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Cameroonian entrepreneur builds an SMS-based application to secure cars across Africa

Cameroonian entrepreneur, Zuo Bruno, the founder of  Zuoix, an IT security company based in Limbe has developed an SMS-based car tracking application to combat car theft in Cameroon and the rest of Africa. Unlike most car-tracking devices that are internet based, Bruno’s application, Zoomed, tracks vehicles solely on specific SMS commands, giving it an edge in parts of Africa where there is low internet penetration or no internet at all.

According to Bruno, the idea for the application was conceived in response to the controversial intermittent internet shut down in the English speaking regions of Cameroon by the government. At the start of last year, the internet was shut down for over 90 days and was also shut down later in October. It is reported that during these periods, there was increased car theft in the affected area. Most of the stolen cars had internet-based tracking solutions installed but they couldn’t be located at the time.

“A close friend of mine who depended on his taxi to feed and care for his growing family lost his taxi to thieves. Nothing we did could help us locate his taxi,” Bruno told Disrupt Africa. After thinking about the situation for a while, he decided to convert the internet based tracking device he was working on at the time to an SMS based car tracking application. “I realised that I could use SMS services to transmit the GPS locations. Once this worked I started adding features to the system,” he said.

Zoomed works by simply installing a GPS chip in a vehicle with which the owner or user can receive information on the car’s location, direction and speed via GPS signals. The application also has other features including geofencing, immobilization, voice surveillance, two-way calling, ignition alert and SOS alarm with artificial intelligence, all without an internet connection.

“All commands do not require any form of internet connectivity to work as the system is completely SMS-based. Even the server is linked up by SMS and not through the internet,” said Bruno. All that is required is for the user to dial a simple USSD code with which the car can be located and immobilized amongst other things. Over time, the application has been upgraded to allow cars to send distress calls to police stations, gas stations, hospitals and emergency services. It can also monitor fuel consumption and predict accidents.

In February, Bruno won the President’s 2018 Grand Prize for Excellence in Scientific Research and Innovation in Cameroon for his application, Zoomed, with a prize money of about $ 17,500. Zoomed already has a client base of over 50 users in Cameroon, both individual and large corporations, including two of the country’s biggest companies. Bruno’s company, Zuoix charges users an installation fee as well as a monthly subscription. The application cost $212. Currently, Bruno is taking his application to other African countries including Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana.

According to Bruno, the competition in cybersecurity is not high in Cameroon and Africa and this can partly be blamed on the fact that businesses do not at this time see cybersecurity as something they should invest in. “But times are changing and they are doing so pretty fast. Our plan is to make this application Africa-wide so that more people can enjoy the services we offer,” he said.

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