Entrepreneur Heba Alhindi has been waiting for the government to grant her a patent on her sanitizing machine, considered the first in Palestine.
After two people tested positive for COVID-19 in the Gaza Strip last year, the government enforced a curfew that caused economic problems for companies. “Coronavirus besieged commercial facilities in Gaza and spread fear between people,” said Alhindi, who is a teacher and the director of Strategy Mission Projects Company, a management, IT and marketing services firm.
“It also has affected my work badly. My company is in marketing, which has been limited because of the pandemic. As an entrepreneur, I had to think outside the box and to create something that benefits everyone. So, I started thinking of inventing a smart machine, and I succeeded.”
Alhindi and her team of six worked hard for six months to make it. They invented new sensors because the locally available ones were inappropriate and many other kinds are banned. Israel prevents hundreds of materials from entering the besieged Gaza Strip under the pretext of their being “dual use,” meaning that they could be used for military operations.
“The idea of the machine is mine," said Alhindi, who is studying for a master’s in administration and leadership at a local university. “The components that are used in it are made by us.”
So, how does it work? “When a person stands on the machine, it measures the temperature by sensors,” the inventor explained. “If the temperature is above 37 degrees, the machine gives a warning. Then the person puts their hands in a dedicated place off another sensor that gives an order in five seconds to open an electronic door to sanitize hands. None of the steps require touching. The machine also measures weight.”
The price of the machine ranges from $600 to $1500, depending on its features and size. “We faced many difficulties but we overcame them by making new materials and components. Necessity is the mother of invention,” she said. “Today the machine is used by bakeries, governmental facilities and international organizations such as UNESCO.”
Alhindi applied in July 2020 to the ministry of the economy to get a patent, but she has not received it yet, because the process usually takes 12 months.
Mohammed Elsayed, the executive director of the restaurant Pizza Altabon, has been using the machine for seven months. “It looks beautiful and allows me to take safety measures,” he said. “I can put it anywhere because it is somewhat small. It can be used simply in any commercial facility. It has proved its proficiency.
“I totally depend on it,” Elsayed added. “It can sanitize 1,000 people a day. I highly recommend others to have it. Its price is affordable.”
Social Distancing Invention
Rarely do inventors and creators find a sponsor in Gaza, like engineer Mohammed Saydam, who invented a pendant that contains a sensor that gives a sign if social distancing is violated.
“What prompted me to invent it is that people have fears to the extent they want to sanitize the sanitizer itself. Also, I always see banks extremely crowded and the police often fail to spread people out,” he said.
The initial idea was to put the pendant inside a t-shirt, but Saydam’s family advised him to make it visible, as it is now. “It’s like a car’s sensors,” he added.
Luckily, the engineer found the required components in Gaza, so he bought them for 60 shekels ($17). He worked five days to make it. Once the pendant became ready, he posted it on Facebook and it went viral quickly.
“Local and international media and news agencies shed light on my invention. The minister of education Dr. Sabri Saydam called me and encouraged me,” Saydam said. “The well-known Palestinian businessman Bashar Masri also invited me to see him and told me that he is proud of me. He wore it and took a picture. That really lifted my spirits.”
The engineer applied to get a patent three months ago.
The pedant is not the first of Saydam’s inventions. Three years ago, he made a smart stick for the blind that gives voice commands to help them reach a certain place. He also made a small robot to sanitize quarantine rooms last year, but he has not received any official government sponsorship. “They do not care about inventions,” he said.
However, this time he received promises to be sponsored.
“My message to Gazan youth is everyone who has an idea, work on it, and I am ready to help you. I swear to God I want to encourage youth,” Saydam said.
Israel bans exporting electronic devices from Gaza to the world and implements strict rules on importing.
“My deep wish is to export the machine to the West Bank and Jerusalem,” Alhindi said. “Alas, I cannot because of the Israeli occupation.”