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A Little Blue Box Is Stopping Thousands from Being Displaced

When a fire destroyed countless homes in the impoverished South African township of Khayelitsha, local engineer Francois Petousis had an idea. If he could create an affordable, easily installed early warning system, thousands of lives and homes could be saved. Because there are so many makeshift structures in such close quarters, there is a constant danger of large-scale fires sparked by candles, stoves and open flames, which are a part of daily life in the communities.

Petousis’ “Lumkani” box
can actually detect rapidly rising heat—not just smoke—to provide nearby residents with a warning that a fire has been sparked. “The in-shack heat detector will ring when a fire is detected, enabling the family in the home to respond proactively and possibly extinguish the fire,” he explains. “If this is not the case, the device will then trigger all devices within a 40-meter range of itself, using transmission technology, creating a community-wide alert.” because they are designed to be affordable (abut $8), the high-tech box is finding it’s way into thousands of homes throughout South Africa.

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