Walking stick, mobile app shine at JKuat annual technology expo

Arnold Maina,Nathan Opurong and Emmanuel Sagini show a Setro Automated Trolley which enables a shopper to shop and make payment on the trolley avoiding queues at the cashier (WILBERFORCE OKWIRI)

Two innovations, Walking Buddy and Safari Wiz, were last week announced  winners of the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology annual tech expo.

The Walking Buddy innovation, developed and exhibited by Sackey Freshia, mimics an award winning innovation by Zetech University’s Kennedy Muthungi.

It is a smart walking stick with the ability to alert the visually impaired when they are approaching obstacles. The stick predicts the distance between the user and the obstacles and alerts them using vibrations and audio cues.

“The stick is integrated with Google Maps, enabling the user to navigate to a given location on their own using an audio guide. It also comes with a button that a user can press to immediately contact a person (their emergency contact) in case of anything, and sends their precise location to the contact,” explains Freshia.

On the other hand, Safari Wiz is an jointly developed by Gilbert Waliuba, Benson Thuku, Lang’at Nelson and Jaffred Simiyu.

It is a mobile application equipped with GIS, GPS, Maps and real time alerts to enable road users to send and view alerts on accidents, bad weather conditions, police roadblocks, potholes and other road eventualities in various routes they are likely to use.

Gilbert Waliuba says Safari Wiz will play a critical role in reducing road accidents and help in ensuring swift response in time of emergencies. He adds that their technology will also reduce congestion bedeviling a number of urban centres.

Another innovation, Path Finder, which found its way back to the tech expo after showcasing in last year’s event scooped the first runners up position.

Developed by Job Muchama, Elias Koome, Hassan Adan and Gideon Omangi, Path Finder uses light-dependent sensors to redefine how experts can mount solar panels to maximise their exposure to sunlight.

Job Muchama, the lead innovator, says they use an active tracking system to establish the exact position of the source of light.

He explains that the solar panel is placed on the shaft of a motor, which is given maximum rotation such that the solar panel is always oriented at 90 degrees to receive maximum sunlight.

Another technology which came to the fore at the tech expo is a version of the currently used Alcoblow.

Paul Rukwaro, Liz Kasomo and Stephen Muchiri say their Auto Alcoblow is fitted with an automated alcohol detection system. It senses the blood alcohol concentration level of a driver and prevents ignition of the engine if the allowed alcohol limit is exceeded.

“We have also incorporated an aspect where the system sends a text message to a relative or close friend of the driver informing them that the driver is not in a good condition to drive in the hope that they can come and ‘rescue’ him or her,” says Muchiri. They finished up as the second runners up.

Another innovation, Zima na Text, scooped the People’s Choice Award after being voted for by a huge number of people on Social Media.

Developed by Joseph Ngatia Mwaniki, Denis Mwangi Kariuki and Marystella Natasha, the innovation exhibits a home automation system designed to make use of SMS in controlling home electronic appliances and help save electrical power.

Spectators’ choice

Even as Walking Buddy and Safari Wiz received well-deserved acclaim, three other innovations were not lost to the student crowd. These are Lainisha M3, Setro and Mama fair.

Lainisha ma3 is a project aimed at streamlining the matatu sector by ensuring that matatus are not overloaded and that only authorised matatu Sacco drivers transport passengers.

Lainisha M3 uses two identification systems that involve swiping an identification card and fingerprint recognition to start a car. It also makes certain that passengers have their seatbelts on at all times.

In the event a passenger fails to fasten their seatbelt, a loud buzzer goes off. Should they ignore the buzzer, then the engine goes off.

You might be wondering what happens if a passenger decides to alight in the course of the journey. Well upon unbuckling ones seatbelt, the matatu gradually reduces its speed automatically communicating to the driver to pull over to the nearest bus-stop. This system also prevents passengers from standing along the aisle.

SETRO (Smart Electronic Trolley), on the other hand, is a product aimed at making shopping efficient. The system, fitted on a shopping trolley, uses image recognition and barcode reading to detect products placed in the trolley.

This information, such as the product’s expiry date and price, is then availed to shoppers. The smart trolley keeps track of the amount due and is expedient in budgeting. 

SETRO also allows the shopper to make payments electronically (via mobile money or credit card), after which it generates an E-receipt.

Last but not least is Mama Fair, a brilliant web application aimed at reducing the infant mortality rate. The application runs three modules: prenatal information, immunisation and doctors’ services.

Its core is the immunisation module containing an infant’s immunisation records that helps doctors and parents keep track of the immunisation schedules.

Mothers are reminded to take their children for immunisation through SMS or a Webapp notification. Mama Fair, on the prenatal module, hosts digital records of the mother’s medical history, gynecological examinations, laboratory diagnostic analysis and ultrasound screening.

The doctors service module enables the patients to access the contact information of a variety of doctors in different specialties. This way, patients are able to consult with doctors online. Only certified medical Practitioners are authorised to update information in these modules.

This year’s tech expo received about 50 project applications for the exhibition but only 20 were show cased.

The innovations focused on good health and well-being, quality education, clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy, industry, innovation and infrastructure, sustainable cities and community, sustainable consumption and production patterns and climate action.

The showcase, dubbed the JKUAT Tech Expo, launched in 2010 offers students pursuing various courses an opportunity to nurture their creativity by presenting innovations to a panel of judges and potential investors.