THE SMOS PROJECT
The SMOS project was an off-time activity in 2011-2012 which involved Timo Tokkonen, Jakke Mäkelä, Niko Porjo, and Kalle Pietilä. (See the post Saving lives or making money for background. It is quite entertaining). We proposed a solution for catastrophe communications in which cellular base stations would be miniaturized enough to be airdropped into disaster zones. We felt that this might be possible if all functionality except SMS was stripped from the base stations (hence SMOS, SMS Our Souls).
We considered that the project might have commercial potential, and pursued it accordingly in our off-time. Thus, we placed a significant focus on looking at use cases and business possibilities, and somewhat less focus on the technology. In early 2012, we realized that the project just would not fly commercially. So we decided to ramp it down.
Since we did collect some interesting information along the way, we decided to publish what we can. Maybe someone else will find it useful. This web page constitutes the permanent archive of the project. Blog postings will be made that describe the development of the project.
Just as we were putting the finishing touches here, we heard of a new startup called Tethr, which is trying to do very similar things. Please read the BBC article on them, and do join their mailing list. We have great hopes for them.
25.4.2012 Saving lives or making money. A broad outline of how the project started, progressed, and what was learned about humanitarianism and startups. “A bad analogy could be borrowed where a man is on a burning platform and is given a lollipop to aid his situation before jumping. This results in a sea filled with startups holding their lollipops.”
25.4. The SMOS project. A concise summary of the project. “We are releasing the relevant material under a Creative Commons license (CC-BY), which means that others may use the findings freely (including commercial use).”
2.5. The Kiss of Death of IPR. What happens when humanitarian crisis communications collide with patents. Nasty things happen. “It would take a major player 15 minutes to dig up enough patents from its patent thicket to make our life impossible. Whether those patents are relevant is completely irrelevant. The threat is enough.”
4.5. The Kiss of Death of IPR–another view. A response to the above. “Do we need a common database of free ideas that are exempt from official patents that may be used for humanitarian purposes and collectively against patent trolls?”
8.5. “Humanitarian Patent Pool”. Some numbers and practical estimates on whether a database like the above could be formed realistically. More work needed.
All information here is released under a Creative Commons CC-BY license.
SMOS 1 One-pager. A brief summary of the project.
SMOS 2 Discussion Paper. A longer description of the idea, with more technical details.
SMOS 3 Case study Finnish storm of 2011. A case study, simulating whether SMOS would have been useful in the winter storm of Dec 26, 2012. This analysis was one of the reasons why we ended up believing that we could find no sensible business case.
SMOS 4 Business considerations. More detailed business analyses. Based on these numbers, it seems clear that our approach simply could not work commercially.
SMOS 5 Technology discussions Diagrams: SMOS 5b Initial Pictures. A first summary of ideas and information that was gained in the first months of the projects. The document is somewhat unpolished. Based on this information, the Foundation for Finnish Inventions (Suomen keksintösäätiö) sponsored a prior art search, whose key results are also shown.
SMOS6 Technical goals System requirements v10. Key system requirements for the SMOS idea.
We wish to thank the following organizations and people for their support with the project. Some wish to remain anonymous, but we thank them equally.
- Suomen Keksintösäätiö (Foundation for Finnish Inventions), Timo Nieminen and Pekka Räsänen for providing funding for early-stage patent searches, as well as a fair opportunity to apply for funding for the project.
- Offcode Oy (Oulu, Finland) for helping with the technology feasibility analysis.
- Tapio Heikkilä, for clear-headed but friendly help when we most needed it.
- Minna Palmroth, for invigorating discussions, access to contacts, and below-the radar marketing of the idea.