Seashore Networking with ERA

Do you need to stream video and audio over sea cliffs from remote coastlines around England? No problem now with the Enabling Remote Activity (ERA) system!

The latest field trials, funded by JANET’s Rapid Innovation Grant and JISC’s Portable WLAN award have seen the ERA team exploring Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and live streaming video, and investigating how to communicate with remote universities using 3G phone and satellite connections.

Kindly invited by Earth and Environmental Sciences to attend their Durham based residential summer school "Environmental change: the record in the rocks" (SXR369), the ERA team has spent the end of July undertaking technical tests at authentic fieldtrip locations. ERA has won funding from JANET to improve its existing rapidly deployable field network, focussing on adding VoIP to the system, enabling the team to offer connectivity to more hard to get to places. ERA grew from the need to support mobility impaired students to fully participate in field explorations over difficult to reach environments, and this summer gave us the opportunity to test the system along the rugged North East England coastline, culminating in a fieldwork session with a group of students at Howick. The ERA system allowed a field geologist in remote and rugged field sites to communicate with students in a base location, beaming back video and high resolution still images, enabling the students to complete their course objectives.

The ERA team have also been exploring how to connect these remote locations back to students in distant universities, funded by JISC. Access to authentic field locations has given us the opportunity to test exactly how satellite BGAN (Broadband Global Area Network) connections and 3G phone links work in these areas of geological interest, and how the equipment stands up to field conditions.

We’ll be writing up our results at the project website, so keep watching the wiki for updates, but for the moment, we’re just getting the sand out of our boots!

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