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Aiming to spark social innovationSan Francisco-based Inveneo tries to wire the developing world while using its home base as an incubator for other socially conscious start-ups. CNET's Ina Fried talks with CEO Kristin Peterson.
^B00:00:04 >> Ina Fried: I'm Ina Fried with CNET. I am here at the home of Inveneo and Mission Social with Kristin Peterson who's the CEO of Inveneo. Can you tell us a little bit about the company and how you guys got your start? >> Kristin Peterson: Sure Inveneo is a non-profit social enterprise based in San Francisco at Mission Social and our mission is to get the tools of technology, basic computing, better internet access and information out to those who need it most, primarily organizations and communities and really rural and challenging environments in a developing world. >> Ina Fried: And more recently you guys have been involved in the Haiti relief efforts and using your technology. Can you tell me a little bit about how you guys ended up in Haiti and what types of stuff you've been doing? >> Kristin Peterson: Sure we recently went to Haiti just a few days after the earthquake. We were invited to go with an organization called Net Hope and Net Hope is a collaboration of some of the largest NGOs in the world that are focused on relief and their collaboration is really focused on we how use technology in their work and Net Hope invited us to come with them to Haiti to help them deliver broadband access to their NGOs so they can use it to deliver better relief, healthcare and anything they might need it for in the early days of the aftermath of the devastating earthquake. >> Ina Fried: And you guys had a pretty good home here in San Francisco. You decided to open it up and create a space for other likeminded organizations. Can you tell me a little bit how that came to be? >> Kristin Peterson: Sure Inveneo has been here for about 2 years now in this old sewing factory in the Soma district of San Francisco and the space was taken up. We only took a small bit of the space initially but we were starting to grow and we thought well if we grow a little bit why don't we bring in another few organizations to help us get more space cause we wanted to take down the walls and so we invited a couple of organizations to share the space with us and that worked out so well we thought why don't we just take the whole floor and it opened up to all types of social enterprises that are like minded to Inveneo and we started doing that in January and we're really excited about it because it's a great way to have a collaborative environment, and we all are primarily focused on international development, so we have a lot of interest in common and a lot of work in common and it's a great way to share ideas and to have a place that's affordable to start our organizations or run our organizations. >> Ina Fried: And right now you guys have about a half dozen other organizations and it looks like you have a little bit of room to grow. >> Kristin Peterson: Yeah we've got Inveneo plus 8 other organizations. Great organizations like Green Wi-Fi, [inaudible], Jessica TV, Catapult, all sorts, digital life data, Blue Energy, and Engineers Without Boarders and we've got about a third of the space left to bring in new organizations and we'd love to have them contact us. They can look at our site missionsocial.org if they are interested in learning more. >> Ina Fried: What are the types of systems that you guys ship to places like Uganda and Haiti? >> Kristin Peterson: Sure what's really important to think about are the hardware, software and power elements that come together to serve organizations that operate in really challenging and often rural environments. The biggest issue is power so we look at low power devices, low power computers, low power LCDs, low power servers and networking equipment, as well as long distance low power networking Wi-Fi equipment to help organizations get better access to better internet services like the work we've done in Haiti. Here are a couple of the PCs that we recommend for organizations in rural areas. Typically the organizations are using these computers in multi user environment and so we need desktops and this is a low power LCD that takes 7 watts of power. It's an LED backlit LCD that we have manufactured in China and is compatible with 110, 220 and 12 volts so it can run on a regular grid, or it can run on battery plus grid, or it can run on a full DC solar powered system so solar panels plus batteries. We also use a couple of different and resale a couple of different computers for these environments. This is the fit-PC2 it's produced by CompuLab. It is a fan less device; it only takes 7 watts of power. It also is compatible 110, 220, 12 volt so it's a great device to put in an environment where you might be running on a completely DC or solar powered DC system. Additionally, we've got another PC that we typically recommend. >> Ina Fried: And this one might be familiar to some of our readers. If you look closely that's the EBox which is made by ASUS it's the same people who make the EPC on the notebook side so essentially what you have here is a netbook in a desktop or a net top and this is a computer that people in the states can buy but you guys have found that it meets your needs right? >> Kristin Peterson: Absolutely and one of the biggest needs is low powered draw and this only takes 14 watts of power, it does have a fan so the fan drives a little bit more power and it needs to go into environments that are a little less dusty, a little less austere because it can bring in a little bit of dust if it's in a really dusty environment but this is also a great PC for rural environments and we found that it works super in many settings. This is just been deployed in about 50 schools in rural Uganda in a solar powered computer lab setting so it's really exciting to see how well it's working. Additionally, it's important to note if you know the ASUS EPC it's a full PC, it's a standard PC as is the fit-PC so you have all the features and functionality of a regular PC but its but they're able to really run in these rural environments. >> Ina Fried: I'm now on the roof on Inveneo's building with Andris Bjornson who's gonna tell us a little bit about the network. Now you guys have set up the network here in San Francisco that resembles what you've done in Haiti so tell us what we're seeing. >> Andris Bjornson: Yeah what we really need here in San Francisco is a test bed to allow us to test some of the things in the field or the things we want to try in the field before we put it into our production network in Haiti. So in collaboration with a number of people in the city of San Francisco and the number of people here in San Francisco, we've managed to get space on various roof tops and towers to build a test bed. This is all the same equipment that we're using in Haiti. This is Ubiquity Air Max equipment this is the Ubiquity rocket disk with the rocket radio and you'll notice it's on a tripod here on our roof just because you know we did do some very field expedient things for Haiti to get the network up quickly. In Haiti we've gone back and replaced everything with permanent, you know permanent poles and permanently mounted things. A lot of people ask us that all the time but you know this was very effective to get the network up quickly. >> Ina Fried: And so where is this sending its signal and were else is this going? >> Andris Bjornson: This is going from our offices here in Soma up to San Bruno there, there's a road up there called Radio Road with a tower on it. >> Ina Fried: And you guys have another dish at the other end of this roof? >> Andris Bjornson: We do we have a Ubiquity bullet with the grid antenna and that's shooting through some low income housing over in that direction and from there it goes up to the tower up at Sutro. >> Ina Fried: And eventually you guys want to go across the bay is that right? >> Andris Bjornson: Yeah that's correct we want to test some of the longer links. We want to do I think a 30 km link over to East Bay and our goal is to get a closed loop so we can test some dynamic routing on the network and again all with the goal of pushing this out to the field once we sort of verify that it works here in San Francisco. >> Great for CNET News I'm Ina Fried. [ Music ]