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Portable Sousveillance
Jamais Cascio, 6 Jul 05

wifihotpack.jpgMike Outmesguine's guide to assembling a wearable WiFi hotspot is getting a bit of attention, and it's not hard to see why. His setup allows a full, relatively high-speed Internet connection; putting it all in a solar backpack, used to recharge the batteries, adds a nice Bright Green tint to the package. The system uses the "Junxion Box," an off-the-shelf WiFi gateway device -- there's little real hackery involved -- and relies on the growing EV-DO high-speed cellular network. It's not cheap to build, probably running a bit more than a thousand dollars (not counting network connection), but definitely not too difficult of an at-home project for many.

While most folks would probably use this for checking email in the middle of a park or web browsing for directions while driving, I see it as a particularly useful piece of what I call the participatory panopticon.

Imagine this scenario: it's a near-future national election, and protesters are out in force. Wanting to be able to (a) make a record of the event, and (b) keep track of troublemakers among both the police and the crowd, organizers distribute cheap wireless webcams to a number of participants. The webcams are routed through a backpack like this one (although probably with a longer life, whether due to more efficient components or a bigger battery), so that what they see is immediately sent out over the Internet, viewable by anyone and easily archived in dozens of different locations anywhere in the world. Additional backpack routers mean wider coverage for webcams.

In time, the hardware to do this will get smaller and require less electricity, just as solar panels will continue to become more powerful; expect to see a similar set-up able to operate 24/7 within a few years. The real wildcard in this is the availability of high-speed cellular networks. EV-DO is not universally available, and is incompatible with the GSM "3G" system slowly being rolled out in Europe. I'm sure it will all be worked out eventually...

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A satellite truck you can wear on your back. Nice!

Videobloggers will go nuts.

Posted by: Eric on 7 Jul 05

What is the bandwidth you have to upload data on cell networks?

Posted by: Daniel on 7 Jul 05

I just blogged the applicability of the wearable hot spot to terrorism response after attacks such as the one today in London:

Posted by: David Stephenson on 7 Jul 05

cool: wonder if citizens could of prevented the bombing better than the government?

Posted by: stefanos on 7 Jul 05



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