Apps to the rescue as Eskom blackouts bite

2015-01-22 10:04

As the spectre of Eskom’s rolling blackouts haunts South Africans, a number of local developers have built applications to alert users of when the load-shedding schedule will hit.

Developer Sven Welzel built a simple web application that is easily accessible from feature phones.

People can use the application to check when the electricity will be off in a particular area. Unfortunately, the application is specific to Cape Town for now.

On the Google Play Store, Agriwiki has a load shedding scheduling application that also aggregates the tweets from the power utility so that users will be informed of planned blackouts.

This app, though, behaves differently on some devices especially as it directs users to the Eskom website. But the developer is working to solve these problems.

“Eskom does not give the load-shedding information out to anyone, so the only way to access this information is on their website,” wrote Agriwiki on the online storefront.

Another load-shedding application is the Eskom Loadshed app from StoneAge Technologies. It works intelligently in the background to notify users of impending blackouts using GPS data.

In addition, it also gives an indication on what stage of load shedding is in effect.

Eskom also has its own application that gives people tips on how to save electricity as well as the status of the grid. On the app’s Dashboard, it suggests which appliances to switch off, based on a user’s profile and power status.

For load shedding though, one is directed to the Eskom website.

Domestic users in South Africa account for about 17% of consumption, while industry takes up 37.7% and mining 15%, according to the government gazette on electricity pricing policy of 2008.

During the evening peak when most domestic users consume electricity, the grid is at its most vulnerable – in part because of the wide distribution network as well as vandalism, as opposed to a narrow supply network for industrial users.

Eskom is under pressure to keep the lights on as a lack of electricity could severely affect an already fragile economy. But the utility has a significant backlog of maintenance as well as an aging power grid.

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