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Dispatch from Port-au-Prince

Inveneo's effort to network NGOs is off to a promising start

2 min read
Dispatch from Port-au-Prince

Engineers are making progress in their efforts to network NGOs in Port-au-Prince. Last Friday, Inveneo's team in Haiti, Mark Summer and Adris Bjornson, began deployment of the first of 15 long-distance WiFi Internet links for NetHope partner organizations across Port-au-Prince.

According to an account sent late last Friday to IEEE Spectrum by Inveneo's Joel Pliskin, Summer and Bjornson "started by connecting an Inveneo R4 Hub Server to the VSAT satellite Internet downlink from ITC Global and installing a local access point for the CHF International headquarters. Then they created two long-distance WiFi links from the headquarters CHF International, to two different offices of Save the Children in Port-au-Prince. The first link was around 2.5 kilometers long. Later this afternoon they established a third link to the offices of Catholic Relief Services."

"This is the start of the network we plan to establish within the next two weeks," Pliskin continues. "The final result will be a redundant, high-speed Internet connection shared via long-distance WiFi antennas with 15-20 NetHope member agencies. This new connectivity will open the flow of information within and among agencies and speed the delivery of critical relief services."

In an email sent to Inveneo's San Francisco office via the VSAT link he helped establish, Summer describes the scene in Port-au-Prince:

“Driving around you see many collapsed or significantly damaged buildings, often right next to completely intact ones. Here in the hills the damage is significantly less then down in the center of PaP where in it seems that in many areas more then 50% of the buildings are gone or beyond repair.

"We've seen buildings that have had two or three stories and now no higher then 5 feet of the ground - it seems as if walls just turned into sand...

"Many Haitians now live in parks, parking lots or simply in the street (often a whole road is closed because people now live it in) under tarps or in tents. You see people bathing on the side of the road, cooking in the street or parking lots etc.

"Currently the weather is very pleasant warm (in the 80s) but not too humid in the day and a nice cooling off in the evenings but not too cold. Once it starts to rain here things will be decidedly more unpleasant for the people living in the parks, streets and back yards.”
 
Inveneo's Pliskin says that the non-profit has already received requests for assistance from other organizations in Haiti. "As we gain a better understanding of local conditions and local partner resources, we hope to expand our impact and establish lasting ICT capacity in Haiti."

Nethope is covering equipment costs, while the EKTA Foundation has supported the initial deployment.

The Conversation (0)

Metamaterials Could Solve One of 6G’s Big Problems

There’s plenty of bandwidth available if we use reconfigurable intelligent surfaces

12 min read
An illustration depicting cellphone users at street level in a city, with wireless signals reaching them via reflecting surfaces.

Ground level in a typical urban canyon, shielded by tall buildings, will be inaccessible to some 6G frequencies. Deft placement of reconfigurable intelligent surfaces [yellow] will enable the signals to pervade these areas.

Chris Philpot

For all the tumultuous revolution in wireless technology over the past several decades, there have been a couple of constants. One is the overcrowding of radio bands, and the other is the move to escape that congestion by exploiting higher and higher frequencies. And today, as engineers roll out 5G and plan for 6G wireless, they find themselves at a crossroads: After years of designing superefficient transmitters and receivers, and of compensating for the signal losses at the end points of a radio channel, they’re beginning to realize that they are approaching the practical limits of transmitter and receiver efficiency. From now on, to get high performance as we go to higher frequencies, we will need to engineer the wireless channel itself. But how can we possibly engineer and control a wireless environment, which is determined by a host of factors, many of them random and therefore unpredictable?

Perhaps the most promising solution, right now, is to use reconfigurable intelligent surfaces. These are planar structures typically ranging in size from about 100 square centimeters to about 5 square meters or more, depending on the frequency and other factors. These surfaces use advanced substances called metamaterials to reflect and refract electromagnetic waves. Thin two-dimensional metamaterials, known as metasurfaces, can be designed to sense the local electromagnetic environment and tune the wave’s key properties, such as its amplitude, phase, and polarization, as the wave is reflected or refracted by the surface. So as the waves fall on such a surface, it can alter the incident waves’ direction so as to strengthen the channel. In fact, these metasurfaces can be programmed to make these changes dynamically, reconfiguring the signal in real time in response to changes in the wireless channel. Think of reconfigurable intelligent surfaces as the next evolution of the repeater concept.

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