South African Brothers Embark on a Raspberry Pi Safari

{ Posted on Jun 21 2013 by Bill Zimmerman }

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Two brothers, Frederik and Ernest Lotter, are on the eve of departing on an epic journey — driving from the UK through Europe, Russia, the Middle East and East Africa to their home country of South Africa. In total, the Lotters will be taking in seventeen countries on their way over an estimated 22,000 km of harsh conditions and rough terrain.

What makes their journey unique is that the brothers are traveling in a Land Rover Defender equipped with a Raspberry Pi-based distributed light control system. The Raspberry Pi is a very capable credit card-sized mini computer that runs Linux. Originally conceived as an affordable tool for education (priced at $35), the Pi has taken off with electronics hobbyists and DIY-ers who are finding no shortage of incredibly creative applications for it.

The conventional wisdom which holds for long journeys, especially traveling through Africa, is that everything that can break, will break along the way. This begs the obvious question, why rely on a fairly sophisticated Raspberry Pi-based lighting control system when simply wiring the lights directly would suffice?

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The Lotters are experienced electronics engineers and, for them, plain old analog switches and copper wiring alone were “not interesting enough.” So they’ve done what any self-respecting engineers would do and designed a convenient but “rather complex” lighting system that makes use of Pi-based controllers and an ethernet TCP network. This transforms their Land Rover, in effect, into a mobile embedded computing demonstration platform. The question remains, will the system be capable of withstanding rough travel across three continents?

The brothers’ live location will be trackable online and they are offering to meet up with groups of potential Raspberry Pi or ARM enthusiasts along their route. There may even be a Pi-themed reward available if you can find them using the live GPS tracking system they have installed.

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This is a great opportunity for schools, electronics groups or AfriLabs member hubs to learn about Raspberry Pi and ARM processors. The Lotters are inviting interested parties to email them as soon as possible to arrange a visit. So far, the communities at icecairo (Egypt) and Bongo Hive (Zambia) have reached out to the Lotters. The video below has more details about their project and journey:

More info: Raspberry Pi Africa on Facebook.

I'm an engineer, ex-Microsoftie, founding board member of AfriLabs, co-founder of ActivSpaces in Cameroon and VC4Africa. Drawn to innovation, creativity & all things tech. More at splinter.me/billz