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Pedal-Powered Telephony

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Handsets on handlebars are bringing pedal-powered mobile call shops to rural Nicaragua. By souping up an old pedal-powered ice cream cart with a car battery, an alternator, a fixed cellular unit and three pay phones, mobile communications can travel outside the Nicaraguan cities via cellular cycle. Llamadas Pedaleadas is pitching its carts to “entrepreneurs in Nicaragua” as big moneymakers, capable of “doubl[ing] the average salary.”

Calls shops are common throughout the developing world. Calling out on one’s own cell phone is expensive, and billing is difficult to manage, so call shop customers use prepaid minutes to place calls from the shop’s phones. Llamadas’s bike-mounted call shop works the same way, except it’s powered off a car battery with a car battery that charges as you pedal.

Llamadas tricked-out trike wold have been perfect for Google’s Innovate or Die Pedal-Powered Machine Challenge. First prize went to a group that instead of using pedal power for electricity used it for water purification in their design, the Aquaduct.

Developing simple cleantech solutions for the developing world is a growing movement. Organizations like Design for the Other 90% have been working on water technology and clean energy solutions, and universities are getting in on using cleantech to build solutions for developing nations. The winning team at the recent Venture Lab Clean Technology Innovation Contest at Berkeley focused on low-cost fuel cells to power indoor lighting.

Llamadas has a very viable business model connecting customers with high-tech telecom devices via a low-tech modded automotive electronics. Affordable telephony now has killer calves.

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