Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Georgia Tech to Demo "LifeNet"

After the terrorist attacks of 9/11, Irene, and global earthquakes, most communication systems are overwhelmed leaving people without phones and the internet. The standard for post-disaster communications is the satellite phone, which at $600 or more per unit is expensive to own and at 50 cents per text, costly to use.

Georgia Tech College of Computing researchers have developed an innovative wireless system called “LifeNet” designed to help first responders communicate after disasters. “LifeNet” is a mobile ad-hoc network designed for use in highly transient environments that requires no infrastructure such as the internet, cell towers, or traditional landlines.

“LifeNet” can bridge connectivity between a satellite phone or other internet gateways and a WiFi-based network on the ground. It extends the coverage of a satellite phone or a service such as SMS from one computer to the entire independent network in the field.

This means that if several people in the field do not have satellite phones but have smart phones or laptops with WiFi capability, they can connect to the “LifeNet” network, communicate with each other with no other infrastructure, and use the internet as long as any one of them has access.

“LifeNet” is easy to set up. The network starts as soon as a node is put in place. Each “LifeNet” enabled computer acts as both a host client and a router, is able to directly route data to and from any other available wireless device. Nodes can be moved from location to location as needed, and the network remains intact.

Georgia Tech researchers are currently ready to deploy LifeNet for field testing and are looking to expand beyond crisis communications. Santosh Vempala, Georgia Tech Professor of Computer Science and his team recently partnered with Tata Institute of Social Sciences India and are working with Tata’s disaster management center.

Together, the researchers have identified cyclone-affected areas without communications infrastructure that could benefit the most from LifeNet and will be deploying LifeNet in the Mohali region of India over the next several months. The researchers are also planning to pitch LifeNet as a package to FEMA, the Red Cross, and other U.S. relief agencies.

For more information, contact Liz Klipp in Media Relations at (404) 894-6016.