Need Comms Now is a system designed to track cell phone and wifi signal strengths in areas with damaged infrastructure during disaster scenarios. Data will be stored locally, while periodically synchronizing with a server when possible so that others may benefit from the gathered information.
Initially, it will involve an android app publishing to a web server stored on Heroku, though the server will use a generic API while sending JSON data, so any device capable of sending data over the internet will be able to interact with the online database.
In disaster environments, infrasture is often weak or nonexistant. Having a method of finding cell phone service on the fly is essential. If someone is in danger and needs to call in help ASAP, they often won't have time to spend a half an hour wandering in the wrong direction because they can't find cell service to get help. Having a quick and effective method of finding out where they and others have received cell service can make a drastic difference.
During this event we were able to prototype an Android application to track and record cell and wifi signal strength locally as well as a server to enable remote storage of the data for anonymous sharing between apps. The app periodically checks in with the server, both uploading and downloading any new data if a data connection is available. If a connection is not available, it slows down the frequency of syncing to save battery life, and maintains a backlog of data for sending at a later point.
During the June 2012 RHoK in Seattle, we continued working on the app. We now have:
- Reliable marker rendering on the map.
- A sane algorithm for tracking strength of cell / data / wifi signals.
- Updated client side server syncing code.
- Separate out signals by carrier
- Smarter wifi detection [including SSID]
- Ad-hoc networking for situations where there is absolutely no service
- Google Fusion Tables integration
- Displayihng time data
- Better collision detection with the server
Spread the word! Let people know the app exists. If you know someone that works as a first responder for disaster events, point them to this project because it may very well be a useful thing for them.