Can We Use Your Router, Please?: Benefits and Implications of an Emergency Switch for Wireless Routers

Can We Use Your Router, Please?: Benefits and Implications of an Emergency Switch for Wireless Routers

Kamill Panitzek (Telecooperation Group, TU Darmstadt, Darmstadt, Germany), Immanuel Schweizer (Telecooperation Group, TU Darmstadt, Darmstadt, Germany), Axel Schulz (Telecooperation Group, TU Darmstadt, Darmstadt, Germany), Tobias Bönning (Department of Computer Science, TU Darmstadt, Darmstadt, Germany), Gero Seipel (Department of Computer Science, TU Darmstadt, Darmstadt, Germany) and Max Mühlhäuser (Telecooperation Group, TU Darmstadt, Darmstadt, Germany)
DOI: 10.4018/jiscrm.2012100104
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During rescue missions first responders rely on voice communication making crisis management nearly impossible without good means of communication. Unfortunately the communication technology used by first responders today does not scale well. Also most of the given infrastructure, such as cell towers, might be destroyed after a disaster. Therefore, ad-hoc and peer-to-peer-based communication schemes have been proposed in recent research to provide scalable and resilient communication. Most mobile phones today are equipped with wireless transceivers that make them suitable to participate in ad-hoc networks. But in this case, device density might be too small for a connected topology. In this paper, the authors propose an emergency switch for privately owned wireless routers. The switch allows wireless routers to transition to an emergency mode creating a supportive wireless mesh network. To analyze if such a network would result in a resilient topology real data from wireless routers in a city is gathered. They calculate the locations of private and public routers from GPS traces and compare the resulting networks with each other. Finally, the authors discuss open and critical questions and implications the proposed emergency switch would introduce.
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Emergency Mode For Wireless Routers

The amount of households equipped with Internet connection heavily depends on the country. In economic countries like Sweden, Singapore, and Denmark more than 90% of the citizens have access to the Internet from their homes according to a study in 2011 (Morales, 2013). In the United States 80% and in Germany 77% of citizens have Internet access from their homes. Many of those households use wireless routers to connect multiple devices to the Internet. Especially in apartment buildings this may lead to a multitude of available wireless routers. The authors perceive this fact, when searching for available wireless devices at home. The routers found during the scanning process belong to neighbors in the same building or in houses on the opposite side of the road.

This infrastructure is very dense and should be available to first responders during rescue missions in urban environments. This is why we propose an emergency switch for wireless routers. The idea is to create a wireless mesh network (Raniwala & Chiueh, 2005) by interconnecting all privately owned wireless routers. This infrastructure then acts as a communication backbone in case of a disaster. It can fill the communication gap between the incident site and the command and control center by forwarding the network packages from one router to the next until the destination is reached.

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