rugged, adaptable and unbelievably functional. We built the Kio specifically to the needs we exhaustively identified during our field tests in schools. Even with the progress we made, we felt like we had only climbed half the mountain.
Having the tablets was well and good, but tablets need to be charged. One of the barriers to using tablets effectively is the inconvenience of remembering to charge them and the fact that charging cables break frequently. Also, tablets present a security fear: they are small and can be easily stolen. So, how about a rugged kit, that provides both the charging and security needed for the tablets in one go? The Kio Kit. It comes with wireless charging and is lockable, and in case a tablet is taken away from it, we built the firmware to prevent flashing of its operating system. The Kio Kit can hold and charge 40 tablets, each of which can run for 8 hours on a single charge.
What we are doing is not just selling technology. We passionately believe in our ability to positively impact the quality of learning of students in Kenya. But, we cannot do this alone. We are proud that both local and international organizations, both big and small, have joined us to make this dream a reality. The Kio Kit will be available for pre-order today, limited availability begin on November 1st and we expect general availability from January 1st 2016. The Kio Kit will go for USD 5,000 and a Kio Tablet will go for USD 100.
We’re a team of software developers, engineers and technologists who are from Africa and live here. We have a long history of building things, such as Ushahidi, Crowdmap and the iHub. Our expertise runs from cloud software to fingerprint scanners for mobile devices to high-level medical device prototyping and manufacturing.
The BRCK was designed and prototyped in Nairobi, Kenya. We wanted a connectivity device that fit our needs, where electricity and internet connections are problematic both in urban and rural areas.
As we laid out what such a device would look like – physically robust, able to connect to multiple networks, a hub for all local devices, enough backup power to survive a blackout – we realized that the way the entire world is connecting to the web is changing. We no longer only get online via desktops in our office with an ethernet connection, we have multiple devices, and mobile connectivity is crucial.
Director of BRCK Cloud
Operations & Supply Chain Lead
Director of Business Operations
Operations & Admin
President, BRCK Moja
Mechanical Design Engineer
Software Development Engineer
Customer Support Specialist
President, BRCK Education
Program Manager, BRCK Education
Special Thanks to:
- Mark @ Sandstorm Kenya ( @SandstormKenya
- Vito @ Hackers for Charity
- Johnny Long @ Hackers for Charity
- Fady (for being a motorbike champ - Expedition video
- Taylor Martin ( Helping with the KS video and other stuff )
- Jon Shuler ( Key to getting the BRCK prototypes going )
- Brian Muita @ ex-ushahidi
- Brandon @ Ushahidi
- Silicon Hills ( Theo and Shaikh )
- Pete's Cafe Nairobi ( For the coffee that keeps us going late )
- The WAGs and HABs
- Skyline Design ( Wordpress work )