Domestic wireless routers could be a Plan B for emergency responders

Emergency first responders often are at the mercy of the reliability of a cell phone tower or mobile network to do their jobs effectively and efficiently. So what happens when those resources are taken away? A team of German researchers believes they may have found a solution: domestic wireless routers.

Such tools, typically used for connecting multiple computers in a home or office to the Internet, also could serve as a Plan B of sorts for first responders in the event a cell phone tower or mobile network is down, according to a recent study published in the International Journal of Mobile Network Design and Innovation. The researchers tested the theory in metropolitan areas on different continents, and believe it would be successful in a medium-sized town, as well.

They used a war-driving app--which enables users to search for Wi-Fi wireless networks while on the go--in addition to GPS data to demonstrate the concept. In an area of 0.5 square kilometers, the researchers found nearly 2,000 routers, 212 of which were public, according to an ABC Science article.

"With a communication range of 30 [yards], a mesh network could be easily constructed in urban areas like our hometown," the researchers said in a statement.

The team suggested that future wireless routers include an "emergency switch" to enable access to routers in such situations; doing so, they said, would not intrude on individual privacy.

Researchers from the same institution last year found that smartphones also could help to create ad-hoc emergency communications networks in emergencies.

To learn more:
- here's the abstract
- read this announcement
- check out this related announcement
- read this ABC Science article
- read this announcement from the university on smartphone networks