Networked Early Fire Detection for Informal Settlements

Lumkani developed a heat detector for informalsettlements that warns residents and connected neighbors in case of a fire, which can save lives and property.

In areas where fire is used for cooking and lighting, smoke alarms are impractical as they will often cause a false alarm. Lumkani’s fire alarm uses change in temperature as opposed to smoke to detect fires. The in-house heat detector warns those inside the home to the danger of fire – enabling them to respond before it becomes unmanageable. If an in-house detector is not silenced within 20 seconds, it sends an alert to all similar devices within 60 meters through radio signals and sends SMS messages directly to the phones of neighbors. This enables a community-wide call to action to address the danger effectively. The device, which costs around $7.50, is deployed in 7,000 homes across South Africa. Future devices will automatically send fire location details to municipal disaster management officials.

Relevance of solution

Shack fires are one of the great challenges in informal settlements in South Africa and across the globe, as open fires used for cooking and lighting often go astray. In South Africa alone, more than 250,000 people lost their homes and possessions due to shack fi res between 2000 and 2010, according to the company. With the connected fi re alarms, Lumkani enables underserved areas to respond to fi res and mitigate loss, lessening economic, environmental, and social devastation.

Triple Bottom Line


Massive shack fires release huge amounts of CO2 and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.


Lumkani helps prevent the loss of homes to shack fires, which affect hundreds of thousands of the most vulnerable members of society every year.


By preventing the spread of shack fires, Lumkani reduces the number of people losing their belongings and the means to provide for themselves and their families.