Technology And New Economic Models


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I love projects like these, finding new ways of bringing essentials to the poorer places on earth, helping people make a living of it in the process. Segway creator unveils his next act.

The electric generator is powered by an easily-obtained local fuel: cow dung. Each machine continuously outputs a kilowatt of electricity. That may not sound like much, but it is enough to light 70 energy-efficient bulbs. As Kamen puts it, “If you judiciously use a kilowatt, each villager can have a nighttime.” … A satellite picture of the earth at night shows swaths of darkness across Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. For the people living there, a simple light bulb would mean an extension of both their productivity and their leisure times.

The real invention here, though, may be the economic model that Kamen and Quadir hope to use to distribute the machines. It is fashioned after Grameen Phone’s business, where village entrepreneurs (mostly women) are given micro-loans to purchase a cell phone and service. The women, in turn, charge other villagers to make calls. … “We have 200,000 rural entrepreneurs who are selling telephone services in their communities,” notes Quadir. “The vision is to replicate that with electricity.”

The Slingshot works by taking in contaminated water – even raw sewage—and separating out the clean water by vaporizing it. It then shoots the remaining sludge back out a plastic tube. Kamen thinks it could be paired with the power machine and run off the other machine’s waste heat.

Sidenote: I wish they’d stop referring to Kamen as “the Segway inventor”, he’s invented a lot more things, it’s reducing his career to attach it simply to that half failure.