UNESCO-IHE – Smart eSOS toilet for emergencies | SOURCE: UNESCO-IHE, July 2014 |

The emergency Sanitation Operation System (eSOS) concept provides a sustainable, holistic and affordable sanitation solution during the aftermath of a disaster. The eSOS reinvents (emergency) toilet and treatment facilities, and uses ICT to bring cost savings to the entire sanitation management chain. The toilet will improve the quality of life of people in need during emergency situations – from natural to anthropological disasters – and minimizes the threat to public health of the most vulnerable members of society.  esos-toilet_0

The eSOS concept was developed by UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education. The experimental prototype of the smart toilet was developed in collaboration with FLEX/The INNOVATIONLAB and SYSTECH and is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation-funded project SaniUP – Stimulating local innovation on sanitation for the urban poor in Sub-Saharan Africa and South East Asia.

Smart features
The eSOS emergency toilets are easily deployable in disaster areas because of their robust and light-weight specifications. The smart eSOS toilet includes some unique features in the prototype that will shed new light on how the toilets are used in emergencies. This includes remote-sensing monitoring, an energy supply unit, GSM/GPS sensor/card, occupancy sensors, urine/faeces accumulation sensor, an S.O.S. button, and a communication system that allows for data collection by remote sensing and their transfer to an on or off-site emergency coordination center. The data resulting from the use of the toilets will allow the toilets as well as the entire sanitation management chain to be improved.

Field testing
The eSOS toilet will be tested further in a refugee camp in the Philippines in September with support of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Asian Development Bank. UNESCO-IHE PhD fellow Fiona Zakaria from Indonesia will carry out further experimental testing in cooperation with relief agencies on the ground. The eSOS smart toilet design prototype will be manufactured based on the results and feedback obtained from the experimental application.

The Future Technologies for Water Competition (FTW) aims to identify breakthrough technologies for safe water with a sustainable business plan with wide-scale applicability. 

The first-place winner will receive $15,000, and the second-place winner will receive $5,000.

From June 9 until July 31, we will be accepting initial entries in the form of a one-page summary, via the competition website.

Entries should relate to the following themes:

  • Shortening the water cycle by looking at grey water and/or wastewater reuse
  • Rapid testing of water samples with an emphasis on in situ, online testing
  • Protecting vulnerable and sensitive populations (e.g. young, elderly, immunocompromised)

The Future Technologies for Water competition is managed by the Water Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and sponsored by Takata Corporation.

Visit the competition website, or email ftw@unc.edu for more information.

Have a Thirst for Knowledge? Introducing the Drinkable Book | Source: InnovateDevelopment.org, June 11, 2014.

An estimated 3.4 million people die annually from preventable water-borne diseases, and many aren’t aware that their drinking water is contaminated. Water filter technology has come a long way in recent years, but most options are still restrictively expensive for use in the Global South or unsuitable for mass distribution. Enter the Drinkable Book.

Developed by chemist Dr. Thersa Dankovick of the University of Virginia and McGill University, the drinkable book seeks to provide both cheap, clean drinking water and information on healthy sanitation practices. After ad agency DDB heard about Dr. Dankovich’s project and put her in touch with another of their clients, the NGO Water is Life. Together they developed the final product and are working to distribute the book through their programs. According to NPR, Dr. Dankovich tested the product in South Africa in 2013 and is planning further field trials in Ghana later in 2014.

Crucially, the book costs just pennies to produce, making it far cheaper than alternative systems. Each page provides an individual with clean water for a month, and a book can last over a year. It filters over 99.9% of bacteria, making it as clean as tap water in the United States. It filters out cholera, typhoid, and e. coli, as well as larger pollutants and debris.

The pages are about a millimeter thick and work like a high-tech coffee filter using silver nanoparticles. Silver causes interacting microbes to die, but has very little effect on people. Using the book is easy: simply tear our a perforated page, slide it into the included case, and pour contaminated water through it. With no other steps, the water is ready to drink safely.

The silver turns the paper a burnt orange, making it eye-catching and distinct from other books. Information is printed on each page explaining safe water habits, like keeping trash and feces away from water sources and the benefits of regular hand washing. The information is currently being printed in English and Swahili using non-toxic food-grade ink.

Using English and Swahili is a great step in accessibility, however it does restrict illiterate users or those who speak other languages or dialects. Hopefully as the project gains traction other languages can be incorporated, including Braille and non-verbal graphical systems. It is currently unclear how users know when each page is past its usefulness, though hopefully this will be incorporated into future designs.

The book is also not suited for emergency or conflict zones that may require residents to move often. The soft material makes susceptible to wear and damage, and it is bulky to carry. However, Water is Life also uses an amazing straw that picks up where the drinkable book leaves off.

For more information on the book and how to provide one for a community in need, check out the Water is Life website (specifically the blog) or this article from NPR.

A Simple Yet Brilliant $1.50 Sanitation Idea - Made by the toilet manufacturer American Standard, this “trap door” seals off open pit latrines that are a major source of disease in the developing world.

This article discusses a sanitation solution by bathroom and kitchen fixture company American Standard. Funded by the  Gates Foundation, American Standard has developed a $1.50 latrine pan that cuts down on sanitation-related disease transmission by sealing off pit toilets. american_standard-sanitation

The $1.50 pan has been a hit in field trials in Bangladesh; in addition to being more sanitary, the pan also blocks off nasty smells from the latrine. While American Standard hoped to get the price down to a $1, McHale still believes the product is affordable.

So far, American Standard has sold close to 70,000 units in Bangladesh, and in 2013, the company donated 533,352 of the pans for distribution this year. The company is now thinking about how to launch the product in India. It’s also working on a design for Africa that uses less water.

Kenya Water Sector Innovator Leads the Way with Commercial Financing | Source: USAID SUWASA, Apr 2014.

Excerpt:  This post describes an innovative financing deal, facilitated by USAID’s Sustainable Water and Sanitation in Africa (SUWASA), which is enabling a local water utility to access finance to install 23 kilometers of pipeline and provide water to more than 75,000 low-income residents in Embu, Kenya.Embu Water and Sanitation Company (EWASCO), under the leadership of its Managing Director Harim Karugendo, secured US$945,000 in commercial financing from Housing Finance for the work. Harim Karugendo, Managing Director of EWASCO, shows the map of the pipeline investment project that will bring water to 75,000 residents of Embu, Kenya.

The bank is backed by a guarantee from the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Development Credit Authority, and the project is supported by an Aid on Delivery grant from the Kenyan Water Services Trust Fund (WSTF), funded by the German development bank KfW.

  • Read the complete article here.

Issue 133 February 7, 2014 | Focus on WASH and Design Thinking

Design thinking is an interesting approach to problem solving. Clark Kellogg,from the University of California, Berkeley and Collective Invention, states “Unlike most previous problem solving approaches, it is human-centric, collaborative, and driven by experimentation.” One important principle of design thinking is to get feedback from real users as soon as possible in the form of prototypes. While early prototypes often fail, design thinking enables designers to quickly refine ideas based upon feedback from real users. One of the benefits of design thinking is to mitigate risk by testing early and failing fast.


David Kelley of IDEO Talks “Design Thinking” on 60 MinutesCBS 60 Minutes, Jan 2013. (Link)
What makes a great designer? According to IDEO founder David Kelley, being an incredible designer isn’t necessarily about having a great aesthetic sensibility or coming up with out-of-the-box ideas. No, Kelley says that the key characteristic is empathy. Kelley has been on teams that created many game-changing products, from the first Apple computer mouse to the stand-up toothpaste tube to the “lavatory occupied” sign on airplanes. And on 60 Minutes, Kelley gives a tour of IDEO and shares his unique approach to what he calls “design thinking.”

Collective Action Toolkit, 2013. Frog Design. (Link)
Is it possible to inspire design thinking outside of the design world? The practice has helped countless organizations innovate new products and services but has infrequently been made available to a broad audience. Frog set out to prove the practice is universal by creating the Collective Action Toolkit, a set of resources and activities to help people accomplish tangible outcomes through a set of guided, nonlinear collaboration activities.

Design Thinking Demystified: An Interview with Clark Kellogg, 2013. N Mahajan.(Link)
Design thinking derives its basic principles from the discipline of design. As Clark Kellogg, partner at Collective Invention and lecturer at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business and College of Environmental Design, explains, unlike most previous problem solving approaches, it is human-centric, collaborative, and driven by experimentation. Many companies, such as consumer products giant Procter & Gamble, GE Healthcare, and Philips Lighting have adopted design thinking processes.

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Trendy vs. mundane, imagination vs. impact: the innovation dilemma | Source: Paul Stephens, Devex, 12 December 2013

Would improving diesel technology have a more immediate environmental impact than trying to introduce solar energy for “smart irrigation”?

The question was raised at a high-level panel discussion on Wednesday, and came across as a bit of a reality check for attendees during a daylong event to announce the winners of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s ”Powering Agriculture: An Energy Grand Challenge for Development,” which was full of idealistic talk about technologies that could change the world by providing clean energy to poor farmers.

A water sprinkler provides irrigation for food crops during dry season in drought-affected Nicaragua. The U.S. Agency for International Development's “Powering Agriculture: An Energy Grand Challenge for Development,” awarded social entrepreneurs and innovators that came up with clean energy solutions to poor farmers. Photo by: Neil Palmer / CIAT / CC BY-SA

The question pointed at a fascinating debate that’s captured the imagination of social entrepreneurs and innovators for a while: Should funding go toward innovations that are trendy and likely to capture the imagination of the public, or more mundane solutions that nevertheless promise to have a huge impact relatively quickly?

Bob Nanes, vice president of technology for iDE, an organization that works with thousands to improve irrigation systems — including diesel pumps — for small-holder farms in developing countries, brought up the issue after iDE received USAID funding for its innovative solar pump.

“I’ve heard that in India, if you just matched the pump properly to the engine that’s running it, you could probably save one-third of the fuel — which is probably going to do more in the next five or 10 years than us trying to introduce solar,” Nanes said.

He continued: “But we’ve had trouble selling that idea because everybody wants [solar] … It’s easier for me to get a grant for solar than to say I want a diesel pump to work more efficiently.”

Nanes added that both avenues should be pursued, and that technologies shouldn’t be divided into good or bad.

The 12 winning organizations highlighted on Wednesday were awarded collectively $13 million in seed money to test their innovations in the field and bring them to scale. The contest aims to promote innovative ideas that otherwise may not reach their potential. Several awardees said the funding would be critical to testing their innovations.

The presentation of awards — from smart grids in Haiti to solar-powered refrigeration for farmers in Mozambique — was impressive, but these entrepreneurs will now face strict field testing.

Meanwhile, fixing and upgrading those diesel pumps in India might be a good idea.

Carola Beeney 


A woman cooks on a BioLite HomeStove during a pilot program in Ghana | Image credit: BioLite

How did the idea for BioLite come about?

Originally [co-founder] Alec [Drummond] and I started thinking about the idea when we were both working at Smart Design. From 2006 until 2009, though, it was a weekend project. It grew organically from a technical concept to something we realized had application for recreational uses and — in thinking about the fact that you could use wood instead of gas for camping — we stumbled into a huge gap in the market for clean combustion appliances in developing countries. Half the planet still cooks on open fires, the smoke from which kills four million people every year. It’s like smoking a few packs of cigarettes a day. So the combination of the near-term financially viable market with the long-term impact opportunity was really compelling for us. When we saw those two things could work nicely together, I quit my job and went out to write the business model in more detail and raise capital.

How does having one product for two markets impact the company’s technology development?

BioLite as a company is framed around delivering energy to end users, so not industrial- or utility-scale energy but personal energy. We want to do that for off-grid or grid-limited communities around the world. But we don’t really distinguish between something that we’re developing — at a technology level — for a recreation market and the emerging markets, even though it’s the CampStove that’s targeted at the recreation market and the HomeStove in emerging markets.

We follow a parallel innovation model where we take a core technology and we commercialize it in the near term in a market that provides revenue. Then in the long-term, we re-invest that revenue to achieve the one-time market establishment costs in emerging market regions. We feel like we really understand the needs of the CampStove customer — they’re able to pay full margins, the distribution channels already exist — so we can predict how quickly revenue will come in. In emerging markets, however, there are costs embedded in developing, testing, prototyping and marketing the HomeStove, so the recreation markets are what give us the capital to incubate the longer-term opportunity.

Tell us about your pilot programs.

Right now we have pilots in India, Uganda and Ghana. We’re expecting to sell about 10,000 stoves over the coming year in these three markets. Now, we’re about three months into the pilot programs, which are aimed at helping us understand how should we price the product: What is the value to the end user? What is the ratio of value between the cooking benefits and the electricity access benefits? Do we market this as a cell-phone charger that cooks your dinner, or is it a stove that happens to also charge your cell phone, or a light?

Hopefully, we’ll gain insight into the consumer financial model, how we can serve most effectively the needs of our distribution partners and finally how we can provide technical support for products in the field. What that all adds up to is a scalable roadmap for bringing stoves to hundreds of thousands of users in the following year.

What is your distribution model in emerging markets?

In India and Uganda, we use Avon-like models where a village-level representative does demonstrations and sells the product. Then there’s a logistics back-end agent that supports those village-level agents.

In Ghana, we’re working on a randomized, controlled health trial funded by the National Institute of Health and administered by Columbia University. It’s operated on the ground by the Ghanaian government’s public health services. We’re very excited about this program because we’re trying to show that the stoves are able to reduce emissions exposures, resulting in measurable health benefits.

We’re doing this program for two reasons: One, that’s why we’re in this business. Two, it is the kind of evidence we need to convince the World Health Organization, the Gates Foundation and others that this is where they should be investing their public health dollars. Until we have the kind of evidence that the public health community is used to seeing, we’re not going to see the large-scale incubation that we’ve seen for malaria nets or antiretrovirals or for all these other huge problems that need a ton of incubation to get the solutions off the ground. And I picked those two examples because indoor cooking kills more people than HIV and malaria combined.

What’s the most gratifying feedback that you have received?

We think that one of the barriers to adoption for stoves is that women receive the benefits of the product. They can spend less time collecting fuel, smoke from cooking is nonexistent and they’re able to spend less time cooking the family’s food. However, the men control finances. If you look at some photos from our demonstrations, there are a lot of men present. It’s an important but subtle form of feedback for us because you’ve got a paradox where these cooking fires are predominantly affecting women and children, but men control household purchases. Because the HomeStove generates electricity, we’ve managed to attract male heads of households who are interested in the feature benefits of the product. When we see in our demos that there’s a mix of male and female community members, interested and engaged, that’s positive feedback for us.

We’re finding the electricity that the stoves generate to charge phones or run lights really engages men in a way that previous attempts at cook stoves haven’t. This is parallel with the fact that rates of cell phone ownership outpace rates of electrification, so you have this gap between people who own phones but don’t have ways to charge them. This brings the solution into your own home.

What can we expect from BioLite in the next year or so?

Pilot programs are being rolled out and will be completed by the middle of 2014, which is going to show us what we need to scale. Meanwhile, we’re working on higher-volume designs for the product that can be more inexpensively manufactured in the millions of units. We’re also launching three more core-technology products in our recreation markets.

In December, the Dumbo [neighborhood in Brooklyn] community was buzzing about the Pearl Street Triangle’s Christmas Tree. What was BioLite’s role in that?

We had a stove in the Triangle generating a kilowatt of electricity to light up the Christmas Tree! It was a fun opportunity to gather and talk about the need for clean combustion in developing countries, but it was also a technical demonstration of the idea that there’s so much more energy available than we typically recognize. Our company’s tagline is “Energy everywhere.” In one way, that’s about bringing energy everywhere, but in another way it’s about looking for energy sources that exist all around us but that we don’t recognize.

Source: This blog post first appeared on Brand Innovation, the Bridge to Better Brands.

Johnson’s Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise and Toyotomi asked designers from across the globe to create stoves to benefit households in developing countries

January 16, 2014

The Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management’s Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise at Cornell University announced the winners of its Cook Stove Design Competition, sponsored by Japanese kerosene stove manufacturer, Toyotomi. Designers, engineers, and innovators from around the world were challenged to envision fresh, creative designs that could benefit low-income households in developing countries, leading to entries from 13 countries in Africa, Europe, and Southeast Asia. First prize was awarded to U.S. designer Ryan Bookhamer; second prize went to Japanese freelance designer Taro Nagano; and third prize was awarded to Indian freelance designer, Uday Kiran.

“Environmental and social needs can be addressed through innovation and entrepreneurial solutions,” said Mark Milstein, clinical professor of management and director of the center. “The winners’ designs illustrate how design can significantly impact lives in creative ways.”

According to the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, more than three billion people still burn biomass fuels, such as wood and dung, inside their homes. This results in poor indoor air quality, which is responsible for more than 1.5 million deaths a year, affecting mostly women and children. In addition to health issues, burning biomass fuels leads to a variety of environmental issues, such as the depletion of forests and the production of greenhouse gases.

In an effort to advance progress in cook stoves, leading Japanese kerosene-stove manufacturer Toyotomi partnered with the Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise to promote innovation in cleaner, more reliable, and affordable cook stoves that could be used by low-income households in developing countries.

“This competition was inspiring for the Toyotomi design team,” said Mr. Yukihiro Oguchi, executive director of R&D, Toyotomi. “As we consider entering new markets, the competition was extremely useful in helping us think more broadly about the concepts and functions of cook stoves that may be valuable in emerging markets.”

LO Stove

Bookhamer’s design, LO, a sleek, bright green unit, was noted for being durable, lightweight, and efficient for its compact size. The LO unit holds a single kerosene tank for ease of transport and cleaning. The judges were impressed with its simple design, which requires few parts making it easy to manufacture and affordable.

Stick Stove

According to the judges, Nagano’s Stick Stove design was inspiring and challenged notions of cook stoves. This stove focuses on the function of the burner and therefore has no grill for pots or kettles. It allows users to continue using traditional stoves that burn biomass by simply replacing the biomass with this innovative clean kerosene burner shaped like a stick.

Stoves are typically designed around the use of one particular fuel, but third place winner, Kiran, took a different approach. His Kayla Stove design was unique for allowing the use of various fuels, enabling the stove to be adaptable to most locations.  In addition, it provides the user the ability to choose the fuel that is most readily available and affordable on any given day. “The idea of using one platform with different fuel modules provides the greatest ability to appeal to diverse consumers in different markets,” said one judge.



About The Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise
Johnson’s Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise produces and disseminates relevant knowledge for managers seeking innovative, profitable business opportunities that address global sustainability challenges. The Center works with firms to specify innovative, entrepreneurial, and new business alternatives that can be implemented in the marketplace. Programs include those focused on market and enterprise creation, clean technology commercialization and innovation, and finance + sustainability.

Source: This post first appeared on Cornell University’s Enterprise Online.

The Humanitarian Innovation Fund (HIF) Water, Sanitation and Hygiene-promotion (WASH) pavilion gives solvers the opportunity to develop innovative WASH solutions to help save lives and reduce suffering during disasters and humanitarian crises.

The HIF hopes to capture peoples’ imaginations through these challenges, so that when natural disasters or conflicts strike around the world, innovative technologies can help aid workers to extend lifesaving assistance to the most vulnerable people.

The winning idea will be given an award of up to $20,000.

Please visit the HIF’s online pavilion here for more information, where the first challenge will be live and open to applicants from 15 January 2014.

For further general information about the WASH initiative, please go to http://www.humanitarianinnovation.org/funding/WASH-Stream