Sigthsense – safety, resilience and convenience

Khayalitsha informal settlement

Fires and floods continue to devastate impoverished communities. Sigthsense is an Open Source* fire and flood detection system that is perfectly adapted to the needs of lower income homes.

The fire detection system works on the principle of “rate of rise”; the system is sensitive to rapid changes in ambient temperature. This is an effective detection technique which does not suffer the same false-alarm rate as smoke detection in households where controlled wood fires are commonly used for warmth and cooking. The technique is effective because of the massive differential in output power between controlled heat sources and uncontrolled fires, as described here

The flood detector uses a probe that pushes into the soil or is laid flat on the ground inside the home. When the probe comes into contact with moisture (either liquid or moist soil) the alarm sounds, warning the homeowner of the danger. Homeowners can then move valuable possessions out of potentially wet areas. This is particularly useful for homes with soil or mud floors and valuable for areas where the floors of homes have become lower than the surrounding areas through subsidence or increasing ground levels around the home.

Candles are still a common source of light, even in electrified townships. They can be stockpiled against power failure or cash-flow-constraints. Candles are an expensive (see here) and dangerous form of illumination. The Sigthsense design features a highly efficient solar or mains powered LED light. The light is designed to produce 100 lumen illumination and to run for several hours a day off a small solar panel; even in winter.

*For a definition of Open Source see:

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