1. BayView
    Offline

    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2014
    Messages:
    5,664
    Likes Received:
    5,158

    Using Cell Phones as Walkie-Talkies?

    Discussion in 'Research' started by BayView, Mar 29, 2016.

    I have an urban warfare situation, a militia group invading a small town and being fought by the residents.

    The residents have very little time to prepare for the invasion. Ten minutes, maybe. Assuming I can find a way to notify them all of the invasion, what's the most effective way for them to communicate with each other during the battle? Ideally I'd want them to have instantaneous mass communication, like radios that could broadcast instructions, and if it was useful I could make sure the town has a radio station that could be commandeered for the purpose.

    But... I don't have a portable radio. I don't think most people have portable radios these days, at least not ones that aren't hidden under an hour's worth of junk in the attic.

    Is there a way to make cell phones, or some similarly common device, work for this? I want something more mass-directed than just calling everyone or sending them texts. I was thinking about a Twitter hash tag, but that seems a bit non-direct.

    Can anyone think of a way for a group of modern citizens to stay in touch with each other as a group during a crisis situation?
     
  2. Wreybies
    Offline

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    18,901
    Likes Received:
    10,090
    Location:
    Puerto Rico
    I'm going to assume that the situation/setting means that normal cellphone connection via towers is down, yes? That would preclude companies that offer push-to-talk service as well... I found this thing called Beartooth Radio (sounds like radio service for hirsute, muscled gay guys) :whistle: but it looks to be a start-up, not an actual product as of yet. :bigconfused:

    http://gizmodo.com/beartooth-radio-turns-your-smartphone-into-a-walkie-tal-1635661204
     
    GingerCoffee, Cave Troll and BayView like this.
  3. Jack Asher
    Offline

    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2013
    Messages:
    3,571
    Likes Received:
    2,053
    Location:
    Denver
    What you're looking for is called a VOIP, voice over internet protocol. The most popular obviously is skype, which has an app for android and iOS, but there are bunch of much better ones out there as well. The issue with skype is that it's transmitting your audio information constantly, while other VOIPs are either push to talk, or only activate when their mic reaches a certain level.

    If it was me, I would make up an app and pretend it was super popular and everyone had a copy. This is probably advisable in any case, because I don't think skype can hold up a 50,000 participant phone call.
     
    KokoN and GingerCoffee like this.
  4. doggiedude
    Offline

    doggiedude Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2016
    Messages:
    1,454
    Likes Received:
    1,250
    Location:
    Florida, USA, Earth, The Sol System
    If you can limit your messages to normal radio type communication where there is a central point broadcasting information to everyone without them being able to respond ... I would go with commandeering the emergency broadcast system.
    Assuming you're in the USA, otherwise, I'm sure most countries have a similar system.

    I live in Florida and every few weeks EVERY cell phone in a few hundred miles radius will be sent a loud siren with a text message giving everyone an Amber Alert.
    For those who don't know an Amber Alert is an abducted or missing child alert.
    The message will give a brief description of the child and any information about the abductor and when the incident occurred.
    Being Florida, land of the old, all our highways have Silver Alerts. This is usually a disoriented and missing elderly person. It will have the car description and license number given on digital road signs.
    Then there's the original use of the Emergency Broadcast system. Where all the radios and TVs broadcast a weather warning or other impending disaster announcement.
     
    GingerCoffee, Cave Troll and BayView like this.
  5. Jack Asher
    Offline

    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2013
    Messages:
    3,571
    Likes Received:
    2,053
    Location:
    Denver
    Yeah, the first thing I do when I get a new cell phone is turn the amber alerts, silver alerts, and weather alerts, straight the fuck off.
     
  6. doggiedude
    Offline

    doggiedude Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2016
    Messages:
    1,454
    Likes Received:
    1,250
    Location:
    Florida, USA, Earth, The Sol System
    They can be turned off??!! That seems like a bad idea. I wonder why they let you do that.
     
    BayView likes this.
  7. BayView
    Offline

    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2014
    Messages:
    5,664
    Likes Received:
    5,158
    No, regular cell service should work - it just seemed like it would be too slow to have to call every person individually. I was hoping to find a way to have a sort of mass call.

    This is interesting!

    I wonder if the alerts broadcast to every cell phone that happens to be in the area (ie the invaders would probably get the signals, too) or just to those that are registered in the area (like, those that are billed to addresses in the area). Hmmm...
     
    KokoN likes this.
  8. doggiedude
    Offline

    doggiedude Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2016
    Messages:
    1,454
    Likes Received:
    1,250
    Location:
    Florida, USA, Earth, The Sol System
    At a guess, I would say it goes by which cell phone towers each cell phone is closest to at the time. I've never had a Florida alert while out of town.
     
    BayView likes this.
  9. Jack Asher
    Offline

    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2013
    Messages:
    3,571
    Likes Received:
    2,053
    Location:
    Denver
    Skype can do this. There's also a way to form a...well I don't know if there's a word for it. But when we were using ventrillo, which has a max of 150 people, sometimes you can chain it. The leader of the room opens up two instances, and sit in two rooms at once. They pass on stuff from one group to the next and pass it down the line.

    Unfortunately that was using a PC not a phone. I don't think you can do that with the skype app, so again, I recommend making up an app for people to use.
     
  10. BayView
    Offline

    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2014
    Messages:
    5,664
    Likes Received:
    5,158
    I'm not sure about the app-creation. You're right, it would be tidy, but I think I'd feel ripped off if I were a reader and the characters were relying on technology I knew didn't exist...

    Hmmmm...
     
  11. Lew
    Offline

    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2015
    Messages:
    591
    Likes Received:
    407
    You are going to have to have mobile communications, and if I were attacking a town, cell phone towers and power substations would be target one! Any broadcast alerts will reach the enemy cellphones as well as yours.

    Try enlisting ham operators. They have a lot of wide coverage VHF and UHF repeater towers that would be hard to find, and probably not on a target list. Problem is the communications are in the clear, so eventually after you repel the initial invasion, you will have to devise some SIMPLE set of opcodes. Keep it simple and talk to military folks that do this for a living.
     
    BayView likes this.
  12. BayView
    Offline

    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2014
    Messages:
    5,664
    Likes Received:
    5,158
    It's a small-scale invasion, just a hit-and-run, with no intention to occupy the town. It's really the short time frame that's messing me up - I want it to all happen really fast (so reinforcements can't arrive from central authorities) but that means there won't be time to really set up anything that isn't already in place. I feel like I'm stretching it just to have everyone grab their guns and brace themselves in the ten minutes or so I'm giving them...
     
  13. Jack Asher
    Offline

    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2013
    Messages:
    3,571
    Likes Received:
    2,053
    Location:
    Denver
    Well that's not entirely true. The technology is totally there to do this. There just isn't an app on the market that has that kind of functionality, because no one is organizing a 100 man raid on their cell phone. All that would require is a port of a program, like teamspeak or ventrillo, or a mod of skype of hangouts.

    The technology right now is all focused on video chatting, and it's hard to find a program that is speech only. The ones that are can support a large number of people, but you have to scroll down pretty far on the store bar to find them. That's the reason I recommended naming your own app, your audience probably wouldn't be familiar with any app you chose with that functionality.
     
  14. tonguetied
    Offline

    tonguetied Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 23, 2014
    Messages:
    548
    Likes Received:
    219
    Location:
    Near Atlanta
    Not sure if I understand the situation but it sounds like the townspeople have a ten minute warning and have to come up with a plan on the fly. First thing I would consider is calling 911, not sure what is the equivalent in Canada, maybe the same or 999. The 911 operator would direct the call to the supervisor and then a discussion should lead to that center being the command center. The emergency center might have a way to broadcast alerts as you need, the attackers would also see those it seems so that might be somewhat useless. Even if the attacking group took out the 911 center the phone calls should redirect to another off site location. Ten minutes is a bit tough to deal with a crisis.
     
    BayView likes this.
  15. Cave Troll
    Offline

    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2015
    Messages:
    3,807
    Likes Received:
    2,416
    Location:
    Where cushions are comfy, and straps hold firm.
    I think in a an open warfare scenario cellphones will not be all that handy. Mainly due to the fact that civilian communications will more than likely be targeted to disorient the masses, making it harder to coordinate. At least that would be the most plausible/logical plan for overtaking a populace and keeping them effectively scattered and scared. So it would be more believable that they would need to acquire, or have short wave (or range) communications such as walkie-talkies and old Ham radios to communicate. Utilizing hard-lines like old school plug in phones could work, as long as the lines have not been damaged. Flow is a key component in effectively coordinating, well damn near anything. The most efficiently flowing information will be the way to go. Having a decent standard radio just to get broadcast signals is a decent second choice.

    Just a few thoughts to consider. Cellphone=Useless junk in a war zone.
     
    BayView and jannert like this.
  16. Lew
    Offline

    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2015
    Messages:
    591
    Likes Received:
    407
    Even if cell phones are NOT targeted, in panic situation they become inundated with people checking on one another. After 9/11 cell phones were virtually useless in Southern MD, far from the attacks, for this reason... You simply got busy signals, or didn't even connect. The system is not designed to allow everyone to hit it at once.
     
    Cave Troll, jannert and BayView like this.
  17. jannert
    Offline

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,809
    Likes Received:
    7,333
    Location:
    Scotland
    Actually, it's really scary to think how quickly our communication and other basic systems could be wiped out these days. I get worried by how reliant we have become on something we have so little personal control over. And no real way to bypass it, if it all goes haywire. Quite honestly, I don't see a way around the problem, especially if it's dropped on the town with only 10 minutes' warning.

    I suppose, if there had been any reason to suspect an attack might happen, the town could have prepared for it. Dug radios out of attics, made sure they had batteries, set up a secret location where broadcasts could be sent and received, etc.

    Remember the new Battlestar Galactica show? That's how it began. When the cylons hit, they wiped out all inter-connected cyber systems. The reason the Galactica was able to escape is because it was in the process of being decommissioned and was no longer connected to the central system.
     
    Cave Troll and BayView like this.
  18. Lew
    Offline

    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2015
    Messages:
    591
    Likes Received:
    407
    I they know its coming get the National Guard in, that is their job!
     
  19. jannert
    Offline

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,809
    Likes Received:
    7,333
    Location:
    Scotland
    I think, for the purposes of 'story' that's probably not possible. :) If you can get in the National Guard, you just sit and let them do their job? Too easy. No story. I suspect @BayView is looking for a way for the town to defend itself, if it's cut off from any outside aid. However, I suppose a quick call to the National Guard in the 10-minute time gap might give hope of eventual rescue ...and might be a plot point to develop.
     
    BayView likes this.
  20. GingerCoffee
    Offline

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    17,605
    Likes Received:
    5,879
    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    The Amber Alerts come over my cell phone. It is a tad disturbing the first time an alarm rings from within one's purse. :p
     
    BayView likes this.
  21. tonguetied
    Offline

    tonguetied Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 23, 2014
    Messages:
    548
    Likes Received:
    219
    Location:
    Near Atlanta
    I had the understanding the town was very small and the attack was swift. First person that realizes something is happening would call 911. If that first point of attack was the 911 center they would have some preparedness and hopefully would get word out to their back up center before succumbing to the attackers. Interestingly enough cell phones are a bit more resilient than maybe thought, during the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew the cell phone network was overloaded but it still worked at least spottily for the most part. The other thing to note is that each cell phone tower is somewhat independent of the others, take one out and the traffic is redirected to another nearby tower and due to the cell network design even a relatively distant tower can provide service if it is the closest one to you, the phones automatically increase their transmit power as needed. The MSC, Mobile Switching Centers, that connect to the towers are redundant so it is very difficult to take out the whole network serving an area.
     
    BayView and GingerCoffee like this.
  22. GingerCoffee
    Offline

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    17,605
    Likes Received:
    5,879
    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    Because it can be annoying to get an emergency alert that, most of the time, doesn't apply to you. If I lived in tornado alley, I might leave that one on.

    Someone in this area is working on an early earthquake alert that could give people a 30-60 second warning. It doesn't sound like much but it could be enough for some people to take cover or get out of a building.
     
    BayView likes this.
  23. GingerCoffee
    Offline

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    17,605
    Likes Received:
    5,879
    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    I looked into peer to peer (P2P) communication for my novel.

    The first generation participants of the P2P movement was leading an underground fight against the commodification of the Internet, against the intellectual property regime launched by GATS through the WTO.
    In other words, threatened by corporate takeover of the Internet, individuals are developing ways to get around the gatekeepers.

    It gets more complex, but it doesn't take long to get the gist of the movement.
    Those are the parts we are mostly all familiar with. But there is another development that was manifest during the Iran and Arab Spring uprisings.

    http://ijoc.org/index.php/ijoc/article/viewFile/1392/616
    It's great material for a future dystopian society.
     
    BayView and jannert like this.
  24. GingerCoffee
    Offline

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    17,605
    Likes Received:
    5,879
    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    See my post above. :)

    I had to read a lot before I understood this part:
    P2P Foundation
     
    BayView and jannert like this.
  25. jannert
    Offline

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,809
    Likes Received:
    7,333
    Location:
    Scotland
    That's really clever, Ginger. It might work for her story. Is there any weakness in this system? Mind you, like any other solution to her story problem, it would be difficult to implement it in 10 minutes, if preparations hadn't been made beforehand. But still. It's a way forward. However, would it be vulnerable to interception? In other words, can the enemy listen in on these calls if they also have the Serval app? I imagine they could.

    It's that 10-minute warning time that's the problem. If the people in the story have time to prepare, there are lots of solutions. Without readiness, though....
     
    BayView likes this.

Share This Page