Wednesday, August 10, 2011

On the ground at Chaos Communication Camp 2011

As in 2007, CCC is being held at Luftfarht Museum Finowfurt, Germany. So, I am writing this from in my tent next to a soviet-era air field in former East Germany, surrounded by old MiG fighter jets and other remnants of the era.

The talks are being held in several of the earth-clad bunker/hangers, like this one:

CCC has an incredible 3,500 attendees from 45 countries this year, setting up a temporary tent city with more than 170 themed villages.  I am camped in the lee of a large tent in the Blackout Resilient Technologies Village.

This village targets those working on technology that keeps power and communications up when faced with disaster.  The charter of the village recognises that natural disasters and government "kill switches" are both forms of infrastructure deprivation, and that similar technologies are required to enable communications and social function whatever the cause of infrastructure deprivation may be.

For me, I am planning to work on a few things.

First, I will work with people from the Radio Village to further integrate OpenBTS and Serval, and hopefully expose OpenBTS users to the Serval Distributed Numbering Architecture (DNA), which will allow Serval mesh phones to call ordinary GSM handsets that are connected to an OpenBTS open-source mobile phone base station.

Serval DNA is a very simple protocol that I sometimes describe as "ARP for telephone numbers".  It allows a phone on a mesh to ask "who has this phone number?" and get back a network address that can be used to connect to that telephone.  This protocol is what allows the Serval mesh to seem just like an ordinary telephone network to end users, by completely distributing and hiding the complexity of call resolution.

I also hope to work with some of the people from the OTI/Commotion project to demonstrate a "mobile phone network in a backpack" by doing the final integration of a Village Telco Mesh Potato, a wideye BGAN satellite modem and some android phones with the Serval mesh software installed.

This will be an important step as it will demonstrate a low-cost and highly portable communications solution that can be used, for example, in disaster relief, for remote work forces and humanitarian organisations.

Finally, in any spare time I get I will work on what we are calling the "non-privileged mesh" for Serval.  This will remove the main reason for needing "root" or "jailbreaking" your phone to get the full benefit of the Serval mesh software, and will also allow us to port to more types of mobile phone easier.  So this is pretty important.  It also sets the stage for us to do some preliminary work on setting up mesh networking using the ISM915 band, but more on that in a future post.

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