When Tropical Cyclone Debbie hit Queensland last week, one of the casualties was the region’s mobile phone network. Phone towers can stop working because they have been damaged by the wind, or because they have run out of diesel to run their generators.
Whatever the cause, the end result is the same: a number of people will find their mobile phones not connected to the network, leaving them without communications for an extended period of time. Here's how to stay connected in times of need.
It’s not just tropical cyclones that can affect mobile communications. Bushfires and other disasters can also lead to a break in the network.
This loss of communication is extremely isolating, and potentially very dangerous. Whether it’s the inability to call an ambulance or the absence of regular safety warnings, a lack of communications can be life-threatening.
The sensation of being cut off from the rest of the world also brings with it a danger of a different kind. Severe isolation can cause concern for our loved ones. This very human problem is what led me to start my research in this area.
So how can we let people communicate using their mobile phones, when the phone network isn’t available?
All about networking
For nationwide communications, you really do need phone towers and their supporting infrastructure. There currently just aren’t any good alternative solutions to providing communications on such a large scale.
But if you change the scope of the solution to focus more on internal communications within smaller communities, alternatives suddenly begin to present themselves.
Australia might not be renowned for its prowess in winter sports - we live on a bloody dry continent, don't we mate? - but we've got a strong contingent at this year's Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. Our prospects look pretty good, and there's always the chance one of our athletes pulls a Stephen Bradbury, too.
If you want to watch live, online and free throughout the Winter Olympics, then we've got you covered.
Yesterday, Google made a few changes to the way Image Search works, the biggest tweak being the removal of the "View Image" button they would take you straight to the image's URL. Now, all you'll see is "Visit", which navigates to the page on which the image appears. So, why did Google do this? A legal settlement with Getty Images basically.