As part of a National Science Foundation grants (CNS-1018112 and CNS-1055061 ), we at University of Arkansas are developing a self sustainable solar powered emergency mesh. The goal is to develop a set of ultra-low power solar nodes that can serve map based information to survivors of natural disasters like a flood or earthquake.
There are several research and engineering hurdles that needs to be crossed to make such a system practical. First, the mesh nodes need to be ultra low power (for sustainable operation on small solar panels) and at the same time should be powerful enough to serve map-based information to survivors. Mobile phone users should be able to use the mesh to get safe directions to a relief camp or a food store on their phones in the absence of an Internet connection. Second, a key challenge is placement of the nodes such that optimal connectivity can be maintained inspite of the topology of the terrain. A third challenge is to port and run a sophisticated GIS software such as openMaps on a resource constrained low power device.
We are working towards an actual deployment of a 35 node mesh. We are combining a mix of hardware and software techniques to design the solar powered mesh. In the process of developing the system, we are also developing a set of solar profilers, solar replayers (to emulate solar panels in the lab), and highly efficient power supplies.