A town is awash with muddy running water in the middle of the night, which mercilessly ploughs through smaller houses. With no flat and dry ground to rely on, most people head to higher quarters to avoid the onslaught of the floods. Later, when rescue boats begin their rounds, they use an application on their smartphones that tracks the location of people nearby without relying on traditional cell phone networks—to find and retrieve every single person stranded in the waters. This is the kind of reach that future communication technology, which will not be hindered like normal communication networks today are, will have.
Today, our communication lines are all too reliant on cell phone networks and signals. A disaster-struck area with submerged or downed towers renders them useless. This is where off-grid networks in tune with the latest technology come into play. Using a device as an access point, off-grid mesh networks utilize radio communication equipment to transmit signals to other devices.
For instance, an application that uses peer-to-peer mesh networking, allowing a user in Australia to speak to another in Canada at zero cost and without using cell phone networks could revolutionize the telecommunications industry. This inexpensive and reliable global ‘web’ that uses peer-to-peer mesh networks not only breaks the barriers of technology, but those of economics as well.
An example of the power of mesh networks was recently demonstrated during the massive pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, where more than 500,000 people downloaded a free app that enabled them to send messages, provide updates and share files with each other – all this without a cell phone connection.
Being self-sufficient, ad hoc networks of this sort step in where traditional networks cannot. For instance, if you are in a concert and get separated from your friend in the crowd, you can quickly check an app on your phone which uses this technology in tandem with GPS to accurately determine the location of your friend.
While mesh networks already exist, what makes them useful is the development of applications and devices that use them as a global means of communication. Imagine an app that sends an alert with the image and description of a criminal on the loose. Now, if you have the same app, you can warn others in the area if you spot the criminal as well as take a photo and alert the authorities.
A universal mode of communication is becoming a necessity in today’s world: too many people are encumbered by location and cost, with no access to the vast amounts of information available. Networks, combined with next-gen mesh technology can bring about a world where everyone has equal and fast access to information where lines of communication never break down.
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