When Superstorm Sandy hit New York City in 2012, lower Manhattan was left in the dark, with no electricity or connectivity.
“It really all boils down to the ‘central point of failure’ problem.
If the central infrastructure goes down, everyone who plugs into it is also disconnected."
Unable to use the cellular networks, New Yorker Daniela Perdomo and her brother later decided to creat their own.
GoTenna Mesh is a mesh networking device that works where traditional networks fail.
“It pairs to your phone over bluetooth but bluetooth is just a conncetion between device and phone. That’s it.
And then the GoTenna device itself transmits pretty low-frequency radio waves over great distances.”
These radio waves are just enough to carry text messages and GPS information.
And in emergency situations like Houston’s Hurricane Harvey, that can be the difference between life and death.
Originally developed for military use, mesh networks spread connectivity over multiple nodes,
or connection points, that communicate with each other.
“Any individual Wi-Fi device doesn’t reach very far, but if you can chain many of them together,
then you can provide access over a wider area.”
“The idea is to make telecommunication systems more modular, more distributed.
So that even if centralized points fail, you would still have working telecommunications in different areas.”
Mesh networks can connect multiple users to the larger Internet,
or function as a local server for emergency information and basic conncetivity.
Greta Byrum helps communities build their own networks,
using everyday equippment like wireless routers and small portable computers like the Raspberry Pi.
“I think it’s important for thinking about the future of utilities and telecommunications
because we are finding more and more that centralized systems just don’t make sense.”
“Why can’t we empower people to create their own connectivity?
And create, you know, more of a people-powered, bottom-up network as opposed to, you know,
a heavy infrastructure top-down network?”
In weathering the storm, mesh networks are restoring power in more ways than one.
Tina Trinh, VOA News, New York.
Mesh Networks Can Keep People Connected During Natural Disasters