Before they selected their first office in Abuja, Nigeria, the team behind power monitoring and outage alert provider SOP notify thought they’d done thorough due diligence. They’d been to the space three times and were assured that they’d have a consistent source of power to do their work.
As soon as they signed the lease and moved in, the power went out for days. And so, a company was born.
They’re not alone. Even in the U.S. power outages cost the economy some $80 billion. In emerging markets where the problem is endemic, that number could be in the hundreds of billions, because the unreliability of the grid is systemic.
“75 million Nigerians experience blackouts every day. Not just the poor, not just the middle class, but the rich as well,” says Toks Ogun. “Even with privatization the issues continue.Services that were supposed to supply 50 homes are now supplying over 500.”
In this environment, Toks Ogun, the company’s founder has come up with a sensor network that lets utilities track power outages and communicate information and billing to their customers via sms, mobile applications, email, and social media.
The company makes money by charging power companies and regulators a fixed monthly price based on the number of locations they want to monitor. The company’s in two cities in Nigeria now, but expanding to six more by the end of the month.
The technology works by taking low cost android phones and turning them into sensors to determine whether there is power in the field at a specific location. The company has a proprietary case that allows them to slot into the network. Users can follow their location and their friends’ locations to determine whether there’s power at a user’s home or at a home in their network. If there’s a power outage, a user can look through their network to see if there’s a friend in the network that has power. If users don’t have access to a smartphone, there’s also an option to use the service on SMS.
The company is also looking beyond power, and basic notifications and into mobile payments for power services.
It’s a huge market. Nations in Africa spend $27 billion on power and only serve 50% of the population. Right now, power companies can’t build plants fast enough to meet the demand that exists already, according to Ogun.
“We believe that SOP notify will become the number one power notification company in Africa,” Ogun says.