Kenyan Wearable Tech Helps Save Lives

Posted January 17th, 2014 at 3:05 pm (UTC+0)
1 comment

Boda boda, anyone? If you don’t know what that is, stick around.

Boda boda is the local name for Kenya’s favored mode of transportation. It is becoming more popular in both rural and urban areas across the country. Also known as the motorcycle, the boda boda saves Kenyan riders time, gives them maneuverability to zigzag around traffic jams, squeeze through narrow city streets and sometimes get in trouble.

FILE - Kenyan motorcyclists park along a main street to protest over what they say is harassment by the City Council of Nairobi inspectors on traffic offenses within the capital. (Reuters)

FILE – Kenyan motorcyclists park along a main street to protest over what they say is harassment by the City Council of Nairobi inspectors on traffic offenses within the capital. Motorcycles, locally referred to as “Boda Boda”, are a preferred mode for quick transport by many city dwellers. (Reuters)

Unfortunately, that means an increased rate of accidents, despite legal requirements that all boda boda riders wear reflective jackets and protective helmets.

According to the World Health Organization, between 3,000-13,000 Kenyans die in traffic accidents each year, most of whom are pedestrians, motorcyclists, and cyclists.

The problem caught the eye of brothers Joseph and Charles Muchene, respectively a certified public accountant and an electrical and electronics engineer. They now run a startup in Nairobi dealing with e-textiles, called CladLight.

Alarmed by rising motorcycle accident rates, the brothers attributed the vulnerability of boda boda riders to low visibility and determined that if they could increase boda boda visibility, then they might be able to reduce accidents by more than 50 percent.

“We had to come up with a product that could save lives as well as being trendy,” Joseph told TECHtonics in an email interview. “CladLight saw an opportunity to try and address the problem with the twist of fashion and make something out of it.”

Joseph says increasing the visibility was tricky because “it is the law in Kenya that all motorcycle riders and any passenger thereon must wear a reflective jacket and a helmet. So we really had to up our game to solve the issue.”

They decided that wearable electronics would be the most suitable avenue to tackle the problem. More specifically, they came up with an idea they called the Boda-Pack.

“Boda-pack is just a modification of the standard reflective jacket in that there are still reflective strips on the jacket and additional direction-indicating LEDs mounted on the jacket,” Joseph said. “We also made an improvement to the jacket by adding brake lights. All these are synchronized with the motorcycle indication and stopping systems.”

CladLight has already begun production of the Boda-Pack. But Joseph says the jacket was cumbersome and is being redesigned.

The new model is expected to hit the Kenyan market in January. In due course, the brothers plan to reach out to the Kenyan government and The National Transport and Safety Authority to gauge their interest in the Boda-Pack.

“After we have established the business in Kenya and creat[ed] a niche for ourselves, then by the end of the year we venture into East Africa, then gradually the whole of Africa,” said Joseph.

By all accounts, the Muchene brothers are pioneers in Africa so far as wearable electronics are concerned. And they hope to make a difference.

“We really hope to have a positive impact on society,” said Joseph.

Aida Akl
Aida Akl is a journalist working on VOA's English Webdesk. She has written on a wide range of topics, although her more recent contributions have focused on technology. She has covered both domestic and international events since the mid-1980s as a VOA reporter and international broadcaster.

One Response to “Kenyan Wearable Tech Helps Save Lives”

  1. […] “We really hope to have a positive impact on society,” said Joseph. [Source] […]

Leave a Reply

About

About

Whether you are in a big city or a small village – technology is in your hands, your pocket, your car, your home. It is everywhere. And everywhere, it is becoming us.

Techtonics looks at how technology intersects people’s lives, how it empowers them or traps them in a world increasingly obsessed with technological wonders even as privacy slips through its fingers. It aims to inform, discuss, and hopefully inspire.

Updates from @aidaakl

Categories

Calendar

January 2014
M T W T F S S
« Dec   Feb »
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031  

Archives