Five young innovators supported by the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA), an entity of the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), on June 29 launched and showcased their products to the public.
The innovators were supported through the TIA’s Grassroots Innovation Programme (GIP), which supports and commercialises local innovations from ordinary citizens.
The GIP aims to enable innovation that solves local challenges at the grassroots level through enhancing the capacity and capability of the innovators, assisting them to commercialise their innovations.
Speaking during the launch, TIA acting CEO Patrick Krappie said the products developed all aim to provide practical solutions to real life, prevalent problems in the country.
The research and products therefore respond to crime, sanitation and education issues; challenges confronted by people with disabilities; and the increasing growth of e-commerce and how to help students participate in this, he noted.
He said the TIA was committed to continuing to support innovators and to help them connect with partners, investors and markets.
He said the aim was now for these innovators to scale up and become future industrialists, create jobs and contribute to economic growth and South Africa’s export potential.
The first innovation is Ownedby, which was presented by co-founder Phila Bongo.
Ownedby is an interactive asset management tool for home and business devices, that digitally links these to owners. This ensures that these valuables exist online, with a unique and traceable identity.
Once owners have linked their valuables, they will have the ability to assign digi-tags that let people know whether the item is for sale, lost or stolen.
Appliances and devices are searchable online, with Ownedby enabling this by using the valuable’s international mobile equipment identity (IMEI) number.
Bongo said the theft of devices was rampant and that it was easy to sell these on a second-hand marketplace without verification. Therefore, Ownedby seeks to prevent the crime, by allowing owners and buyers to know whether an item is for sale, lost or stolen.
The company aims to further develop the platform and grow its user base. It has thus far garnered 4 500 Quickchecks, where potential users have searched for their devices using the unique IMEI on the platform.
The second innovation was developed by the Technological Plumbing Solution company. The Prev Leak solution is a smart polymer manhole cover made from plastic composite material. It was presented by CEO Thulani Khumalo.
He said the solution reduces the effects of sewage pollution. The manhole cover contains an ultra-sensor that uses sound waves to detect wastewater levels. It also has a configurable threshold to detect when a sewer is blocked and reports blockages to the relevant authority.
The technology features a battery with a five- to ten-year life.
The company aims for this smart polymer manhole cover to be used to replace existing steel covers.
The company also offers a public reporting app, a progressive Web application that enables the general public to easily report water leaks and water blockages.
In its first year, the company hopes to sell 120 smart manhole covers in Gauteng.
The third innovation – a wheelchair integrated umbrella holder - was from Anathoth Solutions, which designs hands-free solutions for the physically challenged .
This innovation is a retractable umbrella that can be retrofitted to a wheelchair for protecting its user from the rain or harmful ultraviolet rays.
Users can easily open the umbrella and adjust its position, as well as close and retract it when it is not needed. Anathoth plans to undertake further product development.
It is also developing a backpack with an umbrella integrated into it and is working on protypes.
The fourth innovation is the S-Store - an online grocery shopping platform targeted at university students. The S-Store was recently launched as a beta, with four months of testing showing good results. It is currently in development stage.
Last was the Sisanda App Universe, which was presented by Mbangiso Mabaso.
The innovation offers a bundle of science apps that help learners to perform science experiments by using the camera of their smartphone or tablet. The product is designed for use by grade 4 to grade 12 learners, and Mabaso enthused that it makes science engaging, fun and accessible to thousands of learners in Africa.
It is curriculum aligned, provides bite-sized content and uses storytelling.
Thus far, about 950 users have downloaded the product and the team is hoping to extend its reach into schools.