Report Promotes Rural Ad-Hoc Networks
Wednesday, July 15, 2009 | Comments




Photo courtesy Doug Galarus, MSU/WTI

By Sandra Wendelken, Editor

Mobile ad-hoc networking (MANET) technology should be considered for rural agencies facing a lack of public-safety communications infrastructure, according to a study by professors at Montana State University.

A November 2008 report on mobile ad-hoc networks for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Safecom program found that in a situation where backbone access is limited, MANET could be used to share and extend connectivity throughout the scene of an incident. In a situation without any backbone access, MANET can help provide data communications within an incident in the absence of infrastructure.

Researchers from Montana State University’s Computer Science and Electrical and Computer Engineering departments and the Western Transportation Institute (WTI) teamed with the Hot Springs County (Wyo.) Sheriff’s Department to investigate how MANET could be applied to rural public safety.

Five scenarios were derived, based on actual events and stakeholder input, to represent a test suite under which MANET could be applied and tested. Several ad-hoc routing protocols, AODV and DSR, were tested within scenarios and against each other. DSR was extended to support quality of service (QoS) requirements, resulting in a new protocol named QASR. In nearly all cases, QASR outperformed AODV and DSR, and demonstrated that QoS requirements could be satisfied in certain rural public-safety applications. Results are dependent on network density, technology and frequency, and general bandwidth requirements, the report said.

Dr. David Boyd, director of the DHS Science and Technology Directorate’s command, control and interoperability (CCI) division, said some of the experiments from the study will be turned into pilots. “The rural areas are difficult to serve,” he said. “Because they are thinly populated, it’s hard to come up with investments that are affordable. But there is the same kind of need for data.”

Researchers said the study demonstrated the potential for application of MANET to rural public safety. While the technology isn’t applicable in all situations, sufficient promise was shown to merit further related research and development. The researchers have promoted QASR at Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) conferences and publications to give the new protocol visibility and initiate a dialog for MANET designed to meet rural public-safety needs.

“There are public-safety agencies implementing ad-hoc and mesh networking, but the protocol within this project is not currently implemented in equipment for production use by public-safety entities,” said Douglas Galarus, WTI senior research associate and one of the report authors. “Wyoming is continuing with their development of more traditional radio networks to help meet the needs of groups like the Hot Springs County Sheriff’s Department.”

Richard Wolff, a researcher at Montana State University and another report author, gave a presentation on the research at the IEEE International Communications Conference in June. "We are currently examining the feasibility of using this type of QoS routing in ad-hoc networks in combination with other research we are conducting on the use of adaptive array antennas," Wolff said.

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