SA Invention Taking the World by Storm

Today we hear about a great South African invention that’s taking the country by storm.  Jacstech, a South African startup has produced a clever little device called the Astraphobe that protects your electronics from surges created by lightning.


Surge protectors have been around for a long time but have several shortcomings, so the Astraphobe takes a completely different approach: it knows when a storm is coming; and it knows when the storm gets too close to your home.  Then instead of trying to divert the high voltages to ground, it disconnects the line completely, preventing any surges from the lightning from getting into your home and destroying your equipment.

Its great to see South African innovation, especially when it results in a seemingly very simple device that is straightforward and simple to install and use.  It’s so simple to use that after installation and saving your preferences, you can forget it’s there, although monitoring the screen for storm updates and the status of the gadget has a certain fun factor.

The simplicity of the design and use belies the complexity of the devices internals, which is high tech and definitely not simple.  A dedicated storm sensing digital radio and computer is utilised to detect the radio waves emitted by lightning, this also calculates the distance the storm is from the devices location.

A second computer is used for overall control of the Astraphobe, disconnecting the line as required, and allowing for a menu system where user preferences can be entered.  The Astraphobe also provides a history display showing for example the number of storms it detected.  It even includes a lightning counter that can be reset.


jacstech-ownerTo install, you plug the Astraphobe in to your incoming line from Telkom, then plug your equipment into the other side.  A nice touch is the exact dimensions given in the manual should you wish to wall mount the unit.

At we were intrigued with the Astraphobe and chatted with Jorgen Nielsen, a director of Jacstech.

When asked “why the Astraphobe?”, he replied “Being a bit of a techie and having teenagers in the house means we have games consoles, network storage with shared music and movies, computers and so on, all connected via an Ethernet network to the Internet.  I got tired of routinely replacing expensive equipment every storm season.  We had surge protection, but lightning would still come through the phone line, fry the router then run through the network and destroy other equipment.  The only way to prevent this was to unplug the line, but this is such a hassle and we would forget, or we would leave it plugged in because of updates or downloads, a storm would come up, and we would get zapped again.  Friends using ADSL all had the same problem, so the Astraphobe was conceived to unplug the line automatically, but only for the short duration that the storm is very close, to keep disruption to a minimum.”

The Astraphobe is manufactured in South Africa.  Nielsen comments: “from the outset we wanted to have a quality proudly South African innovation.  Some components are imported and are expensive, but we have such great relationships with other local companies who manufacture components for us, and the final build is done by a great South African company in Pretoria.

“We also took a different approach with regard to quality and longevity, and from the start strove to design a quality long lasting device.  For example we tested the switching mechanism where the unit disconnected and reconnected the line over 200,000 times without problems and without significant wear.  I would be most happy if people eventually throw their old working Astraphobe away after many years when ADSL etc is completely superseded by some new technology.

We are currently working on exporting the Astraphobe but also have a number of new products in the pipeline and again these will be innovative, quality products.”


Jacstech (Pty) Ltd
+27 82 4463464


Source: SA – The Good News via Jorgen Nielsen