One of the first things to disappear in the wake of a major disaster is reliable communication. Without access to cell phone service or the Internet, it's difficult for first responders--or anyone who wants to help out--to speak with each other. And while satellite phones work in these situations, they're too expensive for many first responder organizations to purchase en masse. Now researchers from Georgia Tech College of Computing claim to have developed a cheap, easy solution: LifeNet, a piece of software that allows people to communicate after disasters, even if landlines, cell phone networks, and the Internet are all down.
"It's just a piece of code that you can have on your laptop or phone. Once you have the software, the computers can communicate with each other, and you don't need infrastructure," says Santosh Vempala, the Georgia Tech computer science professor in charge of the project.
Any device that has LifeNet installed acts as both a host and router for the network--meaning the software can route data both to and from any other LifeNet-enabled device. You can read more technical details here.