Severe winter weather inspired these men to use their experience and expertise to help those in need.

Plummeting temperatures well below the freezing point have meteorologists issuing severe winter weather warnings and urging people to stay inside. But not everyone has that luxury.

Homelessness is an issue that affects over 150 million people in the world. While some may find shelters in which to spend the night, countless others stay on the streets. That can be dangerous, especially in the depths of winter. Homeless people have an increased risk of developing frostbite and life-threatening hypothermia in severe winter weather.

Six businessmen in Ulm, Germany, saw the problem and decided to come up with a solution. While kind strangers the world over try to help the homeless by passing out food, drinks, warm hats and gloves, blankets, and other care packages, these six men are uniquely qualified to provide a different kind of aid to the homeless community.

That’s because they have expert knowledge in product design and development.

Using Their Expertise to Change the World

The men came up with an idea for a sleeping pod—a sort of small but comfortable, portable shelter that can be installed in different parts of the city—in 2018. They started testing a prototype in the winter of 2020 and have been making improvements since. Their idea goes way beyond a tent. These product developers thought of everything.

The pods are made of wood and steel to withstand the elements. They’re both windproof and waterproof. They’re big enough to shelter two people for the night, if needed. Knowing that some homeless people travel with a dog, the team also made sure there’s room not only for bags and belongings but also for a pet. 

Sensors monitor temperature and carbon dioxide levels, and a ventilation system takes care of humidity levels. For safety, users can lock the pods from the inside, and there is a smoke detector and an alarm signal. Lighting inside the pod ensures that users can make themselves comfortable at night.

The team of six businessmen call their creation the Ulster Nest.

The First City Tries It Out

After a night inside the warm, clean pods, users leave, triggering a motion sensor that alerts social workers to check the pods. Then, the pods are cleaned and made ready for the next user.

The city of Ulm jumped on board right away to test the pods, and the feedback has been very positive.

“For this winter,” said one of the team members, “we modified details of our door in an effort to improve usability both for the people sleeping in the Nests and the social workers checking in on them. Also, we spent a good deal of time improving insulation and climate management, to be able to keep humidity and temperature at the best possible levels while operating on a limited budget of energy.” Electricity is provided by solar panels on the pod.

The team hopes to roll out the Ulster Nest in more cities in Germany…and eventually the world!

“We are still operating on a small-scale prototype level, and are looking into finding possible prospective user (cities) and ways of manufacturing bigger numbers of the Nests if there’s sufficient demand for it.”

Sufficient demand for helping others in need: let’s hope there’s more than enough of that!


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