A Device For Collecting Data In The Developing World

Recent graduates Gordon McCambridge and Tayo Ajayi are planning the next steps for a data-collecting device they created as part of the Center for Engineering Innovation and Design summer fellowship.

Their invention is a low-cost data-monitoring device with cell phone capability that can send via text message information from the field based on various sensor inputs, such as the temperature and position of vaccines en route.

Later this month, McCambridge will take the device to Zimbabwe to meet with Econet Wireless to get their feedback as both a potential user of the device and as experts on cell service and data collection in the developing world. He said Zimbabwe will be the first key step towards verifying that this device fits a niche for developing world clients, and getting information on how it can be improved.

McCambridge and Ajayi, who both graduated in May, presented a version of the Arduino-like device last month to the other CEID fellows and their advisors. Ajayi said it made sense to create a device for general use with the capability to use sensors that already exist. Most data-collecting devices are made for a specific purpose, he said.

“They’re very expensive and they rely on technology in the developed world, like wi-fi, so they would have a tough time in the developing world,” Ajayi said.

McCambridge said he got the idea for the device while traveling in southern Africa working with some non-governmental organizations on various issues, including vaccine chains and solar power.

“I remember sitting in my dorm room last fall and thinking 'All of these organizations could solve their data problems with an Arduino, plus some additional features." I would say this was the key thought - that these many different organizations with many different focuses could all benefit from one common core device.”

Ajayi and McCambridge hope to turn the device toward a social enterprise over the course of the coming year.

“We think this device has the ability to both generate significant impact as well as sustain a business, so we're excited to see where it goes,” McCambridge said.