Engineering a network in Haiti with Google Earth

In the time since the tragic earthquake in Haiti 14 months ago, we’ve seen a variety of uses of Google Earth to help cope with the event in various ways.
Today we’re looking at how the Church of the Resurrection in Kansas City is using Google Earth to prepare for an upcoming relief trip to the country.
Last year, the church sent 15 teams to Haiti to help repair and rebuild various facilities including churches, schools, medical clinics, and more. However, the teams had a very difficult time communicating with their support systems in the US due to poorly-operating internet connections and wifi.
Last April, Clif Guy went down to help troubleshoot and repair/upgrade internet service in the Methodist guest house in Port-au-Prince so that subsequent teams would be able to stay in communication. During that trip and over the next 6 months he made major improvements and through the process learned a great deal about ISPs in Haiti and the challenges of dealing with intermittent service and intermittent availability of electricity.
This weekend he’s heading back down to Haiti to install network infrastructure and Internet connections in five Methodist buildings in the small town of Petit Goave, on the coast 42 miles west of Port-au-Prince. One of the five buildings is a school (College Harry Brakeman) where they will also be setting up a computer lab for use by high school students. Since Internet connections are very expensive in Haiti, it’s much more economical to install a primary and backup connection and then distribute the connections to the five buildings via radio links rather than purchase a separate connection for each building.
Working with a volunteer (retired manager from AT&T) who is their advance person in Petit Goave, they used Google Earth to mark the locations of the facilities that need Internet access. Once they had locations identified, they were able use Earth to perform a virtual site survey – distance between buildings, building elevations, terrain profiles along the paths between buildings, etc. in order to engineer a building-to-building wireless network. He chose a central location on the highest ground and with the best electrical power to be our network hub. Using Earth and some simple trigonometry he was able to select directional antennas that will allow them to establish the links from the hub to the other buildings with the minimum number of radios.

petit-goave.jpg

It’s an impressive piece of work. The files aren’t as complex as many that we’ve shown you over the years, but the simple fact that they were able to do so much planning from so far away because of Google Earth shows just how useful it can be.
If you’d like to view their plans in Google Earth, you can download the KMZ file here. Buildings are marked with yellow push pins. Radio links are marked with red paths.
Nice work Clif!

About Mickey Mellen

Mickey has been using Google Earth since it was released in 2005, and has created a variety of geo-related sites including Google Earth Hacks. He runs a web design firm in Marietta, GA, where he lives with his wife and two kids.



Comments

  1. Thanks SO MUCH for posting this!!! This hits close to home. I was a part of five teams that traveled (the ministerial staff) to Petit-Guave, Haiti during the mid to late 1990s, to work on the medical clinic referenced by Clif’s KMZ file on Petit-Guave.
    I had the great good fortune to meet Harry Brakeman on one of our trips. The clinic that is referenced was an eye clinic sponsored by Highland Park UMC in Dallas. (I was the mission staff at the time).
    As referenced in the files, the clinic was destroyed by the earthquake with, in fact, the current mission team from Dallas inside of it at the time. While most of the team escaped, one member did die of her injuries from the collapse.
    I an certainly attest to the huge difficulties in communication there in PG, Haiti. On our trips, we simply assumed that we would not be able to communicate with home for the duration of our several week stays. (at the guest house in PG) There was *one* pay phone downtown, but in all my trips I think I only managed to get it to work once.
    It is really fantastic to see these images, and to know that the great COR will continue the good work of the Harry Brakeman School.
    Thank you SO much for this!

  2. Lee Badman says:

    Great information. Would anyone who has been to Haiti as part of these rebuilding/improvement initiatives be willing to field some questions- particuilarly about the communications and ISP related issues in Port au Prince? I run a very large WLAN for a private college in NY, and we may well have a trip coming up to help a Haitian school, and I could really benefit from some first hand knowledge. I’m at lhbadman syr.edu

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