Haiti Communications

The Haitian Earthquake on Jan 12, 2010, has left an estimated 200,000 dead. Google News, Yahoo News and Blogrunner have coverage. Mercy Corps’ emergency response experts are currently working to meet the immediate needs of survivors – with water, food, shelter and hygiene.

Here are some commercial terrain visualization software packages that transform Lidar and DEMs into flybys.

Telecommunications in Haiti has been severely disrupted due to the 7.0 Earthquake on January 12, 2009. The two known Haitian public-safety answering points were destroyed. The Haitian police land mobile radio (LMR) system, which consists of a three-site trunked system, also was reportedly destroyed, as was much of the wireline infrastructure.

Instedd, built an emergency information system using a cobbled-together team of a half-dozen organizations and launched ‘4636’ as an emergency number. Haitians could text the number with messages about injuries, people trapped under rubble or reports of missing people.

Inveneo, a 501c3 nonprofit social enterprise, has set up a WiFi network in Haiti (below). Here are their Flickr Photos, Twitter feeds and some Emergency Planning Resources.

Inveneo engineers Mark Summer and Andris Bjornson have brought critical WiFi communications to eleven relief agency locations with minimal equipment and installation time. Their long-distance WiFi network have immediate impact when 20-100 people are sharing bandwidth at each location.

International staff are able to make high-quality Skype video calls. Inveneo’s network is managed with the help of OpenNMS Group, to monitor network usage and then use other tools for traffic shaping, making sure that each user, at each node, has equal amount of bandwidth for his or her communication needs.

Trilogy International Partners provides one-third of Haiti’s phone connections through its wireless subsidiary Voilà. With 500 employees, the company is one of the largest employers in Haiti and has operated there for a decade.

Seattle Times writer Sharon Pian Chan has a profile on Trilogy CEO John Stanton (right). The Bellevue native is one of the most prominent figures in the local business community and the global wireless arena.

Stanton worked for McCaw, filing the first government applications on behalf of Craig McCaw’s cellular-telephone venture. He closed the sale of Bellevue-based VoiceStream to T-Mobile. Most would call that $30 billion sale the deal of a lifetime.

A wireless-industry veteran, Stanton has worked all over the world and experienced the devastation of hurricanes and other crises at home and in developing countries. Nothing compares to Haiti, he said. The country already is overburdened with unreliable infrastructure, political instability, deforestation, poverty and homelessness.

Trilogy had a huge task trying to bring back its phone infrastructure and dealing with logistical difficulties, reports the Seattle Times. Within two hours of the quake, Trilogy chartered a plane from Miami, carrying 14 engineers, plus radios, batteries and water. They landed in Port-au-Prince early Wednesday with help from the U.S. State Department and Kenneth Merten, the U.S. ambassador to Haiti.

Although the wireless service was down for much of Wednesday, local staff and the engineers from Florida worked feverishly to get it restored by midnight.

People who are trapped under debris have called out for help from their cellphones.

Digicel Group and Telecoms Sans Frontieres(Telecommunications Without Borders) are endeavoring to set up a site in Port-au-Prince where people can make free, two-minute international or domestic phone calls via satellite.

Telecoms Sans Frontieres, a French-based international relief organization, was among the first on the scene with BGAN terminals. NetHope is putting together a novel combination of VSAT dishes and WiMax wireless networks to cover Port-au-Prince with a net of connectivity.

Digicel is one of the largest companies in Haiti having launched its mobile services in 2006 – and as the largest foreign direct investor in Haiti today, Digicel serves over two million customers in Haiti.

Paulo Chilosi, who runs the Haitian ISP Multilink, told US journalists on Thursday that the internet was the best channel for communication to and from Haiti in the wake of the earthquake, although the lack of electricity supply presented a major obstacle to getting online. Most ISPs in the country have remained operational, but two of the best known – Hainet and Access Haiti – were reported yesterday to be non-functional (although this was unconfirmed).

Monster geosynchronous satellites can connect to tiny, pocket-size satphones. The TerreStar-1 satellite can link directly to TerreStar’s pocket satphone for voice and data anywhere in North America, although their data speeds are less than laptop-size Inmarsat terminals or larger V-sat hubs.

Two Low Earth Orbit systems (Iridium and Globalstar) and one GEO systems (Inmarsat), provide world-wide satphone service. Regional GEO-based systems include Thuraya (which covers the middle East), while North America is covered by TerreStar and ICO. Orbcomm does data, not voice.

Inmarsat’s BGAN (Broadband Global Area Network) service, is an L-band (1.6GHz) service. It’s like an internet cafe in a box, providing 400Kbps satellite connections and build-in WiFi in a unit about the size of a laptop.

Inmarsat’s chairman and chief executive officer, explained to BBC News how spot beams from the Inmarsat I-4 satellites are reallocated to meet high demand from aid agencies and the military.

Portable VSATs Do WiMAX. Sat Magazine has a good review of VSat systems worldwide and covers Satellites and WiMAX.

Skycasters offer two completely self-contained turn-key mobile satellite Internet solutions: the Skycasters utility trailer and the SkyPortable flyaway system.

Satellite news gathering trucks have become smaller and operable by a single person. Atlanta-based Crawford Communications provides HDTV and Internet capability. Ground Control and MotoSat (below), provide mobile internet access.

AT&T is donating $50,000 to Télécoms Sans Frontières. Currently, its employees are struggling with road obstacles on the ground, but are carrying mobile and fixed telecommunications tools, according to the group’s website. Global Satellite USA delivered emergency satellite phones to Trilogy International, the cellular provider for Haiti.

Nigel Ballard’s Tweets, an Intel connected employee who spearheaded a Katrina mobilization, says 52 of 60 of the Motorola Expedience (Pre-WiMAX) base station sites are now back online, and 75% of ISP capacity restored via Dominican Republic. Wind Telecom, a Dominican Republic broadband provider, has tapped Samsung to deliver a mobile WiMAX network in the Caribbean country that adjoins Haiti.

SES World Skies announced it was donating teleport access and capacity on five of its own satellites to aid relief efforts in Haiti from the catastrophic earthquake that struck the Port-au-Prince area on 12 January.

The operator said its AMC-1 (at 103 degrees West), AMC-6 (at 72 degrees West), AMC-21 (at 125 degrees West), NSS-7 (at 338 degrees East) and NSS-806 (at 319.5 degrees East) would provide domestic communication links as well as international connectivity.

With a satellite backbone, a WiMAX tower, might use NextNet’s fixed-WiMAX gear to supply dozens of WiFi-enabled “hot zones”, up to 20 miles away, for Skype phone calls and internet access.

SpeedStream.TV has a rugged backpack that includes all the hardware needed to stream remote live video. It uses multiple 3g or 4G dongles for the backhaul. The company offers a range of solutions from basic SD quality to broadcast quality video. The pocket-size SAMSUNG Mondi ($450) or Eee PC 1005 netbook ($450) might also provide live video (using a local mobile WiMAX connection).

A battery powered Mobile Router might let your wireless camera or mobile hotspot go live anywhere. Sprint’s Personal Hot Spot PHS300S is $139.99, runs on batteries and uses Clear’s 4G USB dongle for the backbone.

Sprint’s new Overdrive 3G/4G Mobile Hotspot by Sierra Wireless will automatically fallback to a 3G backbone.

The AC powered CradlePoint CBA750 ($249.99) features 3G/4G wireless backhaul and Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) while Netgear has two new access points using 3G, 4G and WiMax cellular networks and D-Link’s new products include the DIR-412 a small WiFi router that hooks to 4G USB adapters.

A Pelican 1510 case ($160) is the maximum allowed size for carry on baggage.

A $3000 “Network Relief Kit” (right), can be carried in a backpack and includes an Inmarsat voice/data terminal, solar panels, two netbooks, cellphones, and battery charging accessories. A $700 handheld Terrastar phone might be substituted for the $2500 Inmarsat terminal, although data rates would then be restricted to about 64Kbps.

A second Pelican case ($1500) would include a repeater and WiMAX backhaul. It would have two WiFi radios ($400), two 14dB panel antennas ($100), a 26 watt solar blanket ($300) and a Tekkeon External Battery with Extended Battery option ($235). Also included is a WiMAX modem with a mobile router. Hi gain antennas provide extended range to WiFi repeater hubs at remote locations if WiMAX is available.

A third Pelican case $2500) might include a couple 3G/4G mobile WiFi routers ($500), two 26 watt solar blankets ($600) with two, 12 Amp/Hr Lithium-Polymer batteries ($500), extra AA batteries with charger ($60), two Android camphones ($400) and two netbooks ($700).

Also included in this package might be two, 10×10 folding canopies with chairs, collapsible water jugs and other misc items. Everything might be carried by two people. It should cost less than $10,000. Every community center ought to have a kit like this.

Portland co-working facility NedSpace and OSU’s Open Source Lab are rallying tech volunteers in Oregon to help the relief and recovery efforts following Haiti’s earthquake, writes Mike Rogoway in the Oregonian. CrisisCampPDX is one of a dozen similar events this weekend organized by CrisisCommons (blog). Volunteers will gather in a BarCamp-style unconference to provide technical support to relief efforts on the ground in Haiti. Their Google Groups site and Twitter feed have the latest.

Haiti Live provides a real-time news source for major NGOs and people on the ground in Haiti. Here’s a live situation report using Ushahidi.

Ushahidi is a free and open source platform that uses crowdsourcing to map crisis information.

Dave Houghton, director of emergency management for Portland’s Multnomah County (below) explains the goals of an exercise last April called Cascadia Peril.

The scenario for Cascadia Peril ‘09, is a major earthquake and a coastal tsunami.

James Roddey, Earth Sciences Information Officer, Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries, is the prophet of doom.

HumaniNet says they have three Iridium satellite phones and one BGAN which can be loaned for teams deploying to Haiti. In the last five years, HumaniNet has assisted relief teams responding to the tsunami disaster in South Asia, the Darfur crisis, and Hurricane Katrina in the United States and helped NGO teams deployed to Indonesia, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan.

Gregg Swanson, director of Humaninet explains that humanitarian organizations are increasingly aware of the promise of geospatial information systems, and are utilizing tools like Google Earth.

Humaninet’s Maps 2.0 tool enables humanitarian organizations to post, access, share, modify, and use critical, geo-referenced information in emergency relief operations, post-emergency reconstruction, and continuing development projects.

All the gear necessary might be packed into 4-6 Pelican cases – ready to fly. A simulation day could be constructed on a parking lot, to test it out. Perhaps two network hubs (with 3-4 laptops and emergency power) could be interconnected.

Humaninet has pioneered this concept with SimDay exercises in Portland (right). For the satellite link, a MotoSat or Inmarsat terminal could be plugged in.

Two Wagan’s 30 Watt Solar Charger ($329.95) or Brunton’s 26 Watt thinfilm charger ($297) would produce about 50 Watts. A 26 watt panel produces 2.15 amps per hour. With 6 hours of sunlight, that’s 12 amp hours (24ah for two panels). A 24 amp hour lithium battery could power a dual-channel WiFi repeater for about 24 hours (using about 1 amp/hour). A 24 amp/hour lithium battery ($300), or a car battery ($50) might be required for 24/7 repeater operation.

A Tekkeon External Laptop Battery ($100-$150), can be charged with solar and delivers about 4.1 amp/hours at 12 volts. It will double the life of most laptops. A laptop that runs 8 hrs on batteries will go 16 hours. An $80 clip-on battery will double run-time again. For 24/7 laptop operation, perhaps three Tekkeon batteries ($120/each) could be charged with three, 26 watt solar blankets ($300/each).

According to my guesstimate, running a couple of energy efficient laptops (8 hr battery capacity) might require a 60ah battery coupled with a 60 watt panel ($1000) to keep it topped off. A CULV laptop with a 5,600mAh battery (5.6ah) is good for “up to 12 hours”.

Running 24 hrs/day, that’s about 12 ah (times two it’s 24ah). You don’t want to discharge the batteries more than 50%, so a 50ah (car size) battery seems about right for two laptops while a 4ah, 60watt panel could recharge the battery about halfway with about 6 hours of sunlight.

At the Waterfront Blues Festival for the last couple of years, Mike Boyd and I coupled a WiMAX home terminal to a 200 mW Meraki outdoor WiFi hotspot (with two remote repeaters). The total current draw was about 700 milliamps for the WiMAX/WiFi connection.

Best of all, it required no software — we plugged the WiMAX Ethernet cord directly into the Meraki and it worked immediately. No software disks required (you must have a WiMAX account, of course). The Meraki repeaters, about 100 feet away from the hub, automatically configured themselves and provided extended range.

Netbooks require less juice than laptops.

For more power, a 10 amp MPPT solar regulator ($99) and a couple of 50 watt folding solar blankets ($650/each) could deliver more than 100 watts (about 6 amps x 12 volts) with more efficiency using power optimizing MPPT technology.

Six amps times 5 hours (sunlight) a day is 30/amp/hrs. A 60ah battery, like this Xantrex unit ($400) might never go under 50% discharge and give you a power budget of 30 amp/hours a day. That should keep a several Netbooks going.

One Marine battery and a couple of 50 watt folding solar panels might keep an emergency tent and a few laptops connected to nearby WiFi/WiMAX tower.

A Little Genny LG400 (above) is connected to a LS6224 62Watt solar charger ($995). The 24V mobile powerpack ($3000) includes a voltage-regulated 115VAC pure sine wave inverter rated to deliver 1200 watts of peak power for up to three seconds (600 watts continuous), a 29.4V lithium ion battery array with 360 watt-hours of capacity, twin three-prong AC sockets, an XLR-type charging connector, voltmeter, on/off switch and power indicator light in a 14.2 x 11.4 x 6.5in (360 x 290 x 165mm) customized Hardigg Storm iM2100 case. Weight is about 19lb (8.6kg).

The Big Genny can operate a 1000 watt AC device for over an hour and can be solar charged. Perhaps these devices could be rented out to movie companies for $100-$200/day to help subsidize their cost.

ECOTality, through its eTec subsidiary, is working with the U.S. Department of Energy on the Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles Grid Interaction Project to determine the feasibility of transmitting the stored electrical energy in plug-in vehicles back to the grid via bidirectional fast charging.

Most EVs will travel about 4 miles per kWh. Electric vehicles like the Nissan Leaf have a 24kW Li-ion battery that goes about 100 miles. Since the average US house consumes electricity at the rate of 1 kW, perhaps one Nissan might provide enough power for a dozen or more Haitian families daily. A substation on wheels. SolarCity makes turnkey solar charge stations.

A Nissan Leaf, using using 48 lithium ion batteries under the floor takes 8 hours to charge using a 200-volt, single-phase AC charger, twice as long with 110. If a 24 kWh power pack is charged half way, that’s 12kWh, or perhaps 1.2kWh for 10 hours. That might require 10-12, $400, 125 Watt solar panels. Perhaps a Nissan Leaf could tow its own solar-charging carport in a utility trailer and be assembled in a matter of hours. Meanwhile, the Leaf could be used by government employees for routine business and save money.

A solar-powered V-Sat terminal might use two 85 W solar panels with a 6 hours solar/day. That generates about 1 KWh and will power a satellite terminal for 25 hours (a Viasat system with a 3W NJRC BUC and LNB needs about 43W).

Want to track every satellite in real time on Google Earth? Click here. NASA’s J-Track 3-D shows 900 satellites moving around the earth using Java animation.

Telegeograhy says the only international submarine cable system directly connecting to Haiti, was ‘disrupted’ as a result of the earthquake. Haiti Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC), the operator of the only international submarine cable system directly connecting to Haiti, told TeleGeography Thursday that the Bahamas Domestic Submarine Network (BDSNi) was damaged and the company is currently remotely assessing the extent of the damage.

Haitian fixed line operator Teleco jointly controls the undersea fibre-optic link connecting Port-au-Prince to the Bahamas, and from there to the US, in partnership with BTC. The BDSNi cable is designed with a maximum 1.92Tbps transmission capacity, is utilised by Teleco alongside INTELSAT satellite infrastructure, and it is not known how much of Haiti’s traffic is currently routed via this cable.

However, much of Haiti’s international communications remains largely reliant on satellites.The voice networks of Digicel Haiti, Comcel (Voila), Teleco and Haitel are operational but suffering severe problems with congestion, interconnection and coverage. The largest mobile network, Digicel, says its engineers are trying to add capacity to the network to address traffic congestion.

Mobile Emergency Response Operations Centers put disaster response on wheels. They typically provide:

  • 200KW Generator, with a 6000 gallon fuel tank, capable of operating for 14 days.
  • 100 telephone lines, with an additional 100 in place should they be needed.
  • State, County, and City of Mobile 800MHZ Radio system.
  • Emergency Alerting System (EAS).
  • Amateur radio communications.
  • Local and national television monitoring, plus 3 satellite monitoring systems.
  • Internet and Local Area Networking capability.
  • Computer modeling programs for various natural and technological disasters.
  • Specialized Emergency Management computer software for maintaining, analyzing, and reporting emergency situations.
  • Web EOC
  • Interoperability Communications Capability

Under the National Response Framework, the Army Corps of Engineers supports the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in disasters or emergencies by providing public works and engineering services like infrastructure assessment, debris clearance, emergency power, temporary roofing for houses, and the establishment of temporary housing or critical public facilities.

TerreStar’s satphone service is now operational. It features dual-band operation, working with AT&T’s cellular network for ubiquitous service throughout North America.

SkyTerra’s dualband satphones, by contrast, will combine both terrestrial 700 MHz Public Safety networks and satellites. It may be available later this year, after their satellite launches.

You’d think that states like California, Oregon and Washington would buy many hundreds of $800 satphones and many dozens of Inmarsat BGAN terminals.

A Big One is due. U.S. coastal areas will likely be cut off, due to the earthquake and then the tsunami, some 15 minutes later. Terrestrial networks — including police/fire and commercial cellular networks — all need power. Their networks will go down.

Temporary fixes may be available in a few days, but one might question if terrestrial first responder networks are more about agency turfwars than public service.

Oregon plans to spend hundreds of millions on a state-wide terrestrial 700 MHz network, but it may provide “iffy” service with little or no data connectivity.

There’s an app for that. The 700 MHz “D” block was expected to provide nation-wide connectivity using a unique public/private joint partnership. Instead of using Project 25 police radios (right), smartphones would provide push-to-talk voice groups and high-speed data on the 700 MHz band.

The “D Block” pairs 10 megahertz of (unbid) commercial 700 MHz spectrum with 12 megahertz of public-safety spectrum to create a 22 MHz block that will be shared by both the private sector and first responders. In a disaster, public service users get priority. The idea is that commercial providers would provide the funding for a terrestrial 700 MHz network — not taxpayers.

Perhaps the Haitian disaster will spur the FCC and Congress to make it happen.

First responders may find their police radios, without direct internet access, are increasingly irrelevant. Free Google tools for nonprofits (PowerPoint) are available to everyone. End users can develop solutions that really help — and they will.

About 3 percent of every donation made to Mercy Corps via credit card goes to pay swipe fees to payment networks and banks. So it came as a relief to the Portland-based relief organization that, perhaps thanks to pressure from the Huffington Post,  major credit card companies will waive transaction fees for donations to Haiti.

Protopage is a free AJAX start page. You can dynamically add RSS news feeds, sticky notes and bookmarks and social media. It’s a great prototyping tool and can be used on mobile devices.

A situation room could be constructed anywhere, perhaps in hackerspaces around the world.

They provide live monitoring and would be open to the public. The situation room would be a natural gathering spot for local developers, aid workers and anyone with an interest in the current situation in Haiti. It would utilize 3-4 donated video projectors and maintain a live Skype video connection with people in Haiti.

I envision an AJAX-heavy website with a strong social component, driven by real-time RSS feeds on food, clothing and shelter, along with a people finder, jobs, and streaming audio and video. Perhaps these “hackerspaces” could be hubs for expedited contractor services, developing open source maps and data bases from teams located around the world.

Twitter clients include TweetDeck which can monitor dozens of topics while TwitPic might update photos. Here’s real-time results for #Haiti.

Perhaps daily NGO news could be aggregated into a daily posting on YouTube and Flickr. The TWIT Live news hub is moderated by subject matter experts.

At WiFi hotspots, the splash page might be the real-time content aggregator. PubSubHubbub is an open, server-to-server web-hook-based pubsub (publish/subscribe) protocol as an extension to Atom, designed to speed up RSS and improve its competitive edge.

Twitter visualizations like Tori’s Eye, TwitterVision for the iPhone and Twitter Network Visualization (below) can clarify spacial relationships. Here are some Community Geospatial Links to Haiti.

Dailywireless has more information on the Haiti disaster at Mapping the Haitian Disaster, Haiti: Satellites Up, Fiber Down, Haiti: Telethons and CrisisCamps, and my PdxHaiti technical volunteer web site. CrisisCampPDX is one of a dozen similar events this weekend organized by CrisisCommons (blog). Haiti-connect.org has more info on building a mesh network.

All ideas are welcome!

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