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Thailand Adopts New Wireless Network For Disasters

"It is important in an emergency to have something so complete," said Jean-Francois Cazenave, president of Telecoms Sans Frontieres, an organization that helps to establish communications following disasters.
by Staff Writers
Bangkok (AFP) Dec 01, 2006
The Asian Institute of Technology in Bangkok Friday unveiled a state-of-the-art mobile wireless network that can be used to establish communication for emergency workers after a disaster. The network, developed with groups in France, Japan and other countries, will allow rescue teams at a disaster site to communicate even if conventional forms of communication break down.

"What is available now cannot be used when infrastructure breaks down," said Kanchana Kanchanasut, leader of the project at AIT.

The new network allows emergency workers to set up a mobile satellite station that creates a wireless network for laptop computers or personal digital assistants (PDA).

Each laptop or PDA is then able to act as a node that can transmit the wireless signal to other devices further out in the field and extend the network into hard-to-reach areas.

The idea of the project, dubbed DUMBO, is to be able to turn any ordinary device into a wireless node without having to acquire special hardware.

Users on the network could use video, SMS or email to communicate with others on the network or over the Internet.

"It is important in an emergency to have something so complete," said Jean-Francois Cazenave, president of Telecoms Sans Frontieres, an organization that helps to establish communications following disasters.

TSF signed an agreement Friday that will allow the Asian Institute of Technology to use its technology during future disasters.

"It is a perfect complement to our strategy," Cazenave said, adding that the network could be set up quickly and was relatively inexpensive.

The first test run was performed Friday by a group of researchers on the southern resort isle of Phuket, where the Indian Ocean tsunami hit nearly two years ago.

Despite a few glitches, two groups of researchers on elephants were able to communicate by video with each other and with AIT in Bangkok through their PDAs while in the forest.

Kanchana said there is still a lot of work to be done, but she said the partnership with Telecoms Sans Frontieres will allow the researchers to test the network in the field and improve it.

"Even with today's technology, it could be employed in a disaster situation," she said.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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