Many groups address digital divide issues by providing inexpensive internet access. Green WiFi says one of the biggest barriers is lack of reliable electricity. They designed a solar-powered solution and plan to roll out a pilot project in northern India at the end of this summer, according to News.com and Om Malik.
Green-WiFi uses simple, low-cost hardware, software and components. It combines inexpensive Netgear WGT634U WiFi routers with open source mesh software and solar power for about $200 a node.
The unit is powered by a 10 watt solar panel. Green WiFi nodes can be deployed on rooftops to form a self-healing network that hops the source signal over a virtual 802.11b/g grid. All that is required is a single source of broadband access.
The first version of the Green WiFi node used an off-the-shelf charge circuit. Rain and cloud cover, combined with a lack of power control to the router, resulted in an uptime of only 4 days.
The second design enabled operation over an 8-hour period, suitable for business or school hours, which extended the uptime to 28 days. The third prototype can control access and power output either directly or remotely via a web browser interface.
Their current approach is to use off-the-shelf hardware, open-source routing software and advanced power management software for a rugged, low-cost solution following the MIT Roofnet approach. Components include:
- A Netgear WGT634U WiFi router – $75
- A Shell ST10 solar panel (pdf) – $75
- SunGuard’s 5.5 amp 12 Volt charge controller (pdf) – $30
- MIT’s Roofnet software based on OpenWrt and SrcRR software for intelligent routing – (free)
SrcRR is a modification of the DSR protocol that predicts the best transmission rate for each 802.11b link. Wireless grid network software operates without extensive planning or central management, automatically determining the fastest way to go from point A to point B while continuously monitoring network paths and serving as a NAT for connection from Roofnet to the Internet.
RoofNet’s Meraki Mini router is $49 has 8MB Flash and 32MB SDRAM (specs). Operators can view network health, apply software updates, manage users, set bandwidth limits and maintain branded splash pages through a simple, centralized web interface.
Green WiFi aims to compliment and extend the power and promise of initiatives such as the UN/MIT One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project, Intel’s World Ahead Program and other NGO efforts dedicated to providing affordable computing capabilities to developing areas by providing critical last mile access.
Internet access is provided with sunshine and one broadband connection shared among rooftops.
Don Park, president of Portland’s PersonalTelco Project has also been an advocate of the Netgear/Roofnet approach. He and PersonalTelco members have built several nodes using flashed Netgear routers in Portland. Russel Senior built the self-contained, battery-powered node (above) using a flashed Netgear access point. Russel uses the self-contained device to collect hotspot information while driving around. He added a GPS device for location information.
In other news, Wikimania 2006, the second annual international Wikimedia conference, is being held August 4–6 in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Founder Jimmy Wales urged contributors to put more emphasis on quality instead of quantity. Wikipedia, the free Internet encyclopedia, already has more than 1.2 million articles in English alone.
It has also spawned WikiBooks, Wiktionary, WikiQuote and Wiki Media Commons among other free resources. You can Download WikiMedia to a PC or PDA for free to have it always at hand. Portland-based Ward Cunningham is best known as the inventor of the first wiki.
The One Laptop Per Child Project is including Wikipedia as the first element in their content repository. Jimmy Wales also announced (podcast) a new project called Wikiversity.
Wikiversity will serve as an online center for the creation and use of free learning materials and activities. It will create and host a range of free content materials, multilingual learning materials, for all ages in all languages. Intel Geek Blogger Josh Bancroft is also blogging from the conference.
Thousands of camouflaged sensors are scattered routinely by low-flying military planes in Iraq. Motes also have on-board processor and wireless capabilities that connect into a distributed network, all powered by two AA batteries or a single watch battery. A number of companies, such as Crossbow, Ember, and Smart Dust make them. A tiny, single-chip solution, smaller than a shirt button, could communicate your mood and situation to the world.