Award recognises wireless stove monitor

Approximately 700 million households, including the poorest half of the world’s population, rely on fire and simple stoves for cooking. However, smoke and exposure from these stoves are responsible for causing the premature deaths of 1.5 million women and children as well as contributing to climate change.

With the potential to improve health and air quality, reduce greenhouse gases and save lives, researchers at UC Berkeley have developed a simple wireless monitoring system that can be attached to the millions of new low-emission stoves being used in developing regions.

The system is powered with the excess heat of the stove to record stove temperature changes over several months, providing an objective, quantitative and unobtrusive measure of stove use; it can also be used to infer stove performance, operator behaviour and fuel use.

For their efforts developing the system, the UC Berkeley researchers recently won the first-place $300,000 prize in the 2010 Vodafone Americas Foundation Wireless Innovation Project.

The Vodafone award will help the project team, led by Kirk Smith, professor of UC Berkeley’s Global Environmental Health, to trial the systems. Their initial application will be in India as part of the country’s National Biomass Cook-stoves Initiative.

The systems will record and send data to a dedicated reader carried by an individual making a monthly walk through a village. The cumulated data will then be uploaded via a mobile phone to a central database for systematic processing.