Sunday, April 21

Innovations

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Aviation

Kenya hosted a meeting of African aviation players to discuss air navigation management, as the African union pushes for open skies. Bringing together the heads of 30 African nations, to negotiate for an Open Skies initiative.

The meeting will also discuss the integration of remotely piloted systems (RPAS), or drones, into current and evolving air traffic management systems, while ensuring the safety and efficiency of operations.

South Africa and Rwanda have successfully integrated drones within their air navigation systems.

“It will be a perfect learning opportunity for some of us, especially Kenya, which is struggling with regulation. We will hear from our peers in Kigali and Johannesburg on how they integrated the drones into their systems and their experiences so far,” said spokesperson, Mr Kibe.

Kenya announced in September that it would ban the use of drones until parliament ratifies regulations to guide their importation and use, a potential setback for the use of the remotely controlled aircraft for humanitarian, health and wildlife conservation.

Technology in air navigation management is disrupting the way Africa civil aviation regulators are doing business, with discussions shifting towards innovative air traffic tower solutions.

Bitpesa

Nairobi based BitPesa has been named one of the 61 most promising Technology Pioneers in 2018 by the World Economic Forum. It won an award for the best apps across Africa in November.

BitPesa is already used to pay online workers – a company called Tunga is using it as a way of getting wages from clients abroad to web developers in Uganda. BitPesa’s customers include large multinationals, SMEs and traders who have grown alongside the company

There are online workers, specifically web developers, in Africa who people outside the continent would like to employ but it is difficult or prohibitively expensive to get their wages to them. Some don’t have passports, and so don’t have bank accounts either.

Bitpesa uses Bitcoin to significantly lower the time and cost of remittances and business payments to and from sub-Saharan Africa.

Bitpesa uses the crypto-currency bitcoin as a medium to transfer cash across borders. Bitcoin is a system of digitally created and traded tokens and people keep their tokens in online wallets.

It then takes the Bitcoin tokens and exchanges them into money in mobile money wallets – a popular way of paying for things in places like Kenya and Tanzania.

Matibabu for Malaria

A 24-year-old Ugandan software engineer has won the Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation. Brian Gitta is the first Ugandan to win the prestigious Africa Prize, and the youngest winner to date. The team won the first prize of £25,000 at an awards ceremony in Nairobi, Kenya on 13 June 2018

Four years ago, Brian and his fellow students at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda, came up with a low-cost, reusable device called Matibabu – meaning treatment in Kiswahili, which detects malaria quickly without drawing blood.

Although still in prototype stage, the society judges called his malaria testing machine “simply a game changer” in the fight against this deadly disease.

“At first this project started like a game, we were just friends getting together doing something exciting. But after about a year I said, hey guys we’re having fun but I think we can change lives with what we’re doing.”

Brian said to the BBC just weeks before clinching the Royal Academy of Engineering Africa innovation prize for his malaria testing device.

The makers believe Matibabu could transform the situation by speeding up testing times since it does not need to draw blood nor use invasive needles that children in particular, can struggle with.

Last year, another Ugandan engineer Brian Turyabagye designed a biomedical “smart jacket” to quickly and accurately diagnose pneumonia. The Mamaope jacket measures a sick child’s temperature and breathing rate. It can diagnose pneumonia three to four times faster than a doctor and eliminates most possibility for human error.

Pneumonia kills 27,000 Ugandan children under the age of five every year. Most of these cases are due to pneumonia being misdiagnosed as malaria.

Koniku Kore for Explosives

Nigerian Oshi Agabi unveiled a computer based not on silicon but on mice neurons at the TED Global conference in Tanzania.

His device, Koniku Kore is a modem sized amalgam of living neurons and silicon, with olfactory capabilities — basically sensors that can detect and recognise smells. It could eventually provide the brain for future robots.

All of the big tech firms, from Google to Microsoft, are rushing to create artificial intelligence modelled on the human brain. Agabi launched his start-up Koniku over a year ago, raised $1m (£800,000) and claims it is making profits of $10m in deals with the security industry.

The system has been trained to recognise the smell of explosives and could be used to replace traditional airport security, he said. He envisages a future where such devices can be discreetly used at various points in airports, eliminating the need for queues to get through airport security.

As well as being used for bomb detection, the device could be used to detect illness by sensing markers of a disease in the air molecules that a patient gives off.

While computers are better than humans at complex mathematical equations, there are many cognitive functions where the brain is much better: training a computer to recognise smells would require colossal amounts of computational power and energy.

Drones to deliver Medicines

The logistics company Zipline runs drones which can deliver small packages like blood, vaccines and anti-venom.

The world’s first drone port opened in Rwanda in October 2016 and Zipline announced it was going to expand to Tanzania. Zipline’s Tanzania operation is expected to begin in Dodoma, in early 2018, according to Forbes.

It will have four distribution centres across Tanzania, offering a range of medical supplies. Forbes says this will be the largest drone delivery system in the world.

There is a global race for commercial drone deliveries of small packages, which have been restricted in the US and Europe because of aviation rules. In comparison, some parts of Africa, such as Rwanda, are welcoming drones. The combination of rural roads and vast amounts of land which is not on a flight path make parts of Africa perfect for developing delivery drones.

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