How OneBeep is Harnessing the Power of Radio Waves To Make a Difference!


As a student in New Zealand, Lohan set up OneBeep, a data communication company. He put together a system that gathers disparate data, including satellite imagery, text messages and government health, climate and GIS datasets, to identify areas around the world that are most at risk of malarial mosquito infestation based on recent rainfall patterns and past experience. He has now relocated to Bangalore to kick-start his second venture in the booming big data industry.OneBuzz - the technology platform he built - has developed an inexpensive and robust method to send digital content to devices. Using OneBeep's software any digital file can be converted to audio, which is then sent via radio waves.

1) Tell us about OneBeep.

The One Laptop per Child (OLPC) and the Intel Classmate PC programmes, are designed to get low-cost computers into poor communities. They have deployed a combined 2.6 million laptops to remote communities around the globe. There are plans to deploy 30 million more in the next 5 years just to East Africa.

A large percentage of the devices are in remote regions where there is no existing internet or any other method of information transfer. There is currently no existing solution to this huge issue, and that is what the OneBeep solution addresses.

OneBeep has developed an inexpensive and robust method to send digital content to these devices. Using OneBeep's software any digital file can be converted to audio, which is then sent via radio waves. This can be received on any AM/FM radio, which passes it on to the laptop via an inexpensive audio cable. The file is then converted back to its original form once it has been received on the devices. As every village has AM radios, you now have a low- cost way to beam out daily lessons, health material etc over long distances to thousands of devices.

2) Tell me about the team. How did you Kayo and Chanyeol get together?

The team came together for Microsoft Imagine Cup (World's biggest technology competition, OneBeep was ranked 3rd in the world out of 400,000 Student from more than 70 countries). I selected everyone for their skill sets and passion at university as I was the president of Engineering Society and I knew all the people with a spark in them :)I have known Kayo for a long time and we also went to school together in New Zealand.

3) Where does the technology competency come from?

The competency comes from its simplicity. All communication methodologies that operate in rural areas are very hardware dependent and high cost (satellite comms, Wi Max etc). As OneBeep uses conventional AM/FM channels and the standard readily available radio as a receiver there are no overhead costs or new investment in infrastructure needed to deploy it

4) Tell me a bit about the space. Has something like this been attempted?

The radio space has seen very limited innovation over the past decade in terms of new tech layer being developed on top of old communication protocols. I think the fact that we used such an old tech to solve a relatively new problem of providing connectivity to computers shows that one does not always need state of the art than to solve a problem.

There have been attempts at transmitting data over radio before, however most of them required special license (increases costs) and have frequency bandwidth limitations (most transmitters can't send out the file) that OneBeep does not suffer from.

5) How do you market yourself? Who is your client?

We have got a lot of marketing from winning competitions, be it Imagine Cup/IEEE/Business plans comps, which led us to be featured on CNN/BBC etc and spread the word. We also have been very active on social media and have had a presence at many international conferences.

Our primary users include OLPC & Intel Classmate PC.

7) It's been about 2 years since you launched; how has the growth curve been?

Actually it’s just been 9 months since we launched. Yes, the project started 2 years ago, but in between I also did OneBuzz and my final year of Engineering kept me busy. The growth in terms of dev work has been phenomenal. We started off with transmissions across a room and are now at 100km!

The aim is to get the product in the market by early next year as Open Source.

8) Any memorable incident during your journey that you'd like to share?

There have been many! The OneBeep project and the love people have for it has seen me travel to more than 10 countries to share our passion and vision. I have made some great friends along the way.

Most memorable was the moment when we gave a talk to more than 20,000 people in the middle of a baseball stadium. We felt like rockstars!

To know more about Vinny watch his TEDx talk on his passion for India and his work

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