Red Cross Case Study

Monitoring for fires in densely-populated
informal settlements

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The American Red Cross has developed robust expertise in the area of fire safety. In the US, it helps families prevent devastating losses, primarily through two actions: checking or installing smoke alarms and practicing fire drills. The Red Cross also responds to fires and helps the survivors jump-start their recovery. The daily occurrence of fires across the nation has taught the Red Cross how critical early detection and warning is to saving lives. People often have as little as two minutes to evacuate a burning building. Sadly, seven people die and 36 are injured in home fires every day in the United States. On a global scale, the dangers of smoke, fire, and carbon monoxide (CO) threats are even more devastating. One of the most effective ways to combat these threats and dramatically change these outcomes is to offer sophisticated sensing technology at an affordable price paired with credible, actionable training and guidance in communities. To respond to an emerging community need in Nairobi, Kenya, the American Red Cross and Kenya Red Cross partnered to find a low-cost, connected, intelligent, multi-sensor solution that could be placed inside dwellings in densely-populated informal settlements to warn residents about fires and reduce fire deaths.
Without previous experience in integrating
unproven, emerging technology into our
resilience-strengthening programs,
the Red Cross needed a partner willing
and able to drive the technological
innovation and offer a user-centered
prototype for our research.
~Abi Weaver

Director of innovation at , the American Red Cross

Oxit’s immense flexibility and high level of responsiveness also allowed us to advocate for and make real-time, ongoing adjustments based on user feedback, which was critical to our iterative, community-driven innovation process

Oxit Springs into action

Oxit’s team worked tirelessly to help the Red Cross prove that the concept they had in mind was not only technically feasible, but achievable with the potential to scale globally. The team designed a custom sensor with the Red Cross, tested it in a mock settlement, manufactured the sensors, shipped them, and passed the inspection process in Kenya – all in less than 60 days, an unparalleled logistical accomplishment. Within days of the devices’ arrival in Africa, the Oxit team continued to exceed expectations and deployed engineers to Kenya to help receive, set up, and train local staff to install and use the devices.

Solution Overview

After reviewing the needs of both the community and their response teams, the Oxit team went to work to develop a custom LoRaWAN Solution. Due to Nairobi’s weak communications infrastructure, several provisions had to be in place in case cellular connections and/or power were lost, which could result in the loss of highly valuable data and limit community response to a potential catastrophe. Oxit’s engineers were able to create a solar-powered solution with redundant data storage and uploading capabilities at the edge. The device data was easily monitored by community leaders and response agencies via a web dashboard where the data could be analyzed and alerts triggered. The dashboard also made it easy to troubleshoot irregularities, quickly locate damaged or missing sensors that had to be replaced, and tune the sensors’ thresholds for the unique indoor environments. Rather than pursue its own path, the Red Cross depended on Oxit’s deep knowledge of product development and ability to quickly and nimbly design a test sensor that was well-suited to the environment and the community’s needs.


The municipal and community-level firefighting teams developed new capacities and tools from the partnership. Red Cross-supported researchers also gleaned valuable data from the sensors about environmental conditions like heat waves that are helping experts predict climate changes and allocate appropriate resources to support the affected communities. Most surprisingly, health officials learned of an emerging concern within the tightly packed dwellings as by-product of this public-private partnership. In addition to measuring quick rises in temperature and smoke, the device also monitors carbon monoxide levels. Local residents had been vocal about people dying in their sleep, but this was not considered a problem unless more than one person was found at the same time, in the same room. Literally by raising the alarm, the device’s multifunctional sensor has already catalyzed further investigation into the prevalence of carbon monoxide poisoning in the settlements. It has also validated our belief that the fire sensors can exponentially increase their value to the community thanks to their multiple hazard warnings and integration with everyday household items, such as lights.
A low-cost, low-power connected sensor solution
The battery-powered sensor captured and transmitted Smoke, Carbon Monoxide (CO), Temperature, & Relative Humidity data and utilized LoRaWAN for wireless connectivity.
Connectivity in one of the largest slums in Nairobi,
Solar-powered gateways with cellular backhaul and local data storage backup played a significant role in building a reliable, easy-to-use network. Two gateways situated on both sides of the settlement provided connections for thousands of sensors.
Enhanced response to fires
Utilizing the sensors’ capabilities, the devices were able to trigger notifications and send GPS coordinates to first responders. The notifications greatly improved emergency response outcomes and the first responders’ ability to find locations where no formal street-naming conventions exist.
Ease of capturing sensor deployment location
Custom applications facilitated the collection of location data during sensor deployment.
Right size scale
Due to the densely populated settlements, a model was generated to assist in rolling out the sensor solution to maximize effectiveness. In these communities, a single fire typically displaces hundreds of families, so careful consideration was given to where the sensors were deployed.
Speed of roll-out
The initial proof-of-concept was scaled to live
distribution in less than 60 days.

Why Oxit?

The path to delivering great value and the desired results is dependent on the right technology decisions. Allowing the Red Cross to quickly test the fundamental theories upfront with real-world users so that together we can maximize the likelihood of hitting the Red Cross goals of reducing fire deaths.

Hardware Development

Oxit’s experienced team of engineers brings experience to IoT Customers where it matters most. Our team has a wealth of insight beyond circuit and PCB design and decades of experience in RF, low-power design, and Long Range (LoRa) applications.

Software Development

Oxit’s extended experience with edge machine learning, Wi-Fi, Cellular, Bluetooth, Zigbee, and LoRa gives our clients the technical expertise they need to succeed. Our experience with both the workhorse tech of today and the bleeding edge tech of tomorrow makes Oxit a strong technical partner. Oxit knows what works today will not work tomorrow and change is a normal part of what we do

IoT Experience

Oxit has been producing IoT products for over 10 years. This background matters to our clients, because we can help avoid big mistakes to ensure every product has an easy-to-use, flexible, cost-effective, reliable, scalable, and secure architecture. This ensures that our clients can sustain and grow through their deployment of IoT-connected devices.

Understanding of the broader partnership ecosystem

We avoid logistic delays by leveraging our understanding of competitors, suppliers and independent researchers and how they engage with each other.

Appropriately assigned roles and responsibilities

We recognize areas of expertise and respect that organizations must balance other priorities with their partnership demands.


We acknowledge that one partner cannot accomplish the work without the other partner, or without the mutual reliability and trust developed during the partnership’s initial activities

Matrixed team of relationship managers

We contribute at different levels, offer different perspectives and services to the holistic relationship, and seamlessly refer, inform, decide, and fulfill requests.

Regular and open communication

We provide strategic motivation, expectations, commitments, limitations, processes and methodologies, immediate business objectives, and longer-term vision.


Oxit knows its strengths and weaknesses.
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About Oxit

Oxit Engineering Services helps companies succeed by doing away with the idea of transactions and focusing on
relationships to help them achieve their product innovation goals. Our team has exceptional knowledge and experience
with IoT technologies and provides our clients with a competitive edge by accelerating time-to-market while reducing
development costs.
This case study illustrates how Oxit Engineering Services can help create an effective solution with a client – but most
importantly, it demonstrates Oxit’s commitment to excellence in product delivery and cultivating relationships.

About the American Red Cross

Helping to Save Lives Around the World
Each year, disasters and crises devastate millions of people. As part of the world’s largest humanitarian network, Red
Cross Red Crescent teams provide relief and hope in nearly every corner of the globe. Volunteers often come from the
communities they serve, making us powerful change-makers. Together, Red Cross Red Crescent teams not only
respond to emergencies such as earthquakes, droughts, and health epidemics, but also help neighborhoods prepare for
future disasters and ensure that children receive the vaccines they need to stay healthy.