A natural disaster strikes. Once safety and well-being are both assured, a long-term process of rebuilding begins. In the chaotic days to follow, families will struggle to find basic resources such as water, fuel and home repair supplies. Meanwhile, with damaged cell towers and unreliable internet, communication can often be a challenge. Without clear next steps and organized data, volunteers may not reach those who need help the most. Through Project Lantern, we are building a city-wide wireless network that deploys in seconds for a stronger, safer recovery.
The Lantern is a keychain-sized wireless router for when internet and power are scarce. Lanterns use long-range radio to share maps, report conditions and send status updates straight across town. Just like the hotspots you find at airports and cafes, the Lantern offers an open Wi-Fi network. Unlike these hotspots, each Lantern serves browser-based applications that work offline. A handful of Lanterns will connect neighborhoods many miles apart and reach across rivers and valleys.
The Lantern software runs inside any smartphone, tablet or desktop browser. While connected by Wi-Fi, users will access real-time maps, travel routes and status updates for their region.
The system broadcasts information across several channels, each of which represents a basic need. Mobile-friendly interfaces will help users to report emerging conditions and help coordinate relief efforts. New channels may be added anytime to meet emerging needs and customize for each neighborhood.
Requests and reports are first saved and organized per channel in the Lantern's built-in database. Next, other nearby Lanterns will ask for updates and automatically synchronize their own databases through long-range radio. Over time, all Lanterns share and visualize the same data. Everything is available to search, filter and sort. This ensures everyone is on the same page.
The Lantern may be assembled from an envelope in minutes without tools, internet access or prior planning. All parts snap together for a portable device that just works. There is no software installation or setup required.
Lanterns are made from lightweight, commodity parts and their locations may be easily tracked. As a result, they may be kept at operating bases, carried on trucks and bikes, or left in mailboxes for shared access. Since data is shared across all Lanterns, lost units can be easily replaced and the network can be expanded organically.
Each Lantern uses three wireless radio technologies to reliably share data between neighborhoods. Once internet access returns, changes are automatically sent to the cloud where they may be shared with concerned family, relief organizations and government officials.
The Lantern plugs-in to any USB battery pack and can run for many hours at a time. We detect usage and activity patterns to intelligently conserve power across the day.
Project Lantern offers more structured, reliable ways to report and monitor emerging needs. More than that, we aim to support real communities in 2018 and beyond as they rebuild and reimagine. We are currently in the prototyping stage and we welcome feedback and contributions as our project evolves.