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News

[August 18, 2008] We are pleased to announce the release of version 2 of the KioskNet software.

Overview

Rural Internet kiosks provide a variety of services to the poorest sections of society. However, due to limited electrical power, pervasive dust, mechanical wear-and-tear, and computer viruses, kiosk computers often fail, requiring frequent, expensive repairs. Similarly, network connectivity is often lost due to failures in the telephone system, inability to power the VSAT station, or loss of alignment of long-range wireless links. Faced with high costs and unreliable service delivery, customers quickly lose interest, and kiosk deployments are often found to be unsustainable in the long term.


KioskNet makes a kiosk more robust while simultaneously reducing its capital and operating cost. It provides a low-cost and low-power single-board-computer called a ‘kiosk controller’ at each kiosk. The controller provides a network file-system for recycled PCs that act as 'thin clients.' The controller communicates wirelessly with another single-board computer mounted on a vehicle (as was pioneered by Daknet (http://www.unitedvillages.com/)) that can then carry data to and from a gateway, where data is exchanged with the Internet. This approach avoids the cost of trenches, towers, and satellite dishes, allowing Internet access even in remote areas, although at the cost of increased end-to-end delay. In areas where dial-up, long-range wireless or cellular phone service is available, the kiosk controller can be configured to also use these communication links. Kiosk controllers are reasonably tamper-proof so they offer reliable virus-free boot images and binaries. We do not use the PC's hard disk, thus avoiding hard disk failures and disk-resident viruses. Moreover, recycled PCs are cheap and spare parts are widely available. They can run either the (Linux) binaries that are packaged with the kiosk controller, which are guaranteed to be virus free, or can boot into an existing operating system (typically Windows) from their hard drive for stand-alone computing.

We first released the KioskNet system in July 2007. Since then, we have made the deployment process simpler, re-written big portions of the underlying system to make it more robust, and added comprehensive support for end-to-end security using public-key encryption. We are now releasing the second version of our system. Please click here (http://blizzard.cs.uwaterloo.ca/tetherless/index.php/Deployment_guide) to download the software and learn about how to deploy it.

Features

Image:kiosksystem-small.png


  • KioskNet code is free and open-source with no patent, copyright or intellectual property restrictions, under the Apache license.
  • The system is low cost (http://blizzard.cs.uwaterloo.ca/tetherless/index.php/Details_of_cost_structure) and appears to be economically viable. We estimate that our system requires a capital expenditure of ~$100-$700/kiosk, depending on the configuration(all figures are in US dollars.), and an operating expenditure of ~$70/kiosk/month. These rough estimates include the cost of field technicians and capital depreciation. This is four to ten times cheaper than other solutions. Details can be found here
  • Kiosk controllers are low-power (http://blizzard.cs.uwaterloo.ca/tetherless/images/3/32/KioskNetPower.pdf) (6-8W), so they can be run off a solar panel.
  • The system is robust to power outages. Data is stored in a database, so that communication proceeds despite arbitrary failures of network nodes.
  • We have extensive support for system security. Not only are KioskNet elements protected from hackers and snooping kiosk owners, we also allow users to exchange private email by building our own PKI.
  • We have made our system easy to install. Software is shipped in the form of a LiveCD that can be booted on any Windows or Linux PC and used to burn OS images directly onto hard drives, that are then installed in single-board computers.
  • Kiosk owners get a point-and-click interface for user management (including creation and certification of public keys).
  • The system ships with an easy-to-use API and some sample applications for remote shell and database synchronization.
  • It is possible to remotely manage a kiosk, so a kiosk operator requires little or no IT expertise. Logs of all kiosk activities are made available to the system operator for remote diagnosis and repair.

We have compared KioskNet with other competing solutions here. If you would like to evaluate KioskNet for your own use, please refer to the deployment guide.

Photos of pilot deployments

Aaditeshwar Seth set up the first deployment of our solution in Anandapuram, a village in South India, during the week of May 16th, 2006. Here are some photographs.

Rowena Luk set up the second deployment of our solution in Ada, a village in Southeast Ghana, during the week of June 9, 2008. Here are some Photographs_of_the_Ghana_deployment

Video

We have created a short video to provide a high-level overview of the KioskNet system. The video is available here (http://blizzard.cs.uwaterloo.ca/tetherless/video_old).

Further reading

Here is an overview of our architecture. Here is a link to a brochure from Microsoft Research about our work (http://research.microsoft.com/erp/digincl/casestudies/Waterloo.pdf) and to a recent paper (http://blizzard.cs.uwaterloo.ca/tetherless/images/c/c0/Kiosknet.pdf). More detail can be found in this slightly out-of-date paper (http://blizzard.cs.uwaterloo.ca/keshav/home/Papers/data/06/mobicom06.pdf) which appeared in Mobicom 2006.

A video of a talk describing this work delivered at Google in March 2006 and titled Low-Cost Internet Access using mechanical backhaul (http://blizzard.cs.uwaterloo.ca/tetherless/shared_files/intel-3-06.ppt) is available on Google video (http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=5560803111464678947).

The Waterloo Record also did a feature piece (http://news.therecord.com/article/317346) on KioskNet in Mar 2008. A pdf version of this is here (http://blizzard.cs.uwaterloo.ca/tetherless/images/e/e0/Better_connections-KioskNet.pdf)

We have published several papers on KioskNet, which you can find here (http://blizzard.cs.uwaterloo.ca/tetherless/index.php/Papers_by_area#Bus_and_Kiosk_Networks).

Quick Start Program

We would love to have the chance to help your organization provide services to remote areas using KioskNet technology. In fact, if you qualify for the KioskNet Quick Start Program , we will be happy to ship to you, free of cost, the equipment you will need for a trial deployment.

Projects using KioskNet

AMITA Telemedicine

AMITA Telemedicine is a non-profit association working to develop a sustainable, collaborative model for telemedical consultation in sub-Saharan Africa. Read more on the AMITA website (http://www.amitatelemedicine.org).

Gram Vaani

Gram-Vaani is a non-profit initiative to enable media services in rural India using community radio. Read more on the Gram Vaani website (http://www.gramvaani.org).

Acknowledgements

Support for this project comes from Microsoft under its Digital Inclusion program (http://research.microsoft.com/ur/us/fundingopps/RFPs/DigitalInclusion_2005_RFP_Awards.aspx).

Contact Us

Prof. S. Keshav

Email: kiosknet@uwaterloo.ca

Phone: +1 519 888 4567 x34456

Retrieved from "http://blizzard.cs.uwaterloo.ca/tetherless/index.php/KioskNet"

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