As smart phones become an everyday essential for the world’s citizens, IBM has invented a way to weave the devices into a system to disseminate emergency alerts about weather and natural disasters, even when cellular networks are overloaded or not functioning. The technology is built into a new app the Weather Company and IBM will release later this month for Android devices in developing economies. The app allows phones to use Bluetooth and Wi-Fi to pass alerts about problems such as floods, storms, or tsunamis among themselves, instead of via a connection to a cellular network. These messages can travel long distances by hopping across multiple devices.
The Weather Company will initially activate the mesh networking feature for users of its app in India. After that, it plans to gradually turn it on in more of the 41 countries across Asia, Africa, and Latin America in which its lightweight Android app for developing world markets is available.
Corporate, academic, and military researchers have explored this form of “mesh networking” for years as a way to make digital communications more resilient. The rise of smartphones has created the possibility of making Internet-free connectivity more widely available, and travelers venturing through underdeveloped lands can still stay abreast of weather alerts thanks to the new technology.