TIER is a research group at the University of California at Berkeley, investigating the design and deployment of new technologies for emerging regions.
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Wireless mesh networks have gained a bit of popularity lately as a mechanism for bypassing Internet censorship. We in TIER have a bit of collective experience actually building wireless mesh networks and have come to see that they are impractical to build and operate at any meaningful scale. I wrote a piece this weekend about some of the technical reasons why mesh networks cannot work. Worse, the recent fascination with the technology itself threatens to divert resources from more effective real-world action in support of Internet free speech: wireless networks are great, but censorship and government oppression cannot be countered through technology alone.
In collaboration with the Papa Legaba camp, TIER (@kheimerl and @shaddih and working with Tapan Parikh and Coye Cheshire) are going to be testing some of our ideas about community owned and operated networks (see our writeup on small-scale GSM networks for developing regions here) at Burning Man this late August.
Though we at TIER are all resting (or writing disserations) over this summer period, our friends at Mobile Active (MA) have recently psoted a writeup of a trip TIER took to MA a month ago. We demonstrated OpenBTS and the Village Base Station, showed a number of potential GSM attacks on handsets, and made a call through a VSAT link. It was a great time.
Here's their blog post: http://www.mobileactive.org/village-base-station-project
I've been thinking about crowdsourcing's application to development for a while now. Samasource is the most popular such system, but others exist (MobiWorks being the one I've interacted with the most). I've always had core issues with these systems, which have led to some epic debates (primarily with Prayag Narula of MobiWorks) in the iSchool's development seminar. My basic issues (that I can't take credit for) are simple:
Kerosene is the primary source of power in rural emerging regions across the globe and despite the rural electrification efforts of many governments it does not look like that will change soon. Unfortunately, kerosene power is not all that efficient or clean and it cannot be used to power the technologies we are bringing to emerging regions.
As some of you may know, the MetaMouse project has been ongoing at Berkeley for a number of years now. The short version is that it automatically converts any single-user Windows XP program into a multi-user, cooperative application. MetaMouse is primarily targeted at educational games in areas with limited computer hardware.
As some of you may know, we've been working on a GSM Base Station (BTS) project here in TIER for a few months. This project is known as the Village Base Station (a.k.a. the "one GSM base station per approximately 500 people" project) and detailed in a white paper we published at NSDR a few months ago.
I've tweaked it around a bit to be transparent and the correct size...
Probably could get better... But we do have a logo finally!
Here's some more play on it...
We're having the ICTD Social at B100 Blum Hall, UC Berkeley Campus at 5PM following the 4PM talk by David Green at the same location.
If you're around, please come and say hi!
TIER has a new website! Yes, you're looking at it. After a period of neglect, our website has finally gotten a bit of a facelift, as well as updates to reflect the current projects that TIER is involved in. If you're here reading this you probably already know that the address is the same as ever: