I was really hoping to get a hands-on this week with UNICEF’s new “Bee” equipment while in Johannesburg, as the fabrication of the device was happening just north of us in Pretoria. Unfortunately, Christopher Fabian informed me that the second prototype wasn’t quite finished, so we had to make do with a (fabulously edited) video:
It’s really an interesting device, that is all open source – both hardware and software.
Included in the first prototypes are webcams, radio transmitters and ultra-low-power computers. These components are run with open-source software designed to support the efforts of field workers and partners, and to be locally adapted for ongoing use.
One can imagine devices like this, syncing with InSTEDD’s Mesh4x and even incorporating some of Ushahidi’s visualization tools. It has huge potential for being used when trying to match up and find missing family members – especially children, thus UNICEF’s involvement. The Bee system is intended to help field workers quickly and effectively register children in emergencies.
The Bee means that there is now a mobile hub that can quickly be deployed as nexus points in emergency settings in areas well removed from normal power and connectivity grids. It has multiple ways to use power, including solar, car battery and conventional power.
The Bee is also able to connect to global telecommunications networks using a satellite receiver or a mobile phone, or through its built-in, long-distance WiFi capacity.