Social Business · Technology

Micro-inventions for the poor

A recent article in Business 2.0 revealed what Dean Keman, inventor of the Segway, has been working on … a solution for not one, but two of the world’s biggest issues — clean water and electricity. An estimated more than 1 billion people don’t have access to clean water and more then 1.5 billion have no electricity.

His prototypes (they are not yet being manufactured in volume) are each the size of a washing machine. The water purifier uses small amounts of electricity to produce 1,000 liters of pure drinking water each day. You can input any kind of water including raw sewage. The electricity generator will burn anything (including cow dung) to generate 1 kilowatt … enough to power 70 efficient light bulbs. The target end-user cost is $1,000-2,000 per machine.

While the benefits of clean water are obvious, the core benefit of electricity is increased productivity in being able to do activities when it’s dark outside. This includes reading, doing homework and working. One of the biggest challenges for the poorest children is that they don’t have electricity in order to study at nighttime.

Keep the innovations flowing!

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5 thoughts on “Micro-inventions for the poor

  1. Kamen’s goal is to produce machines that cost $1,000 to $2,000 each. How will people living on $1-2 per day ever be able to afford them. Even low cost energy efficient products are out of the reach of those living in extreme poverty.


  2. He claims that each machine could serve up to 100 households. If devices had a lifespan of say 3 years, then this would cost each household about $7-8/year which is affordable. Hence, financing would be important. That’s where microfinance and entrepreneurs come in who could get a microloan and then “rent” out the services to fellow villagers as a microbusiness. This is already happening on mass with mobile/cell phones in Bangladesh (Grameen Phone) and many other countries quite successfully.


  3. Definitely a poverty killer.the targeted unit price of the machines is ideal for villages.if you have travelled around Indonesia you will notice that many people buy drinking water when there are abundant sources of water.unfortunately, the rivers have become infected with raw human sewage…


  4. This idea sounds nice! has it been produced?
    may i know about its process of manufacturing? requirements of its plant and machinery and their costs so as to check this idea’s practicability?


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