It’s now been almost a year since hurricanes Irma, Jose, Maria and countless mudslides tore into the heart of Puerto Rico, Florida, the USVI, and the Caribbean. Much progress has been made. Power, communications, and water have been restored to much of the islands. However, this progress is tenuous as we saw with even tropical storm Beryl. Light rains and wind can knock out 41,000 Puerto Rican families from the power and communications grid in the blink of an eye. Even a few inches of rain can create catastrophic mudslides and flooding that close mountain passes and render towers inaccessible to receive diesel. What will another Maria do?
Unfortunately, there has been NO PROGRESS whatsoever with Gotenna in the last year. Out of the 300 emergency communications backup relays that were to be installed in Puerto Rico to help with relief efforts and serve through the 2018 hurricane season- none have been delivered, installed, or published since the original 16. There are still no publicly available emergency relays other than the ones published on http://imeshyou.com for municipal San Juan and Barranquitas since November – still only 16 of the 300 have been published. Only 84 have been confirmed to have even shipped to Puerto Rico following the successful crowdsourced fundraiser on Razoo by Gotenna partnered with PR-Reconnects. But we have no idea where they are – and first responders and survivors are unable to leverage them. Worse, NONE of the Federal Emergency Management FEMA, Homeland Security DHS, Customs and Border Patrol CBP, or Coast Guard USCG nodes that our $900,000 in taxpayer funding payed for have made it to Puerto Rico or been published for first responder, NGO, or community use. None. Even though Gotenna has taken literally millions from the U.S. Government, not a single emergency management communications relay or crowd-funded relay or donated node from Gotenna has made it’s way to the map to enable use by disaster victims or survivors – in stark contrast with Fema’s ICS/NIMS guidelines (“it is critical to know where… resources are located”). And rather than answer any questions, Gotenna cries fake news and steadfastly refuses to answer.
Where’s the $900,000 in recent Federal Government spending on Gotenna? Where’s the $16,600 crowd-funding? Where’s the $4000 Gotenna took from the fundraiser for Puerto Rico disaster relief? Where are the 216 Gotenna meant to form a “critical backbone” for Puerto Rico relief, rebuild, and recovery- that never made it? How many of the 84 have been installed with solar battery backup and iphone with sms or satellite backhaul – as promised? Did Razoo indeed take 10% off the top from donations to aid Puerto Rico disaster recovery as alleged?
I guess we have to be content not knowing, because one thing is for damn sure: after a year of questions in every form possible, Gotenna is NOT answering. Instead, Gotenna has deleted/censored any posts asking questions, ignored emails to customer service, even going so far as to banhammer, for literally a thousand years, any account raising a legitimate question about Puerto Rico or an update to the map of emergency relays.
Now for the good news: Gotenna HAS ultimately responded by updating their map of Puerto Rico emergency gotenna communication relays- NOT to add any of the 216 nodes, but to *remove* about 25 Gotenna relays known to no longer be on the island belonging to DHS Disaster Medical Assistance Team DMAT, Coast Guard, US Airforce, Piratas, Valor Response Team and others. They still have not removed the All Hands Gotenna units from USVI. But they, at least, have made an effort, albeit minimal and quite late. It’s somewhat remarkable that they refused to do this for months and only completed the task LITERALLY as tropical storm Beryl dissipated AFTER hitting Puerto Rico. #SafetyThird
Gotenna has finally issued the updated 5.0 (promised for January). Initial impressions are that they have done a pretty damn good job – better late and correct than early and fubared. The bluetooth connection stability issues that plagued version 4.x seem to have been remedied so far. 5.0 seems to maintain and auto-restore bluetooth connection much more reliably – and messages seem to cache to a gotenna for delivery once connection is reestablished with the phone. They’ve finally updated to 6 hops communication relay (up from 3). They’ve provided a sweet new SOS emergency beacon feature with customizable emergency message which can even be triggered by the gotenna device without the phone by rapidly tapping the gotenna power button five times. *(It should be made clear that GPS position may be stale in headless mode and this doesn’t seem to work on all phones)*.
However, it’s not clear if the 6 hop limitation will apply to emergency SOS shout messages or whether the emergency SOS shouts will employ the SMS relay function.
Built on Gotenna SDK apps are starting to bear fruit. Gliderlink (a free 3rd party app) seems to be providing great blue-team tracking (up to 62 miles away!!!!) on vanilla Gotenna mesh devices. Samourai Wallet seems to be getting ready to release TxTenna – an app to allow offline sharing of bitcoin. Mesh Toolkit (only on iOS :((( provides some amazing scripting, automation, twitter and webserver backhaul options to allow for completing hops across the internet, IFTTT programmability, SQL queries, amazing geek shxt. WISH THIS WERE AVAILABLE FOR ANDROID!!! For example, you can have your home relay gotenna automatically respond to queries with updated gotenna battery level, iOs device battery level, backhaul connection status, iWatch augmented reality AR integration … it’s truly amazing.
The deadline for SDK app competition submissions has been pushed back- 30 days away: August 13 for a chance to win a fully-paid first class trip to NYC and up to $1500 in cash and another thousand or so in loot. Some other prizes for second and third place too. Anyone can enter – even if you don’t have a gotenna yet.
What taxpayers and Government oversight reform committees, reporters, watchdog groups (HELLO EFF) and IGs should be asking is… how much of the upwards of $900,000 in taxpayer funds were committed to the Gotenna PRO model which is wholly incompatible with the first responder, community, and NGO friendly Gotenna MESH device? What Razoo, as the fundraiser, and Gotenna, as a “partner” in the Puerto Rico fiasco, should be asking is: “where tf are the 84 Gotenna emergency relay devices?”
In broader brush, with societal level implications, how do we put the United States Coast Guard LifeFlight or 911 or FEMA, for example, in touch with communities, with abuelas in the mountains that do not have fancy thousand dollar “PRO” gadgets when the towers invariably fall, the lines dip in puddles, poles shattered like toothpicks, no phone, no internet, no wifi…. People that most need help will likely only have an old version of an android Obama phone – with older versions of android. THEY need to be able to call for help. They need reliable information during and after a storm. Partnership needs to be made with NextRadio to use the FM / NOAA emergency broadcast messages.
Thinking constructively, for the devs, if Gotenna Mesh (900Mhz) is indeed wholly incompatible with Gotenna PRO model (140, 440Mhz) sdr that gov first response and leos will be using… can leo and first responder devices easily and reliably bridge the gap by running both Gotenna PRO and commercial public SOS Gotenna mesh apps and reliably supporting both simultaneously over bluetooth? It strikes me as ironic that the PRO model CANNOT receive Emergency SOS shouts in cleartext over public airwaves, with full licensure and emergency exemption from FCC redtape. There’s literally no way to let First Responders .gov communicate with the public emergency SOS Gotenna mesh? #Irony
There has been a very very cool development in Puerto Rico. Just last week, a consortium of some serious players, scores of innovative entrepreneurs, students, ngos, startups, and non profits all came together to do a public collaboration, with the University providing free space, computers, internet, cafe? for what the makers call a hackathon. Several REALLY cool ideas have come from this with volunteers writing code and sharing ideas, collaborating toward reliable and usable emergency backup communications on the island. #CallForCode #MeshingWithData
Through all of this, some minor concerns remain; accordingly, these are the 20 best questions, that while likely never answered, may be worth pondering going forward:
- Will Gotenna ever donate the remaining 216 units to Puerto Rico?
- Will PR Reconnects or Gotenna ever build an actual critical backbone – as promised?
- How many of the 84 have been donated or placed with communities or First Responders?
- How many of the 84 have been deployed with solar, battery, iphone, satphone, or sms backhaul?
- Will the SMS / SatPhone / Twitter medical relay backhaul ever be functional?
- Will they ever publish the locations of the donated or the taxpayer funded public comms relays?
- Will they ever provide for pruning stale emergency relay locations from the map at imeshyou.com to remove some of the no-longer functional gotenna emergency relays?
- They have indicated that a hardware change will be necessary to allow auto-power restore. Is this coming before Hurricane Season really picks up? Will Mesh v2 include the GPS chip for true headless SOS and more intelligent mesh routing, especially for MOAN relay nodes?
- They have indicated that the 6 hop functionality will be crippled with the next version and require a $9 subscription. Is this 6 hop limit artificially imposed on Emergency SOS broadcasts? Or will it remain unlimited?
- Some phones are being reported to not work with the Emergency Beacon functionality. Will this be corrected and when?
- Gotenna, cognizant of their very limited range should partner with Next Radio App or another FM radio app that could allow some form of the one-way emergency transmissions.
- FEMA, DHS, and USCG should coordinate more with Gotenna as it is now a defacto emergency backup communications critical national infrastructure operating with public funding on public airwaves and employable to save many lives.
- Will Gotenna, as a publicly funded communications common carrier using public communications frequencies, stand up and commit to defending the spirit, if not the letter, of the First Amendment?
- Will Gotenna commit to working with other disaster communications options like Beartooth (another publicly funded mesh communications device using the exact same public ISM 902-927Mhz airwaves) or Sonnet labs or Globalstar Spot X or Garmin Inreach Sat phone devices or BridgeFy, Briar, Firechat?
- Given that Gotenna cannot effectively moderate or curate their imeshyou.com map to maintain emergency node locations, will they move to a community moderated map? an open (opt-in) dynamic map? Or an open-source map like Open Street Maps, Open Signal, or Aftermath mapping?
- At what point does a common carrier that we entrust with our data, taking millions of our taxpayer and consumer dollars, freely using public resource airwaves, start having an obligation to live up to certain common decencies?
- Why would you build the Government Gotenna PRO to be wholly incompatible with the Gotenna MESH (the one used by everyone for Emergency SOS shouts?) How does a survivor reach one of these first responders? What best practices do you suggest? Any ideas?
- Does a government contractor, paid with our taxpayer money, in compliance with statutes, necessarily have to provide some level of public open source access or audit of the code created with gov funds? foia?
- If a company is going to market to first responders for emergency, disaster “critical” communications, should that company perhaps have a help-desk open after-hours? Perhaps during hurricane season or when there’s 1, let alone 2, active hurricanes?
- Why does it take several months to get a Gotenna curated map updated to remove emergency communication relays which are KNOWN by Gotenna to NOT EVEN EXIST anymore? Why months? What was the communication breakdown and how can we avoid that again? Are you following ICS/NIMS guidelines? Are there proper channels in place, as a corporation, for Gotenna to communicate directly with FEMA, DHS, and local first responders & municipal leos? #SafetyThird
TLDR; not good but some hope and recent improvements in almost all areas.
If Gotenna REALLY wants to stand up and lead, they could start with donating the few hundred (or even a few dozen) they promised. With millions from the feds, 20–40,000 device sales, a grant to supply another 20,000 to NYC alone,Gotenna has the means but chooses not to do the right thing. IMHO. Though they are right… they are not in the helping people game; it’s likely not directly profitable immediately; they were only paid $4000 from the fundraiser. But this investment in Puerto Rico would pay off by jumpstarting Puerto Rican businesses founded by Boricua computer sciences, IT, electrical engineering students. The dividends would pay back a thousandfold, by exploding the iOS, Android, and PC/Mac app stores with customized emergency and first responder, hiking, sailing, kiteboarding apps tailored by geniuses in their own self-interest in every imaginable area which will in-turn drive new device sales, with a positive chain reaction of people seeing the network growing and buying to join. Gotenna is uniquely situated to address this and, it would be folly to miss this opportunity to help.