Cameroonian startup Zuoix has developed an applications that allows car owners to locate and immobilise their vehicle using SMS.
Formed five years ago, Zuoix started life as an IT security company in Limbe, Cameroon, developing security applications for businesses across Africa.
Its most popular application – SMS-based car security application ZOOMED – was born out of the controversial internet shutdown in Anglophone parts of Cameroon last year. Founder Zuo Bruno had been building an internet-based version of the app, but the shutdown interrupted development and resulted in a spike of thefts of cars using such technology.
“A close friend of mine who depended on his taxi to feed and care for his growing family lost this taxi to thieves. Nothing we did could help us locate his taxi,” Bruno said.
He decided to change his code to transmit GPS locations via FM waves, which proved almost impossible as the cost of setting up FM antennas was beyond him.
“After meditating on it for awhile, I realised that I could use SMS services to transmit the GPS locations. Once this worked I started adding features to the system,” he said.
The result was ZOOMED, an electronic device which allows a car owner to control their vehicle via SMS from their mobile phone. The initial system has now been upgraded to allow it to also monitor things like fuel consumption and driving speed, and even predict accidents.
“All commands do not require any form of internet connectivity to work as the system is completely SMS-based. Even the server is linked up by SMS and not through the internet,” said Bruno.
ZOOMED currently has 52 users across Africa, mostly in Cameroon. Some are individuals and others companies with more than one car. Zuoix charges an installation fee as well as a monthly subscription.
The startup itself was formed after Bruno realised Cameroon’s “Silicon Mountain” startup ecosystem had a lot of products that were not secured. With no startup at that time providing cyber security for tech projects in Cameroon, Zuoix took the initiative.
“The competition in cyber security is not that high in Cameroon, in particular, and Africa, and this can partly be blamed on the fact that businesses do not at this time see cyber security as something they should really invest in. But times are changing and they are doing so pretty fast,” said Bruno.
The startup, which has funded itself through prize money and backing from the National Employment Fund, has grown substantially since its humble beginnings, and now serves the Cameroonian, Ghanaian and Kenyan markets with ZOOMED.
“We hope that we can get across to many other African countries in the future with more practical security solutions,” Bruno said.