How Artificial Intelligence will help Africans Bypass the powerless electricity grid

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Azuri’s HomeSmart adjusts power output based on prior solar battery use.

By Adamu Prospecu

In sub-Saharan Africa, home electricity is a 50-50 prospect and bank accounts can be rare, but most people have some kind of cellphone.

The phones provide information often tough to come by in rural areas—the latest commodity prices, for example. And even in places where pastoral tribesmen tend livestock in very old-school ways, they may also chat over WhatsApp and use money-transfer apps to settle debts.

To charge the phones without access to an electrical grid, Africans spend more than $17 billion a year on such fuels as kerosene and firewood to power sometimes primitive generators.

Simon Bransfield-Garth is pitching a cleaner and, he says, smarter alternative.

His company, Azuri Technologies Ltd., has brought what it calls smart solar power to 150,000 people in a dozen African nations, focusing on East Africa and Nigeria. While solar batteries often struggle to power homes through the night, Azuri’s yellow box—the size of a landline phone, it’s called HomeSmart—uses software with artificial intelligence to learn each home’s energy needs and adjust power output to keep things running. Those tweaks include automatically dimming lights and TV screens, lowering speaker volume, and slowing a fan’s motor.

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