HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – Imagine picking up your cellphone and making a call without wireless service, the Internet or landlines. Sounds impossible right? Well, a local company tells WHNT News 19 it is possible, with a new communications system it’s developed.
WHNT News 19 technology reporter Michelle Stark was given an exclusive look at how it works.
“The system was really designed to provide high speed communications when everything else was out, including commercial power,” Dobbs explained.
Many communities across the Tennessee Valley were left in the dark after the April 27, 2011 tornado outbreak. It took days for power infrastructure to be fully restored and regular communications patterns established.
So how does NExFIELD work?
There’s a central “master station” and several mini-towers called nodes. These nodes are spread out at a distance (up to several miles) from the “master station.”
Together, they create a totally “off grid” communications system – one Dobbs said doesn’t send signals using the Internet, cell towers or any of the traditional pathways we’re used to.
In a demonstration for WHNT News 19, all it took was a few clicks and two computers could talk to each other “peer to peer.” It was the same for two smartphones from different makers.
Developers point to that flexibility as a critical benefit of NExFIELD. Since the system works with most smartphones or tablets, users can “bring their own device” to the system. There’s no need, for example, for emergency crews to have specialty radios. They could just use their phones.
“We wanted essentially to have ordinary citizens to have access to this, without any kind of preparation whatsoever,” Dobbs said.
To log-in to the system, users would search for NExFIELD in the “find networks” section of their device. They’d need a password to complete the log-in. Once inside, Dobbs said calls and texts are untraceable and therefore not subject to the kind of domestic spying or hacking incidents seen lately.
Since NExFIELD is also totally portable, Dobbs envisions it as a secure, simple solution for emergency crews, fire departments or medical responders. It could also be of use to deployed military, moving quickly to different locations and needing a secure, mobile communications network.
Dobbs could also see NExFIELD as a potential public utility of sorts. A city could purchase the system and permanently install it for public use, then distribute an access password.
The company has just received patent-pending status on its technology.