Researchers test emergency Wi-Fi smartphone app

Researchers at Kingston University near London have invented a Wi-Fi system that lets emergency teams communicate with one another using smartphones and tablet computers when conventional radio channels have stopped working.

Today's emergency response teams typically depend on conventional Terrestrial Trunked Radio (TETRA) systems working on reserved frequencies but these come with some painful limitations, starting with limited bandwidth for data, expensive handsets and incompatibility between the systems used in different countries.

In crisis situations such as earthquakes or terrorist events such as the London tube bombings of 2005, experience shows that radio systems can also quickly overload in a given location, making it difficult for members of an emergency team to communicate with one another or with HQ.

The alternative system developed by the Kingston University team headed by Dr Christos Politis uses a combination of Wi-Fi connections between smartphones and tablet computers (AppleApple and AndroidAndroid) and a special application running on each device to create an ad-hoc peer-to-peer network of up to 10 devices supporting voice and video as well as data. Alles zu Android auf Alles zu Apple auf

Critically, only one of the devices has to have Internet connectivity for the whole group to reach back to a command centre through that 'super-node'.

The advantages are numerous. Even without an Internet connection, teams can still reach one another without the need for a network to support that channel. It can also lower costs by supporting ruggedized versions of the devices already sold in the high street.

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