Cities are getting smarter, now meet the first smart slums

Six LEDs floodlights now surround a football pitch in the Morro da Mineira favela in Rio. When the players put their weight on tiles  hidden beneath the pitch, it causes generators to jump into life and generate electricity, powering the lights. Image: Pavegen

The rise of smart cities is no secret. Major population centres all around the globe are adopting smart city technology as part of an effort to get our municipalities to run in a more organised fashion.

What is quite surprising is that this task is not only the preserve of rich Western cities like San Francisco or New York, smart thinking is also being adopted in some of the poorer areas of some of the poorest cities in the world, for example in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro and the slums of Nairobi.

Despite the sun streaked sands of Ipanema Beach being famous, just 0.02 percent of Brazil’s electricity is supplied by solar energy.

However, things are changing and lighting powered by solar energy in Brazil’s favelas is becoming a more common sight.

Makeshift football pitches can be seen in perfusion across Brazil’s most famous city and the favelas are no different. However, football in the slums had to stop when the sun went down. Until now, that is.

At a football pitch in the Morro da Mineira favela, LED lighting has recently been installed that is powered by the players themselves.

The slums of Nairobi are amongst the poorest areas of the world.

Six LEDs floodlights now surround a field of play in the slum and they are powered by 200 kinetic tiles that are buried in the Astroturf capturing the energy generated by the players dashing across the pitch.

When the players put their weight on the tiles, which were developed by Pavegen, hidden beneath the pitch, it causes electric-magnetic induction generators to jump into life and generate electricity.

In Korogocho, the fourth largest slum in Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya, solar lighting is also playing a role, powered, extraordinarily, by gravity itself.

GravityLight is aimed at improving on the traditional, but sometimes dangerous kerosene lamp, that is still used in the homes of millions of people across the African continent.

The affordable technology has been praised by the likes of Microsoft founder and humanitarian, Bill Gates, and does not require batteries or sunlight and costs absolutely nothing to run.

GravityLight works by connecting an elevated bag packed with rocks or sand, which is connected to a simple pulley system. Each time an attached weight falls to the ground it prompts a generator to spring into life and create twenty minutes of free and brilliant light.

GravityLight works by connecting an elevated bag packed with rocks or sand, which is connected to a simple pulley system.

Each time an attached weight falls to the ground it prompts a generator to spring into life and create twenty minutes of free and brilliant light.

Kerosene to power lamps is an expensive product to buy and it is estimated that between 10 and 20 percent of the income of the African poor goes on purchasing lamp light.

The removal of the need to buy kerosene frees up money, that can instead be spent of food and education.

77 percent of people across Kenya do not have access to electricity, so GravityLight has the potential to change the lives of many people.

GravityLight, an American company, is now in the process of setting up an assembly line to increase the availability of their product.

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