What good is a propane detector if no one is at home to hear it when it goes off? That was the guiding question for the Indian inventor, Gautam Kumar, who has created a propane detector that sends text message alerts to homeowners’ cell phones notifying them of a leak.
The device is named Suraksha, meaning “safety” in Hindi. And its creation was good enough to land Kumar on the list of the country’s Top Innovators Under 35, according to the Indian edition of “Technology Review,” published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Kumar, along with his business partner, were inspired by reports of fatal gas leaks around the country, where propane leaks cause “a significant amount” of fires, according to the Review. (And incidents of leaking LPG cylinders are rising, notes the Indian news site Rediff.) The pair started out designing an alarm that would sound a buzzer, but scrapped the plan after wondering how useful such a detector would be in an empty house.
Their final product connects a text message alert system to a propane sensor, which monitors how much of the gas is in the air. When the system detects levels above 1,000 parts per million, it sends alerts to up to five cell phones. And should the leak subside, the system can send a follow-up text, too.
The company Roboticwares, which produces the detector, has designed a home model and an industrial model, which can handle extremes in both weather or voltage. The devices sell for about $78 in U.S. dollars, though Roboticwares is seeking government subsidies to reduce the retail price.
Propane is commonly used as cooking gas in India, particularly in urban areas. Though the country’s energy officials recently backed a plan to expand access for rural communities, with a goal of connecting 10 million more homes with LPG by 2015.
Have text-sending propane decectors appeared in the U.S.? A quick search suggests no stand-alone units quite like the Suraksha are on the market. But there appear to be auxiliary units (like this) which can relay an alert to a cell phone.