This story is from the category Connectivity
Date posted: 10/05/2005
For the police, for firefighters, paramedics, and other disaster site workers, being wireless isn't just about walkie-talkies anymore. An increasing number of emergency workers rely on high-speed wireless data networks while on the job. But many of these networks are set up in a hub-and-spoke configuration: if a hub, such as a wireless base station, goes down, the network fails.
The Californian firm PacketHop is set to try and tackle this emerging market with a novel connectivity strategy ? the instant mesh network.
Their software enables standard Wi-Fi-equipped laptops, PDAs, and other devices to form their own "mesh" networks and share video, photos, messages, and location data.
With the technology, emergency workers at a disaster site can "set up a network on the fly without the need for infrastructure," says Michael Howse, the startup's president and CEO.
In a mesh network, each device operates as a node, capable of routing data to several other devices on the network--and the network survives even if several of its nodes fail or disappear. With PacketHop's software running on their portable devices, public-safety officials can view video streams from vehicle-mounted cameras, send instant messages to one another, draw on shared images and maps in real time, to pinpoint critical sites, and even use GPS to show where they are on those same maps ? vital if the area has been destroyed by a bomb blast, or aircraft crash.
The system can't handle voice data yet, so first responders who use it will still need handheld radios to talk to each other. But Howse says that, by providing an alternative means of communication, the mesh network should prevent the radios from getting overloaded during a major incident like a riot or a terrorist attack.
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