Projects

Downscaling Weather Forecasts in Mbeere using ITIKI

Mbeere is in Eastern Kenya and it has an average of 550 mm annual rainfall and therefore classified under Arid and Semi-Arid Lands. It has fragile ecosystems, unfavorable climate, poor infrastructure and historical marginalization; the perennial natural disaDSC01909sters here are droughts. Of importance to this project is the fact that despite its vast area of 2,093 km2, there is no single weather station serving the area. The main source of livelihood is rain-fed marginal farming and livestock keeping by small-scale and peasant farmers who rely mostly on the indigenous knowledge of seasons in making cropping decisions. ITIKI; acronym for Information Technology and Indigenous Knowledge with Intelligence is a bridge that integrates indigenous drought forecasting approach into the scientific drought forecasting approach. ITIKI makes use of mobile phones, wireless sensor networks and artificial intelligence to downscale weather/drought forecasts to individual farmers. ITIKI implementation project in Mbeere commenced in August 2012

Innovative Implementation of the Internet of Things: Case of Assets Tracking System

Though relatively new, the potential of wireless sensor networks (WSNs) in implementing robust and intelligent security systems is unlimited. On the other hand, Radio Frequency Identifier (RFID) technology has been used since 1940s to build robust security systems. Further, the developments in the mobile telephony have not only led to superior and smarter devices but also affordable handsets.  Africa has over 63% mobile phone penetration levels; innovative use of these phones could be used to build solutions to the insecurity menace.  Portable computers (laptops, notebooks, ipads etc), smartcards, biometric reads and so on could also be added to the list of technologies that could be utilized to cost-effectively and reliably secure our people and assets. The big question that needs to be answered is; How do we innovatively integrate these technologies with an aim of creating a tracking system that can be used to address insecurity across several problem domains?

Internet of Things (IoT) is currently a vibrant research where scientists are trying to develop ways and mechanisms for enabling interconnections of any uniquely addressable thing/object and enable these ‘things’ to cooperatively carry out a specific task. As with most other technologies, the noticeable IoT projects are headed by multinationals such as IBM’s Smatter Planet Project and HP Labs’s Central Nervous System for the Earth (CeNSE) project and research consortiums like the European Research Cluster on the Internet of Things. The second observation is that none of these initiatives are directly based in or involving Africa let alone African researchers-driven. Like other technological innovations, the Continent is waiting for the bigger brothers(Europe, North America and Asia) to innovate then she adopts. The argument here is that Africa does not have to follow this old trend that has always led to solutions that do not fit the realities in the Content as supported by the famous; “transferring of Northern designs to Southern realities” ideology.

Africa presents unique opportunities and challenges and IoT solutions must therefore incorporate some implicit elements of cultural transfers and mutual learning. Africa has not kept pace with technology advancements; in the Information and Communications Technology for instance, the Continent has only 7% of her households on the Internet; this is far behind the world’s figure of 41%. African countries should not simply import the IoT technology from the west and adopt/adapt it; they should rather create (innovate) their own relevant IoT technology. The innovation route is preferred because IoT has great potential of solving many unique problems facing Africa especially in the area of environment, weather, climate change, agriculture, health and security. This is the thrust of this; it involves rigorous research (theoretical and practical) into how IoT could be used to develop a tracking system that integrates various technologies (WSNs, RFIDs, mobile phones, etc). The deliverables of the project will include a set of theoretical frameworks/architectures/models, publications in form of papers/theses and a functioning system for tracking assets.

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