FOUNDER OF SENSO
Part of being a successful entrepreneur involves spotting a gap in the market and plugging it with a clever solution. This is exactly what Eastern Cape native Zuko Mandlakazi has done with Senso, a wearable bit of gadgetry that helps the deaf navigate the world.
How does it work?
Senso is focused on connecting people with people, and people with life-saving sounds. We do this through our flagship device, a wristband that interprets sounds as vibration and colour-coded LED lights.
How it works is that the user co-ordinates five specific everyday life sounds that are important, to different LED colours. For example, the sound made by a baby when it wakes up could be pink, the sound made by a safety evacuation alarm would be red, the sound made by a door being knocked or an intercom ringing could be purple and any forced entry sound, typically the sound of an intruder, could light up green.
When a baby wakes up and cries, the wristband detects that sound and translates it into vibration, making the LED light on the wearable band light up pink. The same applies for the other sounds.
Inspiration for the idea?
Growing up in the rural Eastern Cape, I saw how the community treated my aunt who is hard of hearing and lipreads to understand what people around her are saying. Family and community members made an effort to ensure that she was taken care of, but when she came to Gauteng I worried. What if the building she was staying in caught fire while she was alone?
Biggest challenges in developing Senso?
Scarcity of skills. Competing with large companies to attract the same skills in the job market. And data — accessing information about deafness and those hard of hearing in African countries has been difficult. With the exception of a few countries, including South Africa, records and statistics are old and it’s challenging trying to connect with NGOs working in deaf communities.
The next five years?
I see Senso becoming a global game-changer, a device accessible to the poorest of the poor in need of sound assist devices.
We haven’t launched yet, but we’ve conducted focus groups and held exhibitions in a number of countries. We hope to launch later this year.