Open Energy Access

Episode 02: Cicada, by Okra Solar

October 01, 2019 The EnAccess Foundation with Damian Veling, CTO at Okra Solar Season 1 Episode 2
Open Energy Access
Episode 02: Cicada, by Okra Solar
Chapters
Open Energy Access
Episode 02: Cicada, by Okra Solar
Oct 01, 2019 Season 1 Episode 2
The EnAccess Foundation with Damian Veling, CTO at Okra Solar

Today we’re going to talk about a really cool open source hardware solution with Damian Veling, the CTO of Okra Solar - this episode is definitely going to be more interesting for the engineers and developers out there, though anyone working in the IoT space will find the conversation interesting. 

Okra is an Australian technology startup based in Cambodia. They work with local utilities to transform offgrid communities into energy abundant microgrid economies. One of the big reasons why millions of households all over the world still don’t have energy access infrastructure is because it’s physically hard to reach a lot of these places, which is why Okra relies on remotely monitoring the communities they service. But to be able to work like this means there needs to be some sort of data or wifi connectivity in the village - but connectivity is also a real challenge in some of the more remote areas of the world.

How to solve this very common and very real issue of connectivity in hard to reach areas? That’s what we’re going to talk about on today's show. Okra’s solution is called Cicada, an open source IoT Communications Module for Energy Access. Damian solved a really big problem that a lot of other energy access companies will be able to relate to - if you have been struggling with a solution for connectivity in your own IoT space, you’re going to want to listen closely: Cicada can be the solution that reduces your time to market, which can allow you to get back to work on the real problem you are solving.

EnAccess is proud to have all the open source materials published online. So if you’re ready to dig into the code and the documentation, or read the story behind the project, head over to https://enaccess.org/projects/- you’ll find everything you need there. 

If you have any questions, comments, or tweaks for the code, we want to hear from you! You can visit https://www.okrasolar.com/ to send a message directly to the developers.

If you have an idea for a project that could be beneficial to the broader energy access sector, head to https://enaccess.org/ and submit your application today. 



Show Notes Transcript

Today we’re going to talk about a really cool open source hardware solution with Damian Veling, the CTO of Okra Solar - this episode is definitely going to be more interesting for the engineers and developers out there, though anyone working in the IoT space will find the conversation interesting. 

Okra is an Australian technology startup based in Cambodia. They work with local utilities to transform offgrid communities into energy abundant microgrid economies. One of the big reasons why millions of households all over the world still don’t have energy access infrastructure is because it’s physically hard to reach a lot of these places, which is why Okra relies on remotely monitoring the communities they service. But to be able to work like this means there needs to be some sort of data or wifi connectivity in the village - but connectivity is also a real challenge in some of the more remote areas of the world.

How to solve this very common and very real issue of connectivity in hard to reach areas? That’s what we’re going to talk about on today's show. Okra’s solution is called Cicada, an open source IoT Communications Module for Energy Access. Damian solved a really big problem that a lot of other energy access companies will be able to relate to - if you have been struggling with a solution for connectivity in your own IoT space, you’re going to want to listen closely: Cicada can be the solution that reduces your time to market, which can allow you to get back to work on the real problem you are solving.

EnAccess is proud to have all the open source materials published online. So if you’re ready to dig into the code and the documentation, or read the story behind the project, head over to https://enaccess.org/projects/- you’ll find everything you need there. 

If you have any questions, comments, or tweaks for the code, we want to hear from you! You can visit https://www.okrasolar.com/ to send a message directly to the developers.

If you have an idea for a project that could be beneficial to the broader energy access sector, head to https://enaccess.org/ and submit your application today. 



Tamara:

Hi, this is Tamara Mahoney and this is the Open Energy Access podcast from the EnAccess foundation. This is the show w here we f ocus on what's happening in the energy access sector in terms of development, innovation, success and failure. This podcast was created for an audience of people who are already working or studying energy access, but I also think that anyone who is interested in innovation stories, startups or d evelopment studies, will find our topics pretty interesting. In this particular episode, we're going to be talking about a really cool open source hardware solution with Damian Veiling, the CTO of Okra Solar, so this episode is definitely going to be more interesting for the engineers and the developers out there. Before we jump into the conversation, let me give you some quick background notes. I work for the EnAccess foundation, and I had the idea to produce this podcast about energy access stories because talking about our common challenges, successes, and failures in an open and transparent way is something that we think should be more public. All of us in the sector are working to bring modern, safe and affordable energy solutions to some of the most remote parts of the world and it is going to take a very wide range of skills in order for us to achieve the ultimate goal, which is to provide reliable and affordable access to energy for the 1 billion people around the world that still cannot access this basic service. This podcast, Open Energy Access is a place where we can talk honestly about the steps we're taking to make global energy access a reality and hopefully share tips, lessons learned, and go behind the scenes in some of our open source projects that we think will have a benefit to the entire sector. You can read more about our open source philosophy and why we choose to work the way that we do by visiting our website and enaccess.org or by reading our blog posts on medium. So like I mentioned in the intro today we're going to be talking with Damian, the CTO of Okra. Okra is a company based out of Cambodia and their plug and play smart grids combine the flexibility of a standalone pay as you go solar system with the power availability of a fully fledged mini grid. This allows utility providers to easily deploy last mile electrification with mobile payments, live alerting and autonomous power distribution. Now, one of the big reasons why millions of households all over the world still don't have energy access infrastructure is because it's physically hard to reach a lot of these places. I don't mean hard in that the dirt road is really bumpy or that there's a lot of traffic.... The villages that Okra is servicing can be very challenging to reach. You might need to take several flights, a motorbike ride, a boat ride, another motorbike , another boat, another motorbike... ...Hope you don't get stuck in the mud during rainy season, and also hope that you arrive at the village during daylight hours. This is not only very time consuming and hard, it's also really expensive to make this kind of journey. And those are among the reasons that Okra relies on remotely monitoring the communities that they service. Not to be able to work like this means, generally speaking, there needs to be some sort of data or wifi connectivity in the village, but connectivity is also a real challenge in some of the most remote areas of the world and in particular in Cambodia. So how to solve this very common and very real issue of connectivity in these hard to reach areas? That is what we're going to be talking about now. Okra's solution is called Cicada, an open source IOT communications module for energy access. This is a particularly cool conversation to have because we talk about how Damian solved a really big problem that I know a lot of other energy access companies will be able to relate to. If you've been struggling with a solution for connectivity in your own IOT space, you're going to want to listen closely. Cicada can be the solution that reduces your time to market, which will allow you to get back to work on the real problem that you're solving, which is energy access. So just a quick programming note: When we had this conversation, I was sitting in my office here in Mexico and Damian was sitting in his office in Sydney, Australia. We had the conversation over Skype. The connection was pretty good, but just bear with me if you hear any audio issues. When we started our conversation, I started off by asking Damian to introduce himself and tell me how he got started working with Okra, and what kind of background he comes from.

Damian:

Thanks for having me Tamara. I started out as a software engineer, but I've got an academic background in information systems and accounting. And basically, I was living in Sydney, Australia and working on a number of different technology solutions for a range of different industries, from digital marketing technology to smart buildings with connected devices. But I was sort of looking to contribute to something more, something with a meaningful impact. And that's where Okra started basically. So one of my colleagues at a company I was working for in Sydney, he had a similar values and similar goals that I did. He was really interested in renewable technology and things like that, and he knew a lot about the problem that 1 billion people in the world don't have access to energy. So he sort of highlighted that to me and I had a strong technical background. So we started talking and then things...one thing led to another and before we knew it, we had moved to Cambodia with the goal of solving e nergy poverty. So yeah, that's my background and also that's sort of how Okra started.

Tamara:

Take me back a little bit more into this story. So you say "one thing led to another and we ended up living in Cambodia." How did - what was it that you guys were hoping to achieve in Cambodia and why did you decide on Cambodia?

Damian:

That's a great question. So pretty much I was actually working, I had a sweet deal where I was working remotely as a software engineer, so I was doing a lot of traveling at the time, but I just, I had kept in contact with Afi, my co-founder, because he was just very entrepreneurial and we just sort of clicked. So we're always tossing around ideas and he had been doing a lot of research on energy poverty around the world. One thing we did was we just emailed a bunch of solar distributors in a range of developing countries around the world, asking them if we could just come there and follow them around and get an understanding for the problem space and also get an understanding for why technology like solar hadn't really taken off in all of these countries where it was the perfect climate for things like solar energy. A nd so that was the goal and we got a really good response from a couple of countries, but the main one was Cambodia.

Tamara:

Alright. Well, can you tell me a little bit more about how you and Afi founded Okra? Like what kind of ideas did you have in mind for what you wanted to achieve in Cambodia and how has that changed over time? If it has?

Damian:

When we moved to Cambodia, we didn't really understand the problem space enough yet to know what a solution would be. I think the original idea was that we were going to provide this device that allowed households to share their energy. So we were working close with those solar distributors I talked about earlier. And those solar distributors were selling solar home systems . So we were like, all right , there's so much wasted energy in a Solar Home System because once the battery gets full, the power from the sun is then going nowhere. So we're like, all right , let's connect all the houses together and create this grid. And then each individual household can now sell their excess solar energy to the house next to them. So that was the initial idea - we wanted to leverage this wasted energy that was occurring in these solar home systems. And once you connect them all together, you get this network effect and then you get the most efficient use of the solar energy. What we realize is that people out there - they don't want to sell solar energy. They just want electricity, right? You can't explain this complicated model of like, Hey, we're going to install this system after you buy it off us and you're going to be able to sell energy. They're like, I don't want to sell energy. I want to buy energy and use it. But we started to realize as we went out to these communities that there was just no cost effective way to get energy to the last mile. These communities are extremely hard to reach. So there's sort of two entities that we highlighted. There's the energy utility and then there's the end consumer - so the people in these remote villages, in these households. The energy utility, they want to bring electricity to everyone in a country and the end consumer, they want energy. And we saw that when we were out there, they were using old car batteries to charge mobile phones and run a single light, but they would have to carry this car battery on the back of a bicycle. Or they send their kids out with the car battery on the back of the bicycle, and ride with it for like four to eight kilometers a day to like charge it up. So it was very clear that they wanted electricity and these energy utilities - they wanted to get electricity out to everyone. But the problem was there was just nothing to connect these two entities. So no cost effective solution. And that's essentially what we highlighted a nd that is where Okra comes in. So we r ealize that we're g onna have to do more than a software solution here. We're going to have to build a hardware product as well.

Tamara:

Okay. So the original idea for Okra has had its chance to evolve to where you're at now, but do you consider Okra today to be purely a technology company or are you also involved with customer services?

Damian:

We want to stay as a tech company. We don't want to become a distribution or an operations company. And if we want to really scale this out and have the most, the largest impact as possible, then we can't put resources to learn the culture, learn the language , logistics and things like that. Like that just isn't scalable. Whereas these energy utilities, that's their job. They are essentially a distribution company, like an infrastructure distribution company. So we saw that as the opportunity that we want to push our technology to the energy utility and then use their reach to get out to these communities. So essentially our direct customer is the energy utility, but the end user is the consumer in the household.

Tamara:

How big is the Okra team now?

Damian:

We're at 20 - I think it's 20 people right now. So the team's getting quite large and our head office is still in Cambodia, but we are a very remote team, we embrace the remote culture , which sort of gives us access to talent around the world.

Tamara:

Oh wow. That's really interesting. Thank you for giving me all that background. I think that's g oing t o lead us into the main topic of this conversation, which is the project that Okra completed with EnAccess. So you had proposed an idea to us that you called Cicada. So what is Cicada and why was it so important for Okra?

Damian:

Well, we sort of have to step back to the problems that Okra was facing at the time. And most of the problems we were having was around connectivity. So our device is an IoT device. IoT stands for internet of things. And just to quickly describe what that means for listeners who haven't heard of it before. Basically everyone's got a connected device in their pocket - your mobile phone - and computers are all connected. So basically previously we had an internet of computers essentially, but as technology started to get smaller and cheaper, connectivity just got so much better. We started to see devices like smart cars, smart cameras, smart sensors... So agriculture had these sensors to detect water, moisture, or office buildings have sensors to detect the room temperature and all of these devices connected together. You essentially get an internet of things. So all of these connected devices communicating. Our core hardware product is an IoT device. Every single device that we put on a household must be connected to our cloud in some way, because that's really what enables our innovation. It enables us to track the energy usage and then once they run out of energy credit, then we can disable their house until they top up again. And it also opens up a lot of other benefits around maintenance and detecting when a solar panel might be shaded. So then we can really streamline maintenance, which reduces the c osts. But I don't want to go on that tangent. So the key to IoT devices is connectivity and a n Internet of Things without connectivity is just a thing. So what we were seeing was that in our initial prototypes, we deployed them out in remote communities, r ight i n Cambodia, but we were having houses just drop offline and then we'd pretty much just be in the dark. We didn't know how they were performing, if they were still getting energy or how our device was performing. So the community education component of our device was extremely unreliable and this was causing a lot of headaches for us because, like I said before, without the connectivity, our device really just doesn't work. And we were using an off the shelf 2G modem for our connectivity and were just having a lot of, a lot of problems with it. So that's sort of what stemmed and started the conversation on this project. We wanted to basically build a simple and reliable connectivity solution for IoT devices. And we wanted to open source it because we r ealize that IoT startups a re trying to solve real problems, but they also need connectivity. And when y ou're a s tartup, you really don't want to be solving and spending time solving your connectivity problem when you really want ... You should be focusing on the real problem that you're trying to solve, like energy access for example. So we saw that this project could be leveraged and used by all of t hese other IoT startups out there, whether it's smart agriculture or whether it's energy access. So yeah, that's, that's where the pr oject k icked off.

Tamara:

You mentioned a little bit about you were using this off the shelf 2G modem, correct? And you were also - you also talked about how this idea kind of stemmed from the fact that you were having these massive connectivity problems, which I'm sure a lot of people listening can relate to, especially if they've been working in the energy access field for a w hile or on a cloud based system. But the thing that I found really interesting in your blog post is that you talked about how you were having these connectivity issues and you really, really trouble-sourced it down to this piece of hardware. And your solution to that was to make your own hardware. Like you didn't look to just buy a new piece or think, Oh, you know, the connectivity is so bad here. This is just part of what working in Cambodia is like. So how did developing this new device...how d id developing Cicada improve things at Okra?

Damian:

So there's ... We had some very strict requirements. One of them was cost. So the cost of our device has to be quite cheap for this to be a scalable model and a profitable model. Otherwise it just doesn't work. So we could have just gone to a different, off the shelf device, but , they started to get really expensive. So that's probably the reason why the one we were using was not very reliable - because it was a mass produced circuit board that you'd get off AliBaba that's produced somewhere in China. Like you can't really buy this kind of modem off the shelf. So there really wasn't many alternatives out there that were within our price range. And then some other requirements that we have - we don't just want to support to 2G , we also want the ability to support a 3G and 4G because the 2G cell band is starting to become decommissioned in certain countries. But also even even wifi , one of our pilot villages actually uses wifi. We've partnered with a company that provides wifi via satellite. So this one village had no connectivity at all, which means our system doesn't work. So this was a great partnership because our system powered the dish that provided t he wifi network for the village and that wifi provided connectivity for our device. So we needed to support multiple connectivity types. S o these requirements definitely influenced our decision to just build a custom custom solution. There's just so many little things that can influence bad connectivity. There's the poor cell reception out in these villages that affects it. There's the complexity in the code that we had. So maybe our code wasn't all that robust. This modem had to be connected via really thin cables to our device and they were a bit flaky. So we were skeptical on those ones.... and then there were the conditions, so humidity and high heat , we had some theories that that was affecting the circuits. So there's just a lot of things that could have been , influencing this poor connectivity. And it took, I think like five or six months of our prototypes being deployed. Most of our time was spent on connectivity problems as opposed to making our grid more efficient and providing a better user experience for the user. We were more focused on just the connectivity problems. So it just got to a point when we're like, all right, we know the requirements, we know that this is just not working for us and it's a huge blocker and we're sick of spending time on this, let's get funding and build a solution to solve it from the ground up.

Tamara:

Okay. So you clearly knew what the problem was and you figured out the requirements that you needed to solve it, which was to build your own hardware solution from scratch. So you got to work on Cicada and how did it go? Can you get into some of the technical details here about how Cicada works and what sort of advantages it had at Okra and also for the entire energy access sector?

Damian:

Well, I might just run through like the four benefits - the technical benefits of the project. And then I'll talk about like where we sort of see it going in the future. So there's four like main things, one that it's platform agnostic, which essentially means that the firmware can work on any micro- controller or computer that your IoT device users. Because most companies aren't using like a Linux machine for their device, It's like these very resource constrained micro-controllers and there's so many different types of them. So we made sure that the code can actually run on any micro- controller. So that's one benefit. The second one is that, yep , it supports 2G, 3G and 4G modems. One of the challenges there was that these modems don't really have a standardized way for communication to work. So we had to create like this obstruction layer that allows these modems to be interchangeable. One benefit we see there is that allows us to us or anyone else to add like wifi modems in the future or, another type is a sub one gigahertz RF receiver, which allows for a really long distance communication without internet at all. So that's like a completely type, a completely different type of connectivity, but it's very important in the IoT space. So that's one area we'd really like to extend the library.

Tamara:

I don't mean to interrupt you, but could you just expand on that a little bit more? You're talking about the connectivity of a village that has no connectivity?

Damian:

Yeah, so this is something that we see our tech moving towards very soon and we would like to extend the library to squat there. So essentially what that means is maybe some of the listeners might be familiar with , tech such as L oRaWAN, but basically it's a communication protocol that works on sub one gigahertz frequencies. But it's, it's more suitable for creating your own communication network without the use of any internet infrastructure. So you don't need a big telecommunication company or anything like that. And you can basically create your own network. And that means all of the data and bandwidth on the network is essentially free because t here's no need for SIM cards or anything like that. But it also means that you can't access the internet with it. So you can sort of pair it with 2G, 3G or 4G ... what we see is that we want to sort of connect all of our houses together with that sub one gigahertz technology so that all have our houses can communicate and then just d rop i n a couple of the Cicada 2G, 3G, 4G modems in different areas of the village, which actually acts as like a gateway to the internet. What that does is it just reduces the amount of internet gateways we need in a village because the internet modems are much more expensive than t hese sub one gigahertz m odem RF receivers that I'm talking about. So it's much more cost effective for all t heir houses to sort of send data around in i t's own little network and then just have a couple of these internet gateways actually sending that data to the internet.

Tamara:

Thanks for elaborating about that.

Damian:

That, that is a really popular sort of use- IoT is a very popular use case for that tech. So that's definitely one of the avenues. We want the Cicada project to go down. And just to go down to the other two benefits that I was talking about before. So , the other part is that it's modular. So the hardware chip, the other hardware schematics that are part of the open source project. The design is actually just a modular chip that has a standardized plug , so that it can just plug onto your IoT circuit board - the benefits there are that if you wanted your IoT product to support 2G in one village or one area, that using it, you just plug in the 2G version. But then in another area you might want your IoT device to support wifi so you can plug in the wifi version. So it means that the whole circuit board doesn't need to change for these different implementations. All you need to do is change out that communications chip. So that modularity is another huge benefit. And the last one is that it supports a communication protocol called MQTT , which is a very common messaging critical in the IoT space just because it's perfect for unreliable networks. It uses very minimal data. That protocol supports bi- directional communication to the cloud or to the internet. And so rather than a device just sending data to the internet, you can also send commands back to it. And that's perfect for our implementation, where we're tracking all of the data of how our system is running and the energy people are using, but then we can send commands back to each house to say, disable it , if they've run out of credit or enable them if they've paid, if they've topped up for credit, and some other benefits. So supporting that standard protocol in t he IoT space was very important as well. That's the project in a nutshell, I guess.

Tamara:

What kind of expertise would other people need to have to start using Cicada and about how long do you think it would take before someone saw a difference?

Damian:

The audience is definitely engineers. If you're not an engineer, this project probably won't help you because if you wanted to design some sort of IoT solution and you are not an engineer, then you probably can buy a very, very expensive off the shelf solution. Usually when we're targeting an audience where they want to build a custom device to a problem. IoT is one of the reasons why we're able to start solving this , the problem of energy access because tech has got to a point where it's cheap enough and it's smart enough to have these innovative business models. So we're definitely targeting companies or organizations that are looking to create custom devices. We want them to focus on the real problem that they're solving. So if they just get one technical cofounder or an engineer to basically come up with their connectivity solution, we're hoping that they look toward a p roject like Cicada because if they are a competent e ngineer, t hen you can actually get the prototype up and running within a day. And you can also use some of the dev boards for the modems that we support. So you don't even need to get the hardware manufactured. But we have also open sourced our hardware so that when you want to go to scale, you can get that hardware manufactured , which brings the cost down. But just for getting up and running and prototyping, you can just buy a development modem and then use out our firmware library. So yeah, that's the audience and we sort of see it as something that's quite a low barrier to entr to use.

Tamara:

Do you or does Okra have a philosophy about open sourcing this kind of thing? It doesn't sound like you had a problem with our open source philosophy. Is there anything that you wouldn't want to open source in order to achieve energy access faster? Or do you think it's kind of "anything goes" - because you also have to think about your investors or whoever has funded your company, if they might have an opinion on that as well. Unless all of the money for your operations is coming from sales.

Damian:

Yeah, it's a tricky space open source. It's like you obviously want to - we want to give back to the community because a lot of our cloud tech that we use is using open source technology. So we actually rely heavily on open source technology. So it was awesome that we could give back with a project like this. And there is a lot of aspects of our code and certain other designs that we have highlighted that are perfect for open sourcing. But there's also certain things that we don't really want to open source, because they are our competitive advantage. So it's sort of a fine line of where you want to be. We want to be able to still succeed and be profitable so that we can achieve our goals. But we want to open source anything that is sort of boiler plate and that can just help other companies speed up. But one of the benefits of open source is that it sort of like decentralizes the maintenance of projects. So by Cicada for example, the code base is still early days. So getting as many other companies using it means people are going to find bugs and hopefully put in fixes for them. So it's not just us who are contributing to improving the project, but every other company that uses it are also going to be improving it. So these are sort of the benefits that you get. One example is like we've only added support for 2G, 3G, and 4G modems at the moment, but we want to add that wifi support as well. And so we're hoping that whether we get to it or maybe another company who is using Cicada, they could easily add wifi support to the project. So that's the benefit of everyone contributing. But there are obviously negatives. Like you've got to keep the investors happy, y ou've g ot t o keep your IP there to keep your competitive advantage. and yeah, there a re some sad stories in open source. Back in the nineties there was a lot of talented hackers who would come up with this epic security software and o pen s ource it straight away because that's the, the movement they believed in. But then you'd get these entrepreneurs come in and just take that and then monetize it basically. And then the hacker or the developer who originally did it, they sort of don't get any of the perks. So yeah, that's pretty sad. So like I said, we wo uld j ust sort of got to come up with an op en so urce roadmap of things that we want to give back to the community that we see that getting that collaborative benefits from that should outweigh the cost of maybe losing a bit of IP. So we've sort of like highlighted numerous libraries and designs that we can open source and yeah, I'm sure the investors will be happy with the decisions that we make at the end of the day. But no conflicts thus far.

Tamara:

So the way it looks, and according to what you're saying, it sounds like the project was a success. Did anything happen along the way that made you kind of question if you could make this happen? And do you personally consider this a success as an engineer and also for Okra and for the energy access world?

Damian:

I think as a whole, definitely the project was a success and ran very smoothly on both sides I think. There were no serious hurdles or road bumps, which is pretty surprising for any project really. But I think it's because , like I was saying before, we just had that huge period of where we were dealing with these connectivity problems and really coming up with the requirements well ahead of time. So the project was already quite well thought out and planned, which did help. I think one of the biggest hurdles we had was this was the first open source project that Okra was going to release. And when you're open sourcing something, you just gotta make sure that the code quality is good. Which, which wasn't a problem for us as we already try to have quite a high standard of code internally, but because it's going to be public and it's sort of representing the image of the company, you just got to make sure that we're doing code reviews and every part of the code or the schematics has documentation so that other people can use it. So just getting to a level of decent documentation was certainly a challenge and it was kind of a cool outcome because it's definitely - it's sort of influenced some internal processes around documentation. We sort of see it as like, if you're going to open source something, t hen follow these processes. But then why don't we just follow them internally? And then when some of these libraries that we're building internally start to mature a bit, we can just straight away open source them because they are already at the quality and the level that they should be when you're open sourcing something. So I think that was a really good learning experience for us. And had positive outcomes for the company as a whole.

Tamara:

That's a really good point that you made... And I was just wondering, since you've published everything on GitHub, have you found anything? Have you found any little tiny mistakes?

Damian:

Yeah, there's definitely been bugs that were picked up - one great thing about this project is that we're using it internally. So , we found a couple of bugs but we're always making improvements. Like we just added support for like a UDP packet, which is like another type of IP protocol that we didn't add support for initially. And then we wanted to use that protocol so that we could retrieve the time because we wanted to set the time on our device. So yeah,, we just included that in and pushed it out and added that feature. Like one methodology when you are maintaining a c ode base is that whenever you touch a file or like a class, you always leave it b etter than you found it. So as we use it day to day in o ur own code base we're always going to be contributing and improving it and ye ah, we're hoping other people do as well.

Tamara:

Is there anything else that you want to say about this project?

Damian:

I'm hoping that other companies like in our space and also just in the IoT space , can leverage this project. But also just like feel free to reach out to us if you've got any concerns or questions on how to use it. Because like I said before, the documentation is a massive part of open sourcing something, so if any of the documentation isn't clear, then just hit us up and we'll work together to improve it based on anyone else's experience using the library. Anyone, any other engineers or companies that use it , just get in touch and give us feedback and then hopefully we can work together just to improve it. So that anyone else that uses it in the future is go ing t o h ave a s eamless experience.

Tamara:

Here's my last question. You mentioned in the beginning part of our conversation, this problem that we still have 1 billion people in the world that don't have access to electricity. In your opinion, do you think that the technology exists today to provide access to electricity to the entire globe or do you think we're still missing something?

Damian:

I think on the technology side, I'd 100% say the tech exists today. If you just think about phones for example, like the amount of computing power and the information that you have access to on a phone - that is so brilliant. If we can do that, then we definitely have the technology to energize the rest of the globe. But maybe the thing that's missing is entrepreneurs and people taking a risk to put their minds together and putting the time to actually solve it. I think that is something that Okra brings to the table. Like we just got a group of like-minded engineers and a an absolutely great team and that is, I think, that was the missing piece of the puzzle. Yes, I think the tech is definitely there. I just think - I'm hoping more and more people start to get into this space and get out of the traditional mindset that you need to just get a nine-to-five job in your local city. Because there's many more problems than just energy access around the world that need brilliant minds to solve them.

Tamara:

Cool. I like the idea of ending the conversation on an inspirational note. So thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me today. I really appreciate you sitting down with us.

Damian:

Perfect. Yeah. Thanks for having me Tamara, and yeah, I'm really looking forward to launching this Cicada project.

Tamara:

EnAccess is really pleased to have the Cicada project published on our website and we're really proud for having supported it. So if you're ready to dig into the code and the documentation, or if you want to read the story behind the project, head over to enaccess.org/projects - you'll find everything you need there. And if you have any questions or comments or tweaks for the code, t hen Okra really does want to hear from you. You can visit okrasolar.com to send a message directly to the developers, or you can use our contact page to reach out. Remember that we made this project open source for a reason. We really do want you to use it. And the Okra team wants to see Cicada continue to improve. So don't be shy about reaching out with questions or comments about Cicada. And to echo what Damian said just a minute ago, it's true. We need more entrepreneurs out there willing to take risks and to try new things in order to achieve global energy access. So if you have an idea for a project that you think can be beneficial to the broader energy access sector, then head over to enaccess.org and submit your application today. Thanks again for listening, we'll be back in your podcast feeds soon. [ inaudible].