Mesh networks, writes USA Today, let computers form there own networks with no need for external connections such as WiFi. This technology has many powerful implications.
Andrew Kantor writes Imagine 9-11 ó or simply the test the company did in the San Francisco Bay area. Emergency services from several municipalities converge on one place. Rather than relying on a data infrastructure that might be damaged or non-existent, their computers immediately form an ad hoc network.
The PacketHop software authenticates all the users, then allows them to use instant messaging, video conferencing (and simply see one another’s video feeds), and can even display everyone’s location if they’re GPS equipped. As people come and go, they’re added to or removed from the network on the fly. The only thing it can’t do ó yet ó is voice.
I had some minor quibbles with the interface, but the technology itself is darned impressive. In a Wi-Fi-free zone, three laptops with ordinary wireless cards instantly formed themselves into a network.
The disaster- and crime-scene uses are obvious. Being able to share text, image, and video information in real time without having an existing infrastructure in place could be invaluable to emergency services units who need to know quickly who is where with what. But the ability to form instant, flexible networks goes far beyond that.
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