Distributed networks! In Poorer Nations, Cellphones Help Open Up Microfinancing
The value of mobile technologies has benefited microlenders, too. Jamii Bora, the largest microfinance institution in Kenya, has more than 150,000 borrowers. The organization, whose name means “good families” in Swahili, began to experiment last year with mobile point-of-sale devices, magnetic-stripe cards and fingerprint authentication to take its remote branches online.
[...] The system that Jamii Bora uses allows clients in the countryside to make loan repayments, receive disbursements and do other business electronically. Once clients log in with a fingertip, authenticating their identity, they are connected to a central database in Nairobi.
In a system similar to the one Vodafone has set up, cash is paid and received through loan officers or sales agents in gas stations or shops, which settle their accounts with Jamii Bora.
[...] “This is the most inexpensive way of being linked,” Ms. Munro of Jamii Bora said. “Every loan officer and man on a bicycle is online with our central server in Nairobi. And at the end of each day, we know the cash position of each branch.”
Compare with In a snap, turtles could aid researchers in saving species — pdf
In an experiment taking place along the Deerfield River in Western Massachusetts, two otherwise unrelated groups of researchers are working together: computer engineers like Garber who are testing a new wireless communication network, and biologists like Jones who are tracking snapping turtles — a species they worry may be headed for decline as land development shrinks their habitat. The idea is to create a network of constantly moving devices that record and store information, transmit data from one device to another, then relay all the saved information to a central location while running on self-charging batteries.
[...] The solar-powered computers are light enough that they don’t weigh the turtles down or interrupt their mating habits, Jones said. Stuck to the shells of about 15 turtles found in spots near the Deerfield swamp, the gadgets will take periodic readings of the reptiles’ location and body temperature. When one computer-carrying snapper gets within a 10th -of-a-mile of another, the machines swap information.
The series of short-distance transmissions allows for long battery life in each computer, and the solar panels attached to the units are expected to keep the batteries charged constantly. Without a relay system, a longer transmission would require a larger battery that would drain too quickly or be too large for a turtle to carry.
The turtle-to-turtle relay ends when one of the snappers passes near a single base station that receives all the accumulated information. [...]