NETGuard Mobilizes



The National Emergency Technology Guard (NETGuard) mobilizes a corps of volunteers with technology experience who could help out after a disaster. Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon discusses the effort with NPR (audio). It is funded by the Department of Homeland Security.

NET Guard teams may assist local communities in temporarily reconstituting voice, data, and other communications systems.

The idea of NET Guard was born in the aftermath of 9-11, when a number of communications and technology companies told Wyden they wanted to help New York City when it was attacked – and there was no system for using their volunteers.

A total of $80,000 is available for each pilot jurisdiction and four pilot grants will be awarded. Applications must be received by 11:59 PM EST July 2, 2008.

To be eligible to apply, local government applicants must be located in one of the 2008 DHS Urban Area Security Initiatives’ jurisdictions, must have a Citizen Corps Council and programs supported by emergency management. Additional eligibility criteria are included in the solicitation. The announcement and application are available at grants.gov (currently unavailable due to site maintenance).

In other news, the National Geospacial Agency is now providing timely access to current imagery for first responders, as well as its traditional military and intelligence customers. Google Earth and Microsoft’s Virtual Earth (above) pioneered public geospacial database access, especially with Map Mashups.

Local expertise is generally faster, better, cheaper then databases created by bureaucrats.

Broadband communications started at the grass roots and trickled up.

Intel’s Nigel Ballard provided speedy leadership during the Katrina disaster, as did other companies, who volunteered time, equipment and expertise. Temporary communications networks can be setup in a relative snap with Mobile WiMAX.

Yesterday Mike Boyd from Hillsboro, Oregon utilized a Motorola CPEi 150 ($199), a Mobile WiMAX client, and plugged it into a Meraki outdoor WiFi hotspot ($199) to provide free wi-fi at a blues festival in Portland, Oregon that attracts 120,000 people.

The 200 mw Meraki automatically synced to a second Meraki, mounted high on the stage at Portland’s Water Front Blues Festival, now being set up for the July 4th weekend.

Mike Boyd just did it. He provided the entire concert with free WiFi in a couple of hours. No problem.

We got an enthusiastic okay from the Festival Coordinator, Clay Fuller, and borrowed the Motorola CPEi 150 modem from an Intel employee who is testing the service in Portland.

Intel had no official involvement. The project happened because friends helped friends — for the benefit of the community. No red tape.

The picture (right) shows Motorola’s WiMAX modem halfway up the tripod (secured with cable ties), which is plugged into the Meraki Access Point (on top). The whole thing could be self-contained when powered with a car battery at the base of the tripod.

Mike’s meter indicated the combined current draw for the WiMAX modem and Meraki was only .7 amps. A car battery could probably supply power for a couple of days.

Add a solar panel to charge it and they’d run forever.

The Meraki Outdoor unit does not use standard 48 volt Power Over Ethernet. Instead it uses a non-standard (12-22V) system that actually worked to simplify the system.

Mike sent 12 volts up a single CAT-5 (Ethernet) cable to connect and power the Meraki AP, while the WiMAX modem had a stock 12 volt external power jack (with power supplied from AC or a battery).

Mike made a very clean system that worked great with just a couple of wires.

The WiMAX client unit delivered reliable 2-4 Mbps backhaul for the Meraki APs without problems or complicated set-up. I was impressed. Portland will have some 300 Mobile WiMAX cell sites by launch time toward the end of the year, says Unstrung. By this time next year, many cities will have it.

The latest NETGEAR open source wireless router is the WGR614L ($60). It’s the open wireless router platform of choice for free WiFi organizations like Portland’s Personal Telco Project. It features a 240 MHz MIPS32 CPU core with 16 KB of instruction cache, 16 KB of data cache, 1 KB of pre-fetch cache, and incorporates 4 MB of flash memory and 16 MB of RAM. The WGR614L can support many popular third party firmware applications, including DD-WRT, Tomato, and Sveasoft.

B.A.T.M.A.N. (better approach to mobile ad-hoc networking), is a new routing protocol for multi-hop ad-hoc mesh networks developed by Open-Mesh. ROBIN (ROuting Batman Inside) is an Open Source mesh network project, that runs on Meraki, Open-Mesh or La Fonera hardware using the BATMAN routing algorithm. ROBIN spreads a wired internet connection such as a DSL/WiMAX throughout an apartment complex, neighborhood, village or school, and works on a variety of commonly available, low-cost hardware.

With open source firmware, a Wi-Fi router gets a new brain. You can create a wireless distribution system (WDS) or a mesh network, run a VPN or VoIP server, manage a hotspot RADIUS server, manage bandwidth use per protocol, control traffic shaping and other features.

I also have two mobile routers, a used Linksys WRT 54G3G (which I picked up on Craig’s list for a song) and a brand new 802.11n Cradlepoint MBR 1000, which the company generously sent me to test. With these devices, Dailywireless hopes to put mobile communications in a bike trailer.

The FAA’s maximum carry-on size for a weatherproof Pelican Case is (20″ x 11″ x 7.6″). Why not stuff it with three Merakis, a WiMAX modem and batteries. You don’t need an act of Congress. Just do it.

Free streaming video solutions, that work with a USB or video camera hooked to a laptop, include BlogTV, Justin.tv, Kyte.tv, Mogulus, Seesmic, Ustream, Vimeo, Yahoo Live and Zannel. The live video streams from these (free) services can be embedded in virtually any webpage or blog and even deliver live chat.

Qik is a cell phone solution. A little piece of software enables you to stream videos directly from your phone to the Web. Use it to stream videos to your friends in Facebook, Twitter, etc. PocketCaster from ComVu also streams video from your phone to your video blog or homepage.

While the cellular network is ubiquitous, it will likely be under heavy use (or inoperable) in an emergency. Mobile WiMAX can provide a high speed alternative. Providing local connectivity with WiFi or WiMAX or providing point to point connections is not just fun – it could save lives.

Broadband applications and mashups invite everyone in the pool. Social networks like Twitter have created a networked community of active, vital people. That’s where groups like Mercy Corps and Humaninet come in. They have real-world experience and know what’s needed in an emergency.

Mobilizing a corps of volunteers with experienced professionals seems worthwhile. It can also be fun working together on projects like music concerts. Plus you get free tickets.

During the recent Field Day, hosted by the American Radio Relay League (ARRL), ham operators across North America spent 48 hours demonstrating their communications abilities.

Related DailyWireless articles include; Mobile Livecasting, Webcasting Concerts, Emergency Communications Applications, Emergency Communications SimDay, Eye-Fi Now Geotags, Cellular Photosharing Software, CNN’s News Bureau in a Bus, WiFi Camera Adapters, Geocoding Content, Minneapolis Bridge Collapse & Emergency Communications, MIT’s CarTel, CNN’s News Bureau in a Bus, Amateur Radio to the Rescue in Oregon, Mountain Rescue UAVs, E911 & Triangulation, Katrina Telecomunications Report, Hyperspectral Search, Report on Kim Search, Cellular Triangulation, Wireless River Monitoring, Underwater MIMO, McSignage, Emergency Com Gets WiFi/Sat Link, Taiwan Earthquake Knocks Out Cables, Remote Ocean Viewer, Dan Reed’s Network, VoIP Gets 911 Extension, VoIP E-911 Rush?, 211, 311, 411, 511 & 911, Tracking Individuals, Location, location, location, Rescue By Cell Triangulation, Android Developer Challenge — $10M, California Wildfires Networked, Kyocera KR2 Mobile Router, Topoff 4 Begins in Portland, Mobile Mashup, Olympic Mesh, IP Camera Embeds Phone, The Next Big Thing: Small, Solar Man, Solis Solar Powered Hotspots, Solar RoofNet Wiki, Solar Powered WiMAX & WiFi, Wireless Camera Adapters, Minnesota Solar WiFi, Park City: Solar WiFi, and Solar Powered Solstice.

Gates’ Last Day



An emotional Bill Gates said good-bye to Microsoft (audio) in a celebration this morning filled with memories and an assessment of his legacy.

Today is Gates’ last day as a full-time Microsoft employee.
He will focus most of his attention now on philanthropy at the helm of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

More than 800 employees, figures from the company’s past, family members filled a room in the company’s large corporate conference center to watch the event.

Google News, Blogrunner and TechMeme have more.

The World’s 10 Most Wired Countries



Forbes Magazine ranks The World’s 10 Most Wired Countries. Rankings are based on a combination of hard data from organizations like the International Telecommunications Union and responses to an Executive Opinion Survey by the World Economic Forum, on topics such as business adoption of technology and laws relating to ICT. About 11,000 business executives in 131 countries participate in the survey.

According to Forbes, Nordic countries did well, with Iceland finishing second and Denmark fifth. Like Sweden (first), they benefit from government support of technology and a strong focus on education and innovation.

Switzerland (No. 3), the Netherlands (No. 4) and Luxembourg (No. 10) rounded out the strong European showing in the top 10.

Two Asian countries made the top 10: Hong Kong at No. 6 and South Korea at No. 7. The Korean government has heavily subsidized broadband construction. Hong Kong’s rank reflects its increasingly wired citizenry and government.

Near the bottom (No. 9): the United States, which scored well in ICT usage, but rated poorly on regulatory issues.

  1. Sweden: Topped the World Economic Forum’s “technological readiness” ranking for two years running.
  2. Iceland: Iceland’s focus on education and government support of technology helped it power up the ranking.
  3. Switzerland: Unlike other top-10 countries, the Swiss government ranks relatively low in technology adoption.
  4. Netherlands: Internet and PC usage rates in Netherlands are some of the highest in the world.
  5. Denmark: The Danish government has made technology a priority.
  6. Hong Kong: A tech-savvy populace helped Hong Kong finish the highest for any Asian country.
  7. South Korea: The Korean government’s support of technology through subsidies and legislation boosted the country 11 slots this year.
  8. Norway: The government leads individuals and businesses in its adoption of technology.
  9. United States: World-class research institutions and engineers, but rates poorly on red tape and regulatory issues.
  10. Luxembourg: By improving its inhabitants’ access to broadband, it has pulled itself up the ranking from No. 42

Forbes also ranks America’s Most Wired Cities. They are:

  1. Atlanta, Ga. (WiFi Hotspots: #4)
  2. Seattle, Wash. (WiFi Hotspots: #5)
  3. Raleigh, N.C. (WiFi Hotspots: #14)
  4. San Francisco, Calif. (WiFi Hotspots: #2)
  5. Baltimore, Md. (tie) (WiFi Hotspots: #18)
  6. Orlando, Fla. (tie) (WiFi Hotspots: #3)
  7. Charlotte, N.C. (WiFi Hotspots: #13)
  8. Chicago, Ill. (WiFi Hotspots: #21)
  9. New York, N.Y. (WiFi Hotspots: #31)
  10. Portland, Ore. (WiFi Hotspots: #1)

Research indicates that with every 10 percent increase in mobile phone penetration, a country’s GDP increases by 0.6 percent. Unstrung says the top ten emerging markets (below) added 285 million new mobile subscribers in 2006.

India had 165.11 million wireless subscribers a year ago, and in 2007 it ranked as the country with the second largest growth in mobile subscribers after China, according to Light Reading’s report on the fastest growing emerging markets newly published today.

Top 10 Emerging Markets by Mobile Subscriber Growth

Ranking Country Subscriber Additions in 2007 (in millions) Total Subscribers Dec 2007 (in millions) % increase over Dec 2006 2006 ranking
1 China 86.22 547.3 18.7 2
2 India 84.01 233.63 56.15 1
3 Indonesia 29.31 92.94 46.06 5
4 Pakistan 28.59 76.88 59.2 3
5 Brazil 21.06 120.98 21.08 7
6 Russia 20.95 172.87 13.79 4
7 Vietnam 12.68 35.18 56.33 10
8 Bangladesh 12.61 34.37 57.95 8
9 Iran 12.43 28.51 77.3
10 Egypt 12.06 30.07 67.02
Total 319.92 1372.73 25.03
Source: National regulator statistics

Numbers for Indonesia, Russia, Vietnam, and Iran are based on company data

India the second largest wireless market in the world, overtaking the U.S. with its 258 million subscribers. China is by far the largest market, with a subscriber base of 574.63 million by the end of March.

According to Wikipedia:

At the Personal Democracy Forum in New York, FCC Commissioner Adelstein and others unveiled InternetforEveryone.org, a national initiative of public interest, civic and industry groups. It seeks to foster a public dialogue among U.S. citizens to advise the government on how to set a national policy. Freepress has a ton of videos.

Helio, Goodbye



Virgin Mobile USA said on Friday it will buy SK Telecom’s money-losing Helio cellular service for $39 million in stock.

South Korea’s SK Telecom will also invest an additional $25 million in Virgin Mobile, as will the Virgin Group, which jointly owns Virgin Mobile with Sprint Nextel. SK Telecom is South Korea’s top mobile operator with 50% market share in that country.

Virgin Mobile, which is partly owned by Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and Sprint Nextel Corp, serves more than 5 million customers. It has seen growth slowing amid the U.S. economic slowdown and increased competition from rivals.

Helio, which has about 170,000 subscribers, has also struggled. Both companies target young consumers, and rent space on Sprint’s network. Helio became the first U.S carrier to sign a deal with Opera, officially supporting Opera Mini on the Helio Ocean.

Virgin Mobile expects the deal to close in the third quarter.

SK Telecom is building out Wave 2 WiBro in Seoul and has sent HD video across the network in real time. Under optimal conditions it downloaded at 37 Mbps and uploaded at 10 Mbps.

Chrysler Rolls Out U-connect



Chrysler announced today that it will now bundle innovative consumer technologies under one umbrella name – “uconnect.”

A bundle of high-tech applications, fashionably spelled with undercase lettering, are included under the uconnect umbrella. Perhaps the most unique is Chrysler’s in-car Wi-Fi access point, called uconnect Web, that allows passengers to e-mail, download music, play games, or look at photos and videos. It will be offered on ’09 models as a dealer-installed aftermarket item through Mopar and uses a cellular-connected mobile router from Autonet.

A variety of functions are available through uconnect – uconnect phone, uconnect tunes, uconnect gps, uconnect studios and uconnect web.

  • uconnect phone: Uses Bluetooth® technology to provide voice-controlled wireless communication between the occupants’ compatible mobile phones and the vehicle’s onboard receiver. New for 2009, the hands-free system automatically downloads up to 1,000 phone book entries from supported phones. Part of uconnect phone on select Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge vehicles is an iPod interface, which allows an iPod to be plugged into the vehicle’s sound system.
  • uconnect tunes: A 30-gigabyte hard drive for songs (either MP3, AAC or WMA file formats), as well as photos and movies can be displayed on the screen for entertaining passengers when the vehicle is in Park (as permitted by the state regulations).
  • uconnect gps: Combines the features of uconnect phone and uconnect tunes with navigation and real-time traffic. The system includes an integrated voice recognition system and touch screen for easy operation.

  • uconnect studios: A SIRIUS Backseat TV, featuring three channels of family TV programming, and optional SIRIUS Satellite Radio. The system can be operated from the rear-seat entertainment unit or from the radio head unit.
  • uconnect web: Provides high-speed data transfer and flexibility, combining WiFi and cellular connectivity. The system transforms the vehicle into a “hot spot” to deliver the Internet directly to the vehicle, for instant access to Web sites, e-mail, personalized music, online gaming, photo albums, and more. Chrysler plans to offer aftermarket in-vehicle “hot-spot” wireless Internet capability through Mopar® for Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep vehicles.

The cost of the hardware/router is $449, not including a $50 installation with monthly charges $29 per month in 12-, 24- and 36-month-long service plans plus a $35 activation fee. It uses existing 3G and 2.5G cellular networks with download speeds between 400-800 Kbps/sec and upload speeds average 400 Kbps.

Of course cellular providers can also sell you a laptop card and data plan, but the monthly rate is much higher, $60 a month (with two-year contract). The advantage is you could then plug your cellular card into either a mobile router (such as a $250 Cradlepoint, Kyocera, Linksys) or your laptop (when out of the car). Uconnect’s integrated features, rugged Autonet router, and lower monthly costs may be a compelling package for many motorists.

Last year, Ford Motor Co. launched Sync, which allows drivers to use spoken commands to control mobile devices, but doesn’t provide Web access. Their sync communications product, made by Microsoft, allows consumers hands-free access to music and cellphone calls.

Ford vehicles equipped with Microsoft’s Sync offer access to telematics services similar to some of those of General Motors’ OnStar, explains RCR News. The data are encoded by software provided by Airbiquity, a Seattle company that already provides so-called “in-band modem” technology to OnStar and other telematics providers, but so far does not offer mobile web access.

Ford vehicles equipped with Microsoft’s SYNC are now available on the Ford Edge, Focus, Fusion, Taurus, Taurus X, Explorer and Sport Trac; Mercury Milan, Montego and Mountaineer; and Lincoln MKX and MKZ. The technology is expected to be available on all Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicles in the near future.

OnStar’s navigation and emergency roadside service costs between $17 and $70 per month.

When a driver presses the Red OnStar Emergency button or Blue OnStar button, current vehicle data and the user’s GPS location are immediately gathered, then sent to OnStar. OnStar Emergency calls are routed to the OnStar Center with highest priority.

Autoweek has an interesting feature story, Under the Hood with Big Brother that details the perils of black box systems in cars, GPS guidance systems like OnStar and roadway wireless systems like the Intelligent Transportation System.

Related DailyWireless stories on transit connectivity include; Ford Sync, Mobile Livecasting, Google Transit Maps + WiFi, Chrysler: Wi-Fi Car This Year, The Connected Bus, Hotspot for Bedouins, Chrysler Getting WiMAXed, Verizon Traffic Mapping , PePWave Mobility: Connectivity for Vehicles, Civic Booster, Broadband Wireless Modems, Kyocera KR2 Mobile Router, Gadgets That Listen, Analog Cellular to Shut Down, Microsoft Vrs OnStar, 3-D Traffic/Weather Maps, Cellular Navigation/Tracking, Satellite Radio Growing in US and Traffic Info by Phone & Palm.

Alltel + Boingo = National Wi-Fi



Alltel and Boingo Wireless are teaming for nationwide hotspot access. The Alltel Wi-Fi plan is available for purchase by anyone in the United States as a stand alone offer.

Unlimited Wi-Fi access costs $19.99 per month or $3.99 per day with no contract commitment. In the past year, more than 15,000 additional hotspots have been added to Alltel’s nationwide service, which includes thousands of hotels, bookstores, coffee shops and fast food restaurants through Boingo.

Recently, Alltel Wireless began offering an Internet Anywhere Bundle, allowing Alltel customers to bundle their cellular data plan with unlimited Wi-Fi access for their laptop. The $69.98 per month bundle gives customers the choice of connecting to either Alltel’s EVDO network or a Wi-Fi hotspot.

Alltel Wireless, the fifth largest cellular company in the United States, has more than 13 million customers. On June 5, 2008, Verizon Wireless announced it will acquire Alltel in a deal valued at $28.1 Billion.