Putting wireless networks to the terrorism test

University of California, San Diego researchers last week got a chance to test out a host of network technologies on something they hope they will never really have to be used for: a terrorist attack.

The Operation College Freedom drill involved a coordinated effort by the school and local emergency and law-enforcement officials to respond to a simulated terrorist attack.

"This full-scale exercise is the culmination of a three-year, US$4 million research project carried out by the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology," said Calit2 Associate Director Leslie Lenert, a professor of medicine at UCSD and Director of Health Services Research for the VA San Diego Healthcare System, in a statement.

At the heart of the drill was a system overseen by Lenert called the Wireless Internet Information System for Medical Response in Disasters (WIISARD). It is designed for tracking mass casualties, coordinating triage and managing medical data.

More specifically, technologies tested included:

  • CalMesh: An ad-hoc network of lightweight Wi-Fi access points.
  • iTag: A system for tagging patients so that their medical status can be determined locally and tracked centrally.
  • Antenna Caddy: A sort of mast structure for raising multiple types of antennas at a disaster scene.
  • RealityFlythrough: A helmet-cam/wireless tablet PC that enables first responders to send real-time video and still images to a central server that can be used to compile a broader picture of a disaster scene.

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