With the help from some friends, I are working on improving the VillageTelco.org "Mesh Potato" so that it supports mobile telephony for use in disasters, remote and developing areas.
The mesh potato is this cool device that can take just about any power source, a regular land-line phone handset and wifi and make a stand-alone telephone network. It is completely P2P and decentralised, and <3watts of power, so is economical to run on solar or wind power.
My mission is to make it work with mobile telephones so that mobile telecomms can be deployed rapidly, cheaply and robustly into disasters (think about Haiti where the local network was toast for about a week), developing and remote areas (did you know that some places in Africa the minimum daily wage will buy you less than 10 SMS messages?) and plain old remote places where the huge cost of mobile telephone towers makes it too expensive to provide coverage, condemning the people their to continuing poverty and isolation.
One of the really funky bits is that we can make these P2P phone networks work with your regular old phone number, without requiring access to the internet (email me for the special sauce on this).
This means that we can also deploy it in developed places to make really cheap mobile telephone networks with no infrastructure.
It's easy to do. The biggest problem is the telcos who own all the mobile phone spectrum. By making a demonstration using a different frequency band, we plan on getting some attention to this problem, while at the same time making a system that will work with android handsets.
So we can help the poor and vulnerable of the world, and get a really awesome technology that we can enjoy in the west, too. How awesome is that!?
Funded by Boston, MA (May 2010)