Combining some of myfavorite topics, the end of the world and crowd funding hardware we have Outernet. A project promising to provide a low bandwidth but continual loop of the most important Internet content (as decided democratically) from space received with a solar powered satellite receiver / WiFi access point to access it. They also plan to provide real-time updates on natural disasters and political events by uploading from a few control stations. Sounds great but is it real?
Their Indiegogo campaign has already reached its funding goal but flexible funding campaigns, especially ones promising some pretty polished hardware perks raise suspicion. Researching the company further, it appears they already have investment so there’s a decent chance they can afford to make the perks. However, employee responses to technical questions on their formus leave doubt as who there has the technical know how to build the hardware.
Satellites are another question. According to their Indiegogo campaign and forums, they haven’t settled on a single strategy yet. At present they seem to be renting bandwidth on existing satellites broadcasting on the Ku band. Receiving Ku Band requires a roughly 15 inch dish aimed at the satellite. The prototype receiver has a port to be connected to a re-purposed satellite TV disk but it won’t be useful without it. Cube sats are also mentioned but this seems a little strange with their claim of perpetual Internet with a pocket receiver since cubesats don’t have the space or power for high gain transmitters and generally fall out of their orbits relatively quickly. None of the proposed solutions so far seem likely to endure much past their maintenance by Outernet ground station so the claim of Internet Forever seems a bit exaggerated.
One of the most exciting things about what Outernet is doing is collecting stand alone archives of useful web content. Wikipedia, Khan Academy, Open Source Ecology and Linux images would all be great repositories to have archived on thumb drive, laptop, e-reader and smart phone regardless of whether satellites launch or perks ship. Unfortunately, so far their library seems to consist mostly of Colbert report podcasts and Wikipedia articles that are unlikely to be very useful in a disaster.
It will be interesting to see what Outernet does in the next year.