IBM Research – Africa Launches Nairobi THINKLab

IBM Research-Africa has launched a new state-of-the-art facility – the THINKLab – in Nairobi, Kenya to transform the way the staff interact with clients and partners, and demonstrate hands-on innovation.

Chief Scientist, Dr. Uyi Stewart

Chief Scientist, Dr. Uyi Stewart outside the newly launched Nairobi THINKLab


The Nairobi THINKLab – one of a growing number of IBM facilities around the world – will allow clients and partners from across the Middle East and Africa region to gain hands-on experience of IBM’s latest cognitive, cloud, big data analytics and mobile technologies. Fitted with some of the most advanced interactive technologies, the THINKLab will provide IBM’s Africa-based researches with a stimulating environment to demonstrate the lab’s latest solutions in key areas such as education, healthcare, water management, public safety and financial inclusion. The facility will also help IBM’s scientists engage with community representatives – inviting them in to be part of the research and development process.

Clients and partners at IBM Research-Africa THINKLab

IBM Research – Africa’s clients and partners at the launch of the Nairobi THINKLab


With a Galaxy display comprising a wall of interactive flat-panel screens, motion sensors, a mobile experience lounge and Africa’s first permanently installed hologram, the THINKLab is the most technologically advanced facility in Africa.

IBM scientist Meenal Pore

IBM scientist Meenal Pore using the Galaxy display to demonstrate IBM’s research into epidemic management


“The THINKLab will change the way that we interact with clients, partners and community representatives. It is a world-class environment where our external partners can work side by side with our researchers and become part of the process to create, customize and tailor solutions to their specific needs,” said Uyi Stewart, Chief Scientist, IBM Research-Africa.

The mobile experience lounge at the Nairobi THINKLab

The mobile experience lounge at the Nairobi THINKLab


Through the THINKLab's interactive technologies, IBM researchers will be able to use motion, gesture and voice control to access multi-media content which demonstrates the company’s research programmes from Africa and across IBM’s 11 other global research labs. The THINKLab’s hologram is set to be a major differentiator for IBM in the Middle East and Africa region. IBM researchers are already using the hologram to explore future modes of human-machine interaction where 3D visualizations may help to overcome issues with literacy in some parts of Africa and become a powerful new way to deliver services in areas such as healthcare and financial inclusion.

"Innovation is a much overused word these days. What is key is originality. Original solutions are those which set the basis for imitation and have the unbridled potential to leapfrog the status quo. Through the THINKLab, we have a world-class facility to explore and demonstrate truly original approaches to our clients and partners," Kamal Bhattacharya, Vice President, IBM Research - Africa.


IBM Research – Africa’s Juliet Mutahi featuring in a holographic film premiered at the launch of the Nairobi THINKLab


At the August launch event in Nairobi for a select group of IBM staff, clients and partners, IBM’s research scientists demonstrated the powerful role of the THINKLab facility. For example, IBM Research – Africa’s mobility team used film content and interactive displays to showcase their recent ‘Living Roads’ project with Nairobi City County. With smart devices mounted on 10 of the county’s waste collection vehicles, IBM’s researchers are gathering realtime data – not only about the fleet – but about the condition of Nairobi’s streets and the location of traffic delays due to the existence of potholes, speedbumps, flooding and other obstructions on the roads.

Living Roads project

IBM Research – Africa’s John Wamburu with the Galaxy display and a model truck explaining the ‘Living Roads’ project.


One of IBM’s partners to experience the THINKLab first hand was Evans Ondieki, Executive Committee Member, Nairobi City County: “through the Nairobi THINKLab, we can be part of IBM’s research process and experience first-hand the power of technologies to address our challenges and transform the way we operate.”

The Africa lab’s lead water researcher Kala Fleming demonstrated a new solution called EZ Farm to help small-scale farmers to better manage their water resources. Using the Galaxy display, IBM research scientists showed how they are using Big Data and Internet of Things technologies to help small scale farmers better manage the water resources needed to irrigate and grow crops.

IBM Research Scientist, Kala Fleming using the Galaxy to demonstrate IBM’s EZ Farm solution

IBM Research Scientist, Kala Fleming using the Galaxy to demonstrate IBM’s EZ Farm solution


Cognitive technologies are a significant focus area of the Nairobi THINKLab facility and will be embedded into many of the solutions demonstrated.

“Today Cognitive computing is about to unleash a whole new wave of innovation across Africa and around the world. Humans and machines are collaborating in sensible and meaningful ways,” added Uyi Stewart. “At the THINKlab we will demonstrate the role of machine learning in capturing key pieces of insight which can be used by leaders, government officials and even whole communities to drive transformation and positive change.”

IBM Research – Africa at the ‘Selfie Station’ during the launch of the Nairobi THINKLab

IBM Research – Africa at the ‘Selfie Station’ during the launch of the Nairobi THINKLab


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