When the sun sets, most of us can flip a switch and enjoy instant light, but in many developing countries, sunset means an end to most everything – except sleep. A ruggedly simple device from SonSet Solutions, the Solar Media Center (SMC), is intended to change that and do a lot more!
Designed by our engineers, the SMC’s unique operation is the Central Control Unit. This adaptive unit provides virtual plug-and-play customization and expansion of select devices such as: a bright LED lamp, a smartphone recharging station, a public address (PA) system amplifier, and even devices that simulate a Wi-Fi connection by providing Christian audio-visual media and information accessible by smartphones. This simple way of interconnecting optional, off-the-shelf modules keeps the cost low and allows the user to add or remove devices as needs change or grow. The solar panel also provides a continual source of power. Remote villages without access to electricity can, for example, now provide light for water wells and show the Jesus film via projector – one African church is even using it to hold evening services.
Currently, two units are being field tested in Benin with TWR, and one in Kenya sponsored by a local Indiana church. We have already heard reports of people congregating around the Solar Media Center making use of the various devices, thereby creating a greater sense of community. This is our hope, allowing our ministry partners to provide beneficial services while building relationships and sharing the true Light of Life.
No-one wants meticulous notes made of their failures; but helping protect broadcast equipment designed to communicate the gospel from erratic electrical power is a different story. The Power Data Logger is part of that process – a device monitoring and storing power fluctuation data to help engineers determine how best to stabilize it and keep the gospel message on the air.
Smaller than one foot square, it simply plugs into an electrical wall outlet and begins working. Detailed key data such as power drops, electrical noise, or surges – even lightning strikes – are saved to a Secure Digital (SD) card, and if needed, relayed via satellite to SonSet Solutions’ engineers for monitoring and analysis. Although development has included a partnership with summer interns, the bulk of it was done in-house over the last eight years.
The Power Data Logger exists as a subset of each Equipment Power Protection (EPP) unit and can operate as a standalone device working in the background by being temporarily isolated from the EPP. This enables ministry partners to gather and relay their power data to us, allowing any necessary operational adjustments to be made to the EPP before activation.
Its first use for Pioneer Christian Hospital in the Republic of the Congo provided the answer to their power switching problem; a simple increase in power solved the issue. And it may soon see use in Haiti to help gather power usage there – all for God’s glory by ensuring that the gospel message continues with minimal interruption.
Since 2005, nearly 50,000 SonSet® radios have been shipped to partner ministries around the world. Despite the proliferation of mobile phones in third-world countries, FM radio continues to communicate the gospel to individuals and entire villages alike. But could the now 12-year-old design benefit from a hardware update? The answer comes in the form of our latest upgrade.
In development for over two years, this new model of SonSet radio provides much-needed internal improvements. The radio chip itself is newer, resulting in better overall performance and longer battery life. Circuitry design and embedded software are now done in-house, along with key enhancements to simplify adding a digital media player for a future edition, now in its early stages of development.
The only visible changes to the latest upgrade are the new, simpler function buttons on the front, enabling bidirectional tuning when multiple channels are programmed – a helpful feature allowing the end user to change channels faster and more efficiently.
Multiple partner ministries have expressed the need for an unlimited number to reach thousands with the gospel. Church/volunteer involvement through both fund raising and processing is key, and are two hurdles keeping the gospel from the hands of potential listeners.
If you are interested in helping us expand our reach with SonSet radios, email info@SonSetSolutions.org for more information.
There are now 7.4 billion people on earth and, surprisingly, 7.8 billion mobile device subscriptions. Globally, the net worth of mobile technology exceeds that of radio, television, the internet, personal computers, and landline telephones combined. A recent international media conference revealed that mission organizations around the world are using cell phones for distribution of audio Bibles, discipleship materials, evangelistic films, and Christian media apps.
SonSet Solutions is learning how to use mobile media for God’s kingdom. Social media can interact with an audience in a two-way conversation. MicroSD memory cards, used in many cell phones, can be loaded with Biblical content, and distributed in restricted countries. Even people living off the cell phone grid can download content onto their mobile device using a solar-powered Wi-Fi media server.
Mobile media is a break from our traditional ministry of supplying technology to partners for the advancement of the gospel. We are leveraging new technology for that same goal. Man has created a wonderful opportunity to communicate with the world in unprecedented ways. We can use that same technology to communicate the wonderful message of love and hope in Jesus.
Until recently, outsourcing the assembly of small quantities of Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs) which use surface mount components was costly. But with the purchase of new Surface-Mount Technology (SMT) equipment, multiple Engineering and Development project test boards can be prototyped in-house, including runs of 50 or even 100.
Though not fabricating the PCBs themselves, a vacuum pen allows placement of tiny SMT components onto the boards where they are held in place using a special paste. The board and components are then placed into a special oven and heated until the paste melts and permanently attaches the components to the PCB.
What used to take six hours now takes 45 minutes, and saves approximately $150 per hour. In addition, the flexibility of prototyping in-house PCBs provides a very practical tool.
Both Equipment Power Protection (EPP) and Water Monitoring have already taken advantage of the new equipment, but any project can benefit, such as the SonSet® radio. Over time, this equipment will more than pay for itself not just in time and funds but in helping to make equipment more efficient in reaching souls for God’s kingdom.
SonSet Solutions provides satellite-based monitoring of clean water systems, but as improvements to the current monitor continue, new applications are being requested. Development is underway to adapt the monitor for an India Mark II style pump, the most widely used hand pump in the developing world. ELWA Ministries also approached us about a seven-fold increase, up to 36, in the number of sensors that can be used simultaneously for their hospital water supply system in Liberia.
Some partners are looking beyond clean water. Renew is interested in monitoring data from their Wifi enabled LightStream™ media distribution system so that they can determine the number of times audio Bibles, Jesus film clips, Christian videos, or other content has been downloaded to devices like mobile cell phones. I-TEC would like to monitor their solar energy systems, used for medical ministry. Our radio partners are also asking about monitoring their transmitters, which are often located on remote mountaintops.
As the need for remote monitoring increases, our team is committed to finding solutions to these challenging problems.
Our monitors will soon be tracking the flow of gospel media (Living Water) as well as clean water (H2O) for those who are spiritually and physically thirsty.
The machine shop is filled with a wide variety of shop equipment. Complex machinery such as a CNC mill and lathe facilitates production of equipment, helping us meet increased demand from partner ministries. Operated and maintained by only a handful of personnel, these machines free up time for other tasks while simultaneously boosting precision, reliability and minimizing production costs.
The machine shop enables production of specialized FM antennas, mechanical parts for in-house low-power shortwave transmitter production, and parts assembly for clean water projects. In addition, it allows us to design, create and test different versions of water pumps to produce the most cost-effective model for our clean water ministry partners. The shop even allows SonSet Solutions to fulfill unique requests such as building a high-power Radio Frequency (RF) switch for shortwave gospel broadcasting in Guam.
Manufacturing Manager Stephen Peacock notes that his greatest joy is seeing FM antennas go out to numerous ministry partners, equipping them with the tools they need to reach their people with the gospel.
Lightning strikes and unstable power can damage and destroy expensive equipment. Though commercial devices are available, their cost and ongoing maintenance makes them prohibitive, and they often lack the ability to shut down fast enough to protect even sensitive medical equipment. Whether it’s a radio station, school, or hospital, ministries need something cost effective, easy to use, and reliable for the most rudimentary conditions.
The Equipment Power Protection (EPP) device, now in the prototype stage, has been designed to fill that need. Begun in 2008, EPP development has combined electrical, mechanical and computer programming from both seasoned engineers and summer interns alike. Housed in a simple weather-proof metal box, the device can be easily mounted on a wall. Its user-friendly front panel enables simple operation and feedback, enabling operation by most anyone. Shutting down within three-hundredths of a second of erratic electrical power, its design ensures that all connected equipment is safeguarded from damage.
Now ready for field-testing in real-world conditions, three units are planned for this next phase to ensure it operates as smoothly and efficiently as its design calls for.