A VIU professor and two 2014 graduates have launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for testing new technology that will help spread internet information to areas of the world where web connections don’t exist.
VIU professor and CEO of Pixelstream Communications, Dr. Frank LoPinto, and recent Computing Science graduates Pauline Hagembe and Alican Kerman are working on new technology that could bring web pages to the world’s smartphones without the need for an internet connection.
LoPinto’s company has developed “PXIT” technology which can display digital information on video display devices ranging from smartphones to televisions to video monitors without the need for a web connection.
“QR codes on steroids”
The team has developed a free Android-based smartphone app that allows the phone to read a pixelated code, which looks like a large, moving QR code, store the information, and play it back at any time.
LoPinto calls the PXIT codes “QR codes on steroids,” as they go far beyond a scan that simply links the user to a web page. Unlike QR codes, PXIT codes are in colour and can provide the user with fully functional web pages and videos. PXIT codes can transfer images, sound, and other data without internet connectivity—two-thirds of the world’s population is without internet.
“We’ve designed this app not to work on the latest versions but on the early versions of smartphones,” LoPinto said. “We’re not requiring the latest and the greatest for this to work.”
Hagembe said her interest in the project grew when she realized the potential it held for people in developing nations like her own home country, Kenya.
“My vision for this technology is mainly focused on education,” she said. “I see this being used, for example, with TVs at home, where we make smartphones available to each homestead and in the evening broadcast, what the children will be learning the next day.”
LoPinto says he is keen to get the support of local television broadcasters in the areas where the technology will be tested and eventually used. With donated or low cost broadcast time on a Kenyan television station, for example, the technology could be spread widely to areas with no internet access.
Hagembe points to one example of PXIT codes’ use in Africa that is in the news today: “With the Ebola outbreak, which has led to the deaths of so many people, there is an informational gap,” she said. “As an example, with everything set up as we hope it is, what I see is getting this health information out there quickly, and saving lives.”
Another big point of interest to Hagembe is the transfer of textbooks. With most families being able to afford to put only one child in school, more often than not, it means the boy goes and the girl misses out. Hagembe sees this as a great opportunity to provide the texts to families, and in turn make it possible for more girls to go to school.
The Kickstarter campaign concludes September 30 at which time LoPinto hopes to have raised enough money to start testing the technology in Kenya. LoPinto hopes to have a team test 10 locations in Kenya, and eventually make them all work.
As with all broadcasting systems there is the potential for censorship because people will be controlling what information is released. LoPinto hopes to discuss with tribal leaders what they need and want the most, and stream that information to as many people as possible.
Developing countries will benefit from this greatly, but LoPinto sees this as an international project. He hopes to get this technology working in northern Canada where there are many places that cannot get internet connections.
LoPinto said many places do not have the infrastructure to provide these services available yet and this will help not only hold people over until it is there but also cause more of a demand for better technology.
For more information on what Pixelstream Communications does, what a PXIT Code is, and to contribute to the Kickstarter Campaign click here.