EII Resiliency Network
A connected community is a strong community. The community wireless networks of the Equitable Internet Initiative (EII) support neighborhoods to be self determined, safe, and resilient, especially in the midst of a natural or political disaster. We believe that increasing resiliency means building and deepening relationships so that we can draw upon those relationships to develop creative solutions in times of change and uncertainty.
EII fosters the sustainability and resilience of our neighborhood networks through four elements:
Battery Backup Systems for EII Network Backbones
Public Solar Charging Stations
These incorporate accessories like outdoor picnic tables and benches with a charging station for portable devices. Attached will be physical maps that identify resources like water, shelter, and power in the surrounding neighborhood. Each station is also a public portal to EII’s intranet and a public Internet hotspot.
The strength of our wireless networks will be determined by the strength of our human networks. We will train the EII Digital Stewards in facilitating and designing the human networks needed to activate the neighborhood resiliency plans. This includes identifying PNK locations, teaching hosts and residents how to use each aspect of the network, and designing Solar Charging Station accessories that are relevant to the community. Stewards will work with neighborhood leaders to identify the roles and responsibilities of people and places if a disaster were to happen.
A Battery Backup System for EII Network Backbones
EII neighborhood networks have three layers:
- The backhaul Gigabit Internet connection: This high-speed wireless connection comes from a higher-tier Internet Service Provider.
- The distribution network: This series of links spreads the Internet connection to the relay sites at the edges of our networks.
- Resident access devices: These Customer Premise Equipment (CPE) devices pull the signal from the distribution network into the homes of residents.
The battery backup system keeps the backhaul connection, distribution network, and intranet servers running for up to 3 days, allowing residents the ability to communicate if the power is unstable. With a combination of solar charging stations, Internet hotspots, and Portable Network Kits that extend the network, we can cover EII neighborhoods with a communications system that can be used in an emergency to exchange resources and organize. The intranet will host applications on a local server including but not limited to a chatting application, a map of resources based on the one created by Next Gen Apps students in Islandview, file sharing capabilities, and music box - a community radio and storytelling app.
Year-round function: Batteries will keep the network backbone functioning throughout the year.
Emergency function: Keeps main parts of the networks running, so people can access the intranet to communicate.
Capabilities: The battery back-up system prototype provides at least 100 Ah (amp-hours) of power to core network equipment. This is a direct 48 volt DC power system, meaning there are no conversion losses to the equipment that would be introduced by using an inverter and AC power supplies. The battery backup system voltage, charge state, and temperature will be monitored by a dedicated device and logged in the Network Monitoring System (NMS).
Participatory Design: Digital Stewards in each neighborhood designed the network architecture with local partners who have agreed to be a part of the resiliency planning. Together, they identified two vulnerable areas and neighborhood hubs where batteries should be located. These points will be places people can congregate and plan the distribution of resources and Portable Network Kits in an emergency. These sites will act as the backbone of the resiliency networks.
Portable Network Kits (PNKs)
The Detroit Community Technology Project (DCTP) partnered with the Resilient Communities Initiative, who designed the Original Portable Network Kit (PNK), to design an EII PNK that will extend EII neighborhood networks in order to reach a broader population. The original PNK, which can cover up to three blocks, was designed as a popup network for training purposes. It creates an autonomous communications system and, if there is an Internet connection, a Wi-Fi hotspot. With or without an Internet connection, the PNKs act as a portal to an Intranet with local applications. DCTP has designed PNK workshops with Resilient Communities for the original PNK, to train organizations and individuals who are working on safety and resilience strategies throughout Detroit, such as We the People of Detroit and the Detroit Safety Team. These workshops will help identify how the PNKs can enhance organizers ongoing work while simultaneously demystifying wireless networks.
The EII PNK is made up of two components that work together to extend EII neighborhood network coverage.
One component connects to the EII Backbone and extends its’ signal to cover a four block diameter. The other connects to the EII PNK to further extend the signal an additional three blocks by creating a mesh network.
This will allow for a wider communication range when there is no power. These kits will be able to run up to 24 hours before needing to be recharged. Solar charging stations will be placed throughout each EII neighborhood to allow for recharging.
Year-round function: The original PNK will be used to test the limits and possibilities of EII networks as well as to train organizers on resilient communications. Just add internet and it can act as a public hotspot at festivals, outdoor events, or conferences.
Emergency function: The original PNK will be used both inside and outside of EII neighborhoods to support block clubs, rec centers, and neighborhood leaders in communicating with their neighbors during an emergency. The EII PNK will be activated in an emergency throughout the EII neighborhoods, extending the EII network and allowing neighbors to communicate on the intranet in the case of a power outage.
Specifications & Capabilities: The EII PNK contains a battery backup system with 14Ah of capacity, with a 12V power output. This 12V output is converted to 24V Power over Ethernet (PoE), which in turn powers a small router, wireless dish that can connect to the EII distribution network, and a mesh-capable Wi-Fi Access Point (AP). There are optional directional antennas for the AP, as well as a low-power single-board computer with local applications in case the EII distribution network is unavailable.
Participatory design: Digital Stewards will work with EII backbone router hosts, their advisory boards, and network clients to create preparedness plans that answer the who, what, when, where, why and how around PNK activation in an emergency. This plan will identify PNK locations, management of the network health, and systems to train neighbors on using the intranet.
Public Solar Charging Stations
DCTP has installed one of these stations as prototypes for charging and fabrication testing. There are plans for an additional five to seven charging stations within the EII neighborhoods. These stations will live in both public indoor and outdoor spaces spaces, such as gardens, parks, recreation centers, and with volunteer residents. These stations become resilient neighborhood hubs that allow residents to access the following: electricity; maps with the location of resources, emergency contacts, and graphics explaining the resiliency network; and the EII intranet. The intranet allows people to access a suite of apps. These apps will include a resource map based on the Islandview Central community mapping app, a communication app and our Music Box storytelling app. Preparedness plans designed by EII digital stewards and the network users will be located with directions on how to activate PNK kids and access the applications and intranet connections.
DCTP will install the basic infrastructure of the solar charging stations at anchor organizations that are part of the EII network. Each solar generator host will receive a stipend to design further functionality for their charging station with a local fabrication group, Incite Focus.
Year-round function: A public charging station, a Wi-Fi hotspot with 25 Mbps upload and download speed, and a portal to local applications that can be used to organize and exchange information throughout the year.
Emergency function: Access to electricity in the case of an outage, an internal communication system, maps of neighborhood resources and help, and a gathering spot to plan and activate preparedness plans.
Specifications and Capabilities: Five Solar Storm 100-watt Panels can fully recharge the Solar Generator in 3 hours of ideal sunlight. The battery storage allows for up to 3 days of continuous use. The outputs include (6) 110V AC plugs, (1) 30 Amp RV plug, (2) 12V DC universal car sockets, (4) USB outlets, and (2) 12V DC Basecamp LED Light ports.
Participatory design: Hosts of these devices will work with Incite Focus to design and fabricate accessories like seating, water catch systems, or community bulletin boards. This will foster collaboration between neighbors and ensure that the overall design of each charging station is relevant to the space it is in.
What makes the EII networks so unique is that they are built and maintained by residents that live within the networks. We believe the key to sustaining a community network is fostering community ownership. We have learned through our work that to foster ownership of technology, people must be able to adapt it to their neighborhood context. In order for this adaptation to occur, they must understand the workings and capabilities of the technology.
There are four facets of the community organizing process:
- To help activate the EII Resiliency Networks, DCTP worked with partner networks in NYC to organizing community meetings to facilitate the development of preparedness plans. These plans will identify the roles of people and places during an emergency.
- For our resiliency networks to be helpful, people need to know they exist. DCTP has created a graphics campaign with a kit of parts to design visual indicators directing people to resources. In addition, each solar charging station will house a zine with information including how EII networks work, how to access the intranet, and a map to help identify resources.
- The collaborative design process for the Solar Charging Station accessories described above will further foster community ownership. The accessories could be things like seating, water catchment systems, community bulletin boards and Wi-Fi hotspots. It will be up to the surrounding neighborhood to decide!
Year-Round Function: A connected community is a strong community. In the process of designing all of the human elements of those project people will learn new technologies, build relationships within neighborhoods, and take ownership of their neighborhood safety systems.
Emergency Function: In the face of chaos people will be prepared to activate and use the technological systems we’ve put in place while supporting each other in staying safe.
Participatory Design: Hosts of the devices will work with a local fabricator to design accessories like seating, water catch systems, or community bulletin boards ensuring they are relevant to each neighborhood while also fostering collaborative design amongst neighbors.