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                  High-frequency Emergency and Rural Multimedia Exchange System

The High-frequency Emergency and Rural Multimedia Exchange System, better known by its acronym, HERMES, provides affordable digital telecommunications over shortwave/HF radio using a simplified visual interface accessed via smartphone or computer, allowing for the transmission and reception of data (chat, audio, documents, photos, GPS coordinates, etc). For security, this information can be easily encrypted and password-protected by the sender. HERMES, both architecture designs and software, is free and open-source.

 

We are excited that this project was selected as the winner of Mozilla’s Wireless Innovation for a Networked Society (WINS) Challenge, giving us the opportunity to develop the system into something truly useful for isolated communities. You can read what others have written here and here.

 

Full system documentation can be found in the Resources tab below and and source code is here.

 

hermes

 

The Goal

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Provide reliable and affordable communications in rural and remote places where access to Internet is difficult or non-existent due to isolation or disaster – places generally extremely limited in their back-haul and energy options – as it is too expensive to rent satellite capacity and too slow to install terrestrial links, as well as with regards to access to electricity.

History

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The original system was designed with and implemented in Amazon communities in the Brazilian state of Acre in 2015 as part of the Fonias Juruá project (of which Rafael Diniz is also project lead), which has shown that it is possible to teach local communities to set up HF systems and keep them running for many years.

Creation of a demonstration system in Oaxaca, Mexico in 2018 in the context of Mozilla/NSF Wireless Innovation for a Networked Society (WINS) competition.

We partnered with Abradig and ISA in Terra do Meio, Brazil to install a dozen HERMES systems in 2019.

Contracted by the Nacionalidad Achuar de Ecuador to build and install 8 systems in the Ecuadorian Amazon using our own self-built transceiver.

Use cases

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Community ↔ Community

This is the most basic scenario and is an additional functionality to community-to-community voice communication over HF radio, allowing for digital information to be passed along with real-time voice communication. For added safety, this digital communication can be encrypted.

Some of the options or use-cases for this are:

– Inter-community messaging and file exchange between users. Person A in community A sends a file or a text message to Person B in Community B. This message would be accessed by Person B when they log on to the HERMES system using their device (likely a smartphone). At this point Person B can read the text message directly and/or download the file they were sent.

– Inter-community messaging and file exchange between communities. Person A in community A posts a message to the public bulletin board of Community B allowing anyone in that community to see the message when they log on to the HERMES system with their device (phone, computer). There might need to be editorial input required in order to combat spam or inappropriate/provocative messages. This could be achieved by only allowing the local HERMES operator in community A to actually be the one to post the messages. Or could be done in the receiving community (B) by an administrator who would have to give authorization or permission for the message to be posted to the public.

 

Community ↔ Base

A base in this scenario is the office of an NGO or indigenous nationality in a regional or major city with its own HF radio and HERMES system, allowing for the passing of information between many communities and the base for the purposes of sharing information in both directions. This scenario is quite common and seeks to solve the issue of how information can be passed more easily between communities in critical territories and their counterparts who are part of larger territorial defense, health, monitoring, etc. efforts.

Some use case examples include:

– A community monitoring process that allows multiple communities to send monitoring info (ODK mapping coordinates e.g.) to a base where they can be collated, analyzed and shared with authorities or the general public. These messages can be password protected and encrypted.

– In the other direction, the base can send a broadcast alert of any nature (e.g. COVID response information, proximity of fires, etc.) to all the communities it communicates with. This information can be received in the community and shared amongst the residents.

Community ↔ Base ↔ Internet

A base in this scenario is an HF radio with HERMES in a place where there is Internet access. This could be in a regional city, as above, or another rural community with even basic satellite internet. The base essentially acts as a bridge between a community HERMES installation and the internet, relaying messages. This relay happens without any action required by the base other than the HF radio be switched on and the Internet working properly. This scenario seeks to solve the issue of communication between communities and the “rest of the world”.

– Our main focus for this is an email system that allows for both a traditional email experience using a client (e.g. Thunderbird, K9 for Android, Outlook, etc.) and also a chat interface called DeltaChat that uses email as its backend, but looks and functions like a modern mobile chat app similar to WhatsApp. Each HERMES user will be assigned an email address through which they can send and receive information. Both the client and chat versions allow for encryption. Information will flow from the community to the base via HF/HERMES and then the base will forward that information automatically to the Internet where it will reach a Rhizomatica data center with an email server and then on to the final recipient in the form of an email, chat or SMS.

– A second functionality is in the works that will allow for simple search in which a community user can send a word of phrase that will follow a similar path as above, except to a search engine and the results will be returned as text to the community user. This is similar to early versions of mobile internet search.

Community ↔ Base ↔ Internet

Hardware and Software

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Software

The HERMES software is the glue that binds the hardware with the services. We have developed and packaged a complete set of tools and released them together as open-source software, which can be found here.

 

SERVICES

– Email and Chat (global)
– Public messages and secure, password-protected image, voice, text and file exchange between community stations
– Web interface for administration

 

 

Software

Hardware v1

  • Open-source technology
  • HF Long Range Radio
  • Internet and processing integrated
  • Emergency Messages
  • Wi-Fi connectivity locally

 

HERMES HARDWARE SPECIFICS

– 12V power input (battery compatible)

– Ubitx v6 base board

– GPS module for time and frequency correction

– 100W power amplifier

– Intel-based Mini-PC, 4 GB RAM, CPU Intel Core 3rd gen or better

– Reflected / Forward power meter and SWR protection

– Ubitx firmware adapted for digital operation / computer control / power measures and to communicate with the Mini-PC

– Heat sinks, fans, cables and parts for integration

– Custom metal case

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Resources

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HERMES works with more or less any existing HF radio transceiver and can easily be powered by renewable energy such as solar and wind. Some HF radio transceivers already have computer/digital connectivity, and those that do not are supported by adding a digital interface for $80-$100. Range is up to +800km. If you are interested in setting up your own HERMES system, the following Resources should be helpful. Note these cover the installation of an HF transceiver plus a WiFi AP and GSM/Cellular network.

Documentation

SOFTWARE

PC – REMOTE

PC – CENTRAL

HF RADIO PARAMETERS

  • Transmission mode: Single Side Band

  • RF signal path: Near Vertical Incidence Skywave (NVIS)

  • Channel width: 2.5 kHz

  • Frequencies: between 5 and 7 MHz

  • Power output: 10 W – 100 W adjustable

  • Adaptive digital modulation modes: 4FSK, 4PSK, 16QAM, ranging from 1 to 10 carriers and different symbol rates, all with Reed Solomon Forward Error Correction

Code

There are two sources for HERMES-related software created by Rhizomatica.

First is a dedicated page for the HF part, which can be found here

Second is a branch of RCCN that combines with HERMES and allows for integration of GSM and HF. Code can be found here

 

Network Diagram

hermes-diagram_grayscale

Right-click, View Image for a better view

Components

HERMES EQUIPMENT LIST (proposed)

HF Radio

ICOM 7100 – HF Radio transceiver

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Buddipole – Portable HF antenna

http://www.buddipole.com/buddipole.html

OR

MFJ-1778 – Wire Antenna

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Astron RS-35A – Power supply (not very portable) for HF radio

OR

12V 50A Switching Power Supply (much more portable)

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MFJ-941E – HF Antenna Tuner

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Coaxial RF cables with PL-259 connectors

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Cellular GSM

SysmoBTS 1020 – GSM Base Transceiver Station

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Ventev / TerraWave T09060O10006 – Omnidirectional GSM antenna (outdoor)

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Mean Well CLG-100-48 – 48 VDC AC/DC power supply

OR

iCreatin PSE-480080G – POE+ Injector

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Coaxial RF cables with N connectors

WiFi and local service

Jetway JBC373F38W-525 – Embedded PC

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TP- LINK EAP110-Outdoor – WiFi Access Point

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Ethernet / LAN cables

Infrastructure

MFJ-1926 – Telescopic fiberglass mast

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DX Engineering DXEA15 – Guying Earth Anchors

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DX Engineering DXEGR – Guy Rings

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80 meters of thin (4mm) nylon rope

Components

HERMES em ação (2020)

HERMES Concept video (2018)