Inveneo Tower Climbing Archives

Inveneo is Increasing Work-at-Height Safety with Petzl Foundation

  1. Posted by Inveneo on June 27, 2012 in the categories: News

In 2011, the Petzl Foundation hosted Andris Bjornson, Inveneo’s Chief Technology Officer, and Jen Overgaag, Senior Project Engineer, and in 2012, Matt Crum, Sam Perales, and Eyleen Chou, Inveneo Project Engineers, for a Tower Access and Rescue train-the-trainer course at the Petzl America headquarters in Utah. This course was designed to provide invaluable hands-on training for Inveneo staff and enabled Inveneo to develop a training curriculum and a safety equipment kit with Petzl’s work-at-height safety experts.

These skills and $10,000 in donated Petzl tools will be used to train and kit our extended Inveneo team and our in-country technology partners, helping them deploy safe practices in configuring broadband Internet networks on communication towers in the developing world. Often, setting up these networks involves large-scale tower climbing to position equipment correctly. Our entrepreneurs, though not new to technology, are often new to climbing or have haven’t formally learned safety skills. These trainings are critical to the safe set-up and delivery of our broadband networks, and we proud to share these invaluable skills with others.


Ronald, an apprentice engineer, during a Haiti training

Based on the Petzl training, Inveneo implemented two trainings in Haiti and trainings in Eldoret and Nairobi, Kenya. In Haiti, where we are implementing the Haiti Rural Broadband Network, communications technicians were anxious to learn safe climbing techniques and were very interested in trusted climbing equipment. Inveneo’s Haitian partner, Transversal, continues to use the training and equipment they received on a daily basis as they roll out and maintain remote tower sites.

As we move forward in 2012, Inveneo will be expanding our work on broadband networks in East Africa. The investment in the Petzl-Inveneo training will continue to provide security, confidence, and dividends in many countries and for many people.

Working Past Bees for Long-Distance WiFi Networking

  1. Posted by Inveneo on April 25, 2012 in the categories: Economic Development, News, Projects

Planning an installation in a remote area asks for a lot of careful thought: one doesn’t want to be in the middle of nowhere missing a specific piece of equipment thus having to drive back several kilometers to complete the work. The unexpected being expected, even after several installations, you are never too cautious. But, what level of ’unexpectedness’ can a tower full of wasp nest be?

Bees in general are not really harmful to humans. Living in a tropical country you have been stung enough by these insects to know if you are of the allergic type. At best if you have a cold or indigestion it may cure you. This level of risk falls into the category of negligible.

But talking of something and seeing it right in front of you are two different things. The colors, the noise, the menacing zigzags and of course old memories, all this being put together, you think twice before even starting to put on the climbing gears. And just when your courage is at a sufficient level to face the wasp, local superstitions shatter it in thousands of pieces.

I am Jeffrey Carre of Transversal and recently we had to verify an old installation at Pont-Sonde, a small town on the way to Gonaive, pass St Marc in Haiti. With no hills to climb, and the site being right in the middle of the town, it’s not a difficult site.

Food and water are at hand ad you don’t have to drive a long way to get to a passable road. The aiming is generally easy in such a flat land that these usually take half a day of work to setup everything and pass the acceptance test. But…

“They can give you a fever so unbearable that you may not have enough time to go to the hospital,” the guardian says. Some time ago our townsfolk pride would have us walk past that statement with a “Let me show you how we do things,” tone and maybe we would have shamefully been victim of that ego… But today that bee problem was taken seriously. The questions is how to get pass that problem:

 

  • Bug spray is a real bad way the get rid of them – it kills some and infuriates the rest. They fall on the ground and fly back at you right away with their last remaining breath. And personally seeing all those creatures fall and die, you cannot help to think of yourself as an evil, heartless person (just a little).
  • Smoke. Yes but you have to climb high enough to reach them and they are sometimes in unexpected places. You have to use it on your way up and also, less easy, on the way down. Every nest that is on your path must be submitted to smoke for long enough to drowse the wasps. We don’t have that time.
  • Gas/oil. We once used this to repel hornets from the lightning arrestors they were using to construct their mud nest. We didn’t have enough with us and we couldn’t think of a good way to spread it.
  • Fire, same almost as smoke but for clear reasons, not a good solution.
  • Luck, hopefully you go up and don’t put your hand right in the middle of a nest. We engineers prefer not to play with luck to much. We prefer quantifiable and measurable facts, but then again, sometimes it surprises you pleasantly.

The guardian happened to be a beekeeper and had in his possession a pair of protective suits and it would only take him 5 minutes to get them for us. No need to tell what a relief he was to us. Maybe he enjoyed being our hero but he continued to help us by reassuring us. We learned that:

  • Bees, wasps, and hornets only attack when they sense danger. So if we calmly approach them they will stay away from us.
  • They tend to build their nest at a specific height, not to high to avoid strong currents and not to low to avoid the heat and natural enemies. So as soon as we pass that “activity zone” there is no need to watch out for them.
  • And the most beautiful part: bees are a sign of life and hope, and as we are spreading life and hope via our Internet installation they are doing the same with the flower pollen.

We put on the protective suits under the climbing gears and started to work. And as the day goes by, I couldn’t help to think of the bees working as group, coordinating their movements, each taking care of a specific task.

This was at our 3rd site of the day and the sun was getting low on the sky. As we climbed down the tower and started to pack, nature was slowly falling asleep and even the bees were regaining the house. Their nests that were once very busy spots during the day were now calm – technology and nature in quiet harmony.

Inveneo Brings up 82km Wireless Link to Haiti’s Central Massif – A New Distance Record!

  1. Posted by Inveneo on March 23, 2011 in the categories: Economic Development, News, Projects

Inveneo engineers have been busy in Haiti! With our extension of the high-speed wireless backbone over an 82km wireless link from Port-au-Prince to a mountaintop site in the Central Massif, we shattered our previous internal record for longest link deployed, set in May 2010 and spanning 55km, from Port-au-Prince to Vallue.

This new long link is the first step in bringing broadband connectivity to nonprofits, public agencies and small businesses in the underserved Central Plateau and Artibonite Valley regions and beyond.

We put up this link with our standard long distance WiFi workhorse: the Ubiquiti RocketM5 radio with the 30 dBi RocketDish antenna. We were pleasantly surprised with the signal strength captured by this little dish on such a long link: up to a booming -74 dBm! (For the non-technical folk: smaller negative numbers mean greater received power).

We arrived at the installation site prepared to install the significantly larger 34 dBi RocketDish, but given the strong performance of the smaller model we decided to hold off installing the larger dishes until we can streamline them with aerodynamic covers called radomes to cut down on wind load. With conservative performance settings, we’ve been able to push 20+ Mbps over this link in both directions and expect to do much better once we put the larger dishes in place.

Wireless networks are relatively easy to deploy. This is one of the reasons they are such a good fit for the rural and developing world. After we identify a favorable relay location, we verify line-of-sight to an existing site using link analysis software and a site survey. Once we verify the link we position our engineers at each end with a small kit of gear. Though the rough roads in rural Haiti, Sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere can make this process difficult, it’s certainly easier than digging 82km of trench and stringing 82km of cable or fiber.

With sites identified and the link verified, a few days of hard installation work is all it takes to get a broadband Internet connection on a remote rural hilltop in Haiti’s Central Plateau. While the logistics of getting the right people and equipment are not simple, they are made substantially easier by the compact rugged equipment we use and are by far easier than installing fiber or cable. Next stop: putting up distribution and last-mile links to bring Internet to organizations subscribing to this reliable connectivity throughout rural Haiti.