Monday, May 31, 2004

Mobile Wi-Fi Hotspots Offer Unusual Opportunities

Mobile Wi-Fi Hotspots Offer Unusual Opportunities

RKD recently forwarded a link to MagicBike, "a mobile WiFi (wireless Internet) hotspot that gives free Internet connectivity wherever its ridden or parked." This idea is reminiscent of a 2002 project by the Media Lab at MIT to provide Internet access to remote locations in rural India via roaming buses that offered Internet services using store-and-forward architecture.

Initially dubbed PostNet, and later renamed DarkNet:

The network spontaneously reorganizes itself as more devices are added or removed from it. Each device has an antenna for radio frequency communication, allowing it to be detected by the network. When a node or a device goes off line, the network is able to detect and reroute a request. If, for example, one is accessing a stock service hosted on one’s intranet through an intermediate device located elsewhere and that device loses its connection or logs off, the network will be able to reroute any request through a different device.

As far as I know, the PostNet/DarkNet project is still active, though probably under a new name.

The potential of mobile Wi-Fi hotspots to offer Internet connectivity to remote places is impressive. Consider the Wi-Fi access point that, according to a BBC News article, yak farmers in the mountains of Nepal use to keep in touch with their families. Mobile hotspots could significantly expand the reach of this antenna, whether they were implemented as buses, bicycles, or even yaks.


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