I wrote about Inveneo and their bicycle-powered VoIP solution this past April 2005. The interesting thing about the company at the time was they were connecting remote villages with VoIP via wireless technology, Linux-powered VoIP and a combination of solar and bicycle power. This is really cool stuff. Inveneo is a non-profit entity and I recently wrote about how the company may get funded.
I had a chance to catch up with the management team at the company and although they are silent on confirming investment rumors, they have a great deal of things to say about what they are up to today.
Virtually the entire company has packed up and moved down to areas ravaged by Katrina so they can help set up communications for emergency workers and others. They are working in combination with the Army who have provided the company with generators (no pedaling required) and access to a T3 connection -- no latency on these VoIP calls. Moreover the army was nice enough to lend the company climbing gear enabling them to climb poles and mount their wireless devices.
See The Inveneo Team In Action In Louisiana and Mississippi
According to company representatives I spoke with recently who include Mark Summer the CEO & Co-Founder, Kristin Peterson the Chair and Co-Founder and Laura Mellow the CEO, there are many companies and organizations that have helped their efforts by donating time, effort, energy, equipment and money.
For example SocalFreeNet, Cisco, Wyse, MCI, Trango Broadband Wireless, and Digium/Asterisk all donated so much to the cause. T-Mobile also helped out by giving the company workers a good deal of free minutes. I asked how people could help their cause and they reminded me that Inveneo is a non-profit organization and as such you can donate directly to the company and it is tax deductible.
Our discussion evolved into talking about how much they accomplished in an ad-hoc fashion and what would happen if indeed they could prepare for a disaster ahead of time. For example if they had time they could have taken advantage of satellite uplinks to allow much easier and smoother communications set up.
What is needed according to the company is an organization that is set up to ensure we have emergency preparedness in communications networks. What we need is to have drills perhaps on an annual basis where we go to remote areas of the world and test the systems to make sure everything is in proper working order. Indian reservations might be a great place to start for example or even remote villages around the world.
Without communications, disasters become bigger disasters. We have found this to be the case after 911 and Katrina. In order to get things back to normal we need to ensure we are able to quickly and easily speak with one another over distance.
I for one am proud to be associated with the VoIP industry as it enables easier communications in the aftermath of disaster situations. Where would we be without VoIP, wireless and other technologies as well as the courageous people that decided to invent ideas like bicycle-powered VoIP machines? The world would be a worse place without the brave and selfless people donating their resources to a great cause that benefits humanity.