Stephen Katsaros – Nokero International LTD
Billions of people who live without reliable electricity or light around the world.
The Nokero N200 is the world’s only bulb-shaped solar light with a single solar panel, recyclable Ni-MH battery powering four wide-angle LEDs. The low and high settings offer 2.5-6 hours of light on one day’s charge; with a feature that can be tilted toward the sun, giving superior charging efficiency.
NOKERO INTERNATIONAL LTD
Stephen Katsaros, Inventor
Tom Boyd, Jen Butte-Dahl, Evan Husney, Beth Polizzotto, Mariano Rodriguez
Julie Lasky: A commendable example of design for the other 90%, Nokero solar lightbulbs replace dangerous kerosene for impoverished families in the developing world. According to the designer, more than 60,000 bulbs have already made an impact in 99 countries and have been shown to pay for themselves in as little as 8 to 10 weeks. THe bulbs were originally distributed over the web in June 2010; this entry represents an improved version with greater efficiency.
1. Summarize the problem you set out to solve. What was the challenge posed to you? Did it get you excited and why?
The problem is that billions live without reliable access to electricity, and most burn kerosene for light. These dangerous, unhealthy, and polluting lamps can be replaced with Nokero solar light bulbs, making a cleaner, healthier, more prosperous world.
The challenge experienced was building a quality product that the most poverty-stricken people could afford.
Yes, it was very exciting to come up with a product that is a safe alternative for families using fuel-based lighting has explosions and releases CO2 toxins creating an unhealthy atmosphere.
2. What point of view did you bring to the challenge? Was there anything additional that you wanted to achieve with this project or bring to this project that was not part of the original brief?
I read Paul Polack’s book “Out of Poverty” and realized that 95 percent of the world’s engineers spend their time and energy designing products for only 10 percent of the people. I knew that I could use my talents to design something that can make a better world.
3. When designing this project, whose interests did you consider? (Discuss various stakeholders, audiences, retailing, manufacturing, assembly, distribution, etc., for example.)
At the time I was coming away from a large, multi-year project with multiple investors. This time around I wanted something simple, something light that could be distributed around the world with ease, and primarily something that could improve the lives of the people who use it.
4. Describe the rigor that informed your design. (Research, ethnography, subject matter experts, materials exploration, technology, iteration, testing, etc., as applicable.) If this was a strictly research or strategy project, please provide more detail here.
The design went off like a light bulb in my head on January 24, 2010. I made drawings and had a working prototype within months, and on June 10 I had formed a company and released the product for sale over the Web. Rigorous laboratory and field testing lead to the creation of the Nokero N200, an improved model of the solar light bulb.
The bulbs have been shipped to more than 99 countries, and potential distributors have aided in the testing process. Early on, we began receiving reports of decreased performance near the equator. This was a mystery, as insolation rates are generally higher around the equator. We discovered that the heat was decreasing our battery efficiency, which is a very common problem with solar equipment.
We changed our battery chemistry, and are soon inserting a type of solar panel that has only just now become commercially available. It will increase our energy capture by up to 30%.
Our PV system was already the best available on the market, and with this addition and the battery chemistry improvement, our solar PV system will become far and away the most efficient and powerful system in its class.
Our research and testing continues.
5. What is the social value of your design? (Gladdening, educational, economic, paradigm-shifting, sustainable, labor-mindful, environmental, cultural, etc.) How does it earn its keep in the world?
Burning fossil fuels for light releases 190 million tons of carbon dioxide into the air each year – that’s the equivalent of 30 million cars. More than 1 million die in fires caused by fuel lighting each year, and living with a kerosene lamp is like smoking 40 cigarettes a day. About five percent of a user’s income goes to this consumable light source.
Other solar options exist, but there were no PV systems which were high quality yet affordable – and therefore none were sufficient to completely replace fuel lighting options. Nokero is also shaped like a light bulb, so when people see it, they know what it is and how it works.
More than 60,000 bulbs have already made an impact in 99 countries. These bulbs are helping families save money that they used to spend on kerosene and candles. In Haiti, for example, a solar light bulb saves families $8 US per month – so the bulb pays for itself within 8-10 weeks. Since the bulb lasts up to 5 years, a family in Haiti can save $480 over the lifespan of the bulb. The variables change, but this equation is repeating itself all throughout the world.
Nokero is saving money, saving lives, and making the world a cleaner, safer place.
6. If you could have done one thing differently with the project, what would you have changed?
The logistics and supply chain are a difficult problem: we have a product we are selling internationally via the web, yet with a very small staff we weren’t able to efficiently take orders then fulfill them. The product was very popular right from the start, so it was a challenge to meet customer’s demand.
A more robust supply chain, and a more robust shopping cart on the website, coupled with improved customer service, have proved a major improvement. It would have been wise to set this up on day 1, rather than building it organically as we grew.
From an engineering standpoint, there are standard requirements from governing bodies in terms of lumens, bulb lifespan, etcetera. From the early days we should have been developing a product which met these specifications so we could thereby expedite the process of receiving their certification.