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Programmers Are Creating a Way for Your Phone to Get Online Even When Data Is Down

The Cosmos Browser uses text messages to browse the web

A teenage boy sends a text message on his mobile phone as stands in the floodwater on the main street of Bentley in Doncaster. (Gideon Mendel/Corbis)
smithsonian.com

When disaster strikes and everyone reaches for their phones, it's easy for cellular phone and data networks to buckle under the load. At the very moment when information and communication is needed most, the systems have a tendency to become unreliable.

Yet even when the phone network is overloaded, text messages tend to still make it through. A team of programmers are working on an open-sourced way for people to use SMS to access the internet, even if Wi-Fi and data networks have buckled or if they don't cover an area to begin with.

Known as the Cosmos Browser, says Fast Company, the still-in-development Android program strips out all the non-essential parts of a website and repacks it in a way that can be sent through text.

“It's not going to be as fast or as beautifully rendered as web pages on Safari or Chrome,” says Fast Company, “but it will allow people to look up information without a proper connection.”

"We want this to be a way for people to get information when they're in dire need of it," said Rohith Varanasi, one of the programmers, to Fast Company.

Combine this with a device like the goTenna, a gadget that lets users push texts through to other users, even when the cell network is completely broken, and you've got the makings of a powerful kit for emergency communications.

About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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