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Peer to Peer Used Cell Phone Networks

With the recent earthquake in the United States and the ordeal of Hurricane Irene, many users of new and old cell phones found themselves experiencing clogged networks that made calling very difficult, if not almost impossible.  Wireless carriers have been telling cell phone users that in the event of such clogging they should use email or texting to communicate if voice calling was failing.  Others wonder if relying on email or texting during a crisis such as Hurricane Irene is a good idea, and if new and emerging technologies could provide a better solution.
Georgia Tech Computer Science professor Santosh Vempala believes that device to device communications via the use of typical consumer phones will be more relied upon in the wake of such emergencies and disasters and has created LifeNet, which uses open source software in order to allow devices such as battery powered routers, Android phones, and laptops to become a kind of ad hoc Wi-Fi, creating peer to peer networks that do not rely on base stations or cellular towers.  While still just a working prototype, Vempala says that interest in LifeNet has been shown by representatives of public safety organizations.
“Even though cell towers are wireless, most of the communications are through a single path, so one person connects through a particular cell tower,” Vempala notes.  “In a disaster, a lot of people are trying to reach a small number of cell towers and things get congested… over the long term, a different approach would be better.”