In the wake of natural disasters, communication between first response units can mean the difference between life and death. But as we saw during the Nepal earthquake, these situations are prone to power and internet losses, leaving victims dangerously isolated from potential rescuers. We have already seen the MobileMill — a portable trailer which combines solar and wind power to provide energy for first response units in emergencies. Now Reachi, a solar-powered device using a mesh network, can send signals from person to person even when phone lines and power go down.
Reachi was created by a team of Danish designers led by Pernille Skjødt and Ida Stougaard. The gadget is a disaster-proof device which resembles a walkie talkie. It is waterproof and runs on solar power; it uses meshing technology similar to that used by the FireChat app, which has enabled protesters to communicate even when connectivity has been limited by governments. Both systems use matured mesh which guarantees signal without the need for vulnerable physical structures.
The device has been undergoing testing in the Philippines where natural disasters are problematically regular — approximately 30 per year. The Philippines has a network of 1.8 million Red Cross volunteers, who are distributed across the country. They will eventually be assigned a device each and be able to use it to communicate basic information about their location, and the number of people who are injured or need food. That information is sent to headquarters via the mesh network, where the data can be used to coordinate rescue plans.
Where else could this autonomous device be used?