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Phone's Wi-Fi Hotspot Acts as Sos Beacon in Disasters

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People can be trapped under rubble after a disaster.

A new app turns a smartphone into a wireless beacon that could help rescuers find people trapped in collapsed buildings after a disaster takes place.


Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Information Technology have developed an app that turns a smartphone into a wireless SOS beacon that could help rescuers find people who have been trapped in collapsed buildings after natural disasters or bombings.

The researchers say they noticed the messages people sometimes broadcast by changing the name of their home Wi-Fi networks and thought a short SOS message could be inserted into the name field of a phone's Wi-Fi hotspot as well, which broadcasts a radio signal without requiring Internet access. Rescuers can then read the message with their own Wi-Fi app. The researchers developed a victim app and a seeker app, both of which are based on robust and receivable Wi-Fi radio.

With the victim app, a trapped person can write a 27-character message, and a seeker app up to 100 meters away can pick it up, according to the researchers. The researchers want the victim app to be incorporated in Android or iOS operating systems because users do not expect to be in a disaster and are unlikely to download the app ahead of time.

From New Scientist
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