Imagine what would happen if every mobile phone tower in the US spontaneously combusted. We'd be in big trouble, which is why the Pentagon is exploring other ways to communicate in the event of an emergency. Chief among them is the idea to connect every mobile phone in America with mesh networking technology.
Actually, the technology already exists in our mobile phones. As the Department of Defence's Chief Information Officer Terry Halvorsen pointed out to members of the President's National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee this week, every mobile phone is basically just a small radio.
"Should we mesh these together to propagate a broadcast signal to replace the old civil defence broadcast?" he asked. Halvorsen is referring to a Cold War-era program that would alert Americans of a military attack by bouncing signals from one radio station to another. You could technically do the same thing with mobile phones.
"It would be unimaginable 50 years ago to talk about a situation where every citizen has a UHF transceiver in their pocket," Halvorsen added. "But that's what we have today, and we should think out of the box in how to leverage that in emergency situations."
This type of mesh networking is already happening, in a way. Apps like FireChat (pictured above) enable mobile phones to communicate with each other even when there's no reception. This is how many protesters communicated during the Occupy Central movement in Hong Kong last year. Meanwhile, in Cuba, thousands of people who can't afford the country's absurdly expensive internet service use wifi equipment to create mesh networks and communicate with each other. You can even use mesh networking technology to keep tracking of your belongings these days.
The obvious concern with turning every mobile phone in America into a giant mesh network is the possibility of someone hacking it and possibly sending out fake alerts. That and the whole Orwellian implication of the Pentagon tapping into all of our phones. But hey, that's already happening.
Picture: Firechat app