Project Byzantium

In emergency situations such as post-disaster environments, communication and coordination often become difficult due to damaged, inoperable, or insufficient infrastructure.  To address these challenges, HacDC (a non-profit group of developers based in Washington, DC) created Project Byzantium, an inexpensive and easy-to-deploy replacement for wireless communication infrastructure.  Project Byzantium temporarily repurposes Wi-Fi-enabled computers to act as wireless routers, or nodes, creating an ad hoc mesh network.  This solution makes it possible for Wi-Fi-enabled devices such as laptops, tablets, and smartphones to connect to one another or to the Internet.  In addition, Project Byzantium includes web applications that allow users to exchange information, call for help, and organize situational response.

Byzantium is designed primarily with emergency situations in mind; to that end, the developers seek to make Byzantium Linux as fast and easy to get running as possible.  Byzantium Linux is largely pre-configured, and completes the setup process without human interaction as it boots.  This leaves the user free to assess and carry out other emergency-related tasks.

With a grant from the ISC Project, HacDC developed Byzantium Linux version 0.5b, which added new features that made the Project Byzantium network more capable of facilitating reliable communication during emergencies. Byzantium Linux now supports two additional hardware platforms, Apple and RaspberryPi.  Expanding Byzantium Linux platform’s diversity also expands the Byzantium network’s user base.

In addition, HacDC integrated amateur radio functionality into Byzantium Linux to address the difficulty of connecting mesh networks that are located further apart than the span of standard Wi-Fi networks.  This is because amateur radio operates at lower frequencies and offers higher transmission power, superior transceiver quality, and greater antenna flexibility.  All of this provides an increased signal range for each node on the mesh network. With this new version, Byzantium requires fewer nodes to create a continuous mesh network, and it increases the number of usable broadcast sites.

To download Byzantium Linux v0.5b, visit http://project-byzantium.org/byzantium-v0-5b-hybrid/