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Smart Home

Lumkani sniffs out fires before they start

Startup Lumkani is on a mission to end the rapid spread of fires in South Africa -- and beyond.

The Lumkani Fire Detector. Lumkani

South African startup Lumkani's aqua blue Fire Detector isn't your typical in-home alert device. Instead, this smart fire sensor was designed with a singular goal: "To minimize the loss of life and property caused by fires in slums in South Africa and across the globe." According to Lumkani, these settlements are typically constructed with flammable materials, neighbors live extremely close to one another and there's a widespread reliance on open flames for cooking, as well as lighting and heating homes.

Those factors present a real challenge, as fires under these conditions can travel especially fast, devastating whole communities with little to no warning. Lumkani says that there are 1.9 million such homes throughout South Africa.

Given that smoke-producing flames are a constant fixture in these towns, Lumkani's Fire Detector senses the rate of the rise in temperature rather than smoke. That's supposed to lower the potential for false alarms from cooking and other intended open-flame uses.

Each detector can communicate via radio frequency. Lumkani

And if a detector does sense a potential problem, it can alert neighbors (who also have Lumkani Fire Detectors) within a 200-foot (60-meter) range via radio frequencies. (You have 20 seconds to contain the fire and disarm your alarm before devices in other homes issue alerts).

Lumkani also has plans for something it vaguely refers to as a "smart device," a separate piece of hardware that's supposed to be able to send texts to homes and firefighters with the exact location of the flames.

While smart smoke detectors aren't a new thing, Lumkani's vision is pretty unique and has the potential to improve the way millions of people live both in South Africa and elsewhere. But, I could also see applications for this device in apartments, condos and any other structures where people are living in close proximity to one another.

There are only five days left on Lumkani's campaign and the team has more than doubled its original $45,000 funding goal. A pledge of at least $15 sends one of Lumkani's connected detectors to a family living in South Africa -- and a contribution of $20 (or more) means that you get one, too. Lumkani Fire Detectors are available internationally and shipping is slated for November.

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