Egypt's Ibticar, a public-private success story

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A fire can destroy a building or vehicle in minutes. Preventing one can save lives and thousands of dollars. (Image via Engineers Gallery)

A gas leak or a short circuit can send a vehicle or house up in flames, and it was this potential threat that caused a major private company to partner with an entrepreneur to create Ibticar, a fire alarm and extinguisher system for vehicles and buildings.

The Ibticar concept was developed by Ayman Awad (pictured below) and was introduced to the world when he applied for a patent over five years ago, first from Egypt’s Academy of Scientific Research and Technology (ASRT) and then the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in Geneva.

“I had some setbacks [partly] because of the Egyptian revolution and the following economic and political instability, but things have got much better in the last two years,” Awad said. 

The connected device relies on an electro-mechanical system that is activated immediately when a fire breaks out.

The alarm notification system and a self-automated fire extinguisher are linked to a circuit which can operate even in high temperatures. Sensors are distributed across potentially risky places such as an engine - it’s compatible with all kinds of vehicles - or around electrical switches and gas pipes.

When the alarm goes off, the location of a fire is pinpointed on a screen, and is targeted by an extinguisher system. The device also notifies the user of the cause behind the fire.

Awad was an electrical technician in a public transportation company when he had the idea, thinking about the various causes of sudden fires on Egypt’s buses. He was inspired to develop a fire alarm that is also equipped with fire-extinguishing machinery.

Firing up the market

Despite it’s long lead time though, the product is only just making it to market.

“Ibticar underwent several prototypes, and will be available commercially to factories, companies and individuals in a six weeks, and we will start marketing it abroad in three months,” Awad said.

One detail that he’s most proud of, however, is that he’s managed to have the device entirely made “100 percent with Egyptian resources”.

“The manufacturing cost is 3,000 to 5,000 Egyptian pounds (US$400-700), which [is a] relatively low cost,” Awad said. “Its biggest competitive advantage is that it works automatically without human interference, and it ensures that vehicle temperatures don’t rise above 70 degrees celsius, an international standard for temperatures. The alarm notification takes no more than 40 seconds,” he said.

A union of sectors

Awad said that ASRT became his “patron” after his patent was approved and gave him 200,000 Egyptian pounds (around $2,500) to get started with manufacturing which started around a year ago.

Manufacturing began with the help of the academy’s machines and Benha Electronics, a Ministry of  Defence company, which began manufacturing plates for the project.

The academy also helped to market Ibticar through annual fairs for companies and investors.

It was through one such fair that Awad met army general Samir Ghanim, who decided to invest in the venture.

Awad and Ghanim founded an Egyptian company for innovative industries. While Ghanim owns the largest stake, the academy has 10 percent, said Awad, who refused to give more details.  

Public private progress

There is an increasing governmental interest in scientific research in Egypt.

Around 10 billion pounds (US$1 billion) were allocated to universities and scientific research, with 1 billion pounds going to the Ministry of Scientific Research. According to the Ministry’s statistics, the number of scientific research centers is around 14, to which 200 million pounds are allocated annually. As for the Ministry, its has 219 research centers alone, and local universities have 114 centers.

Despite the public sector’s limited abilities, its collaboration with the private sector has placed Ibticar on the path to success, something that is expected to help limit the huge losses the national economy has suffered from riots and terrorist attacks on one hand, and fires caused by human error on another.   

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