SDR Based Communication Solutions Helped Save the Thai Soccer Team Trapped in a Cave

The world has still to get over the recent horrifying incident of a Thai youth soccer team being trapped in water-filled cave for around two weeks. While the team was successfully rescued with support and ideas pouring from all over the world, it was the latest advancements in technology and equipment, that helped carry out one of the most endearing rescue operations in the world. MaxMesh technology from Maxtech Networks was one such innovation that was used in the mission.

Maxtech Networks is a provider of a patented innovative technology for critical communications without the need for a communications infrastructure. Mouser Electronics recently had the opportunity to speak with Uzi Hanuni, founder and CEO of Maxtech Networks, to learn more about the company’s innovative MaxMesh technology that was crucial in the rescue (the interview can be seen below).

Rescuers faced many challenges after locating the trapped boys and their coach in the Tham Luang Nang Non cave in Thailand. Normal radio signals were blocked by cave walls. Water from the monsoon season posed additional challenges. Learning of the situation, Hanuni dispatched engineers and several of his MaxMesh radios to the scene. The revolutionary system essentially established a relay network throughout the two miles of twists, turns and partially submerged areas of the tunnel, enabling rescuers to connect, share, collaborate and ultimately bring the team to safety.

According to Hanuni, the MaxMesh technology is based on creating a mesh network of software-defined radios [SDRs]. SDRs are radio communication systems using software on a personal computer or embedded system. Every time a radio is switched on, it automatically joins the network. Each radio is also a relay, and the intelligent frequency modulation algorithms are built into the radios. They can transmit video, voice and data simultaneously.

Hanuni’s interest in devising a better form of communication technology arose after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, as he saw many first responders cut off after the World Trade Center towers collapsed and their radio antennas were damaged. The technology needed to develop had to work automatically so that when the radio is switched on, it's connected — peer-to-peer groups, multicast, unicast, broadcast, whatever you want. And have it there with no need to pre-configure the radios, says Hanuni. It took them few years to develop the sophisticated algorithm and the technology that works indoors, outdoors, underground, above ground, in all places automatically with no human interference or involvement.

The MaxMesh technology can be encapsulated in various forms. The Mini PCI Express card is Hanuni’s own technology, only it has a field-programmable gate array (FPGA). This is the key fundamental component. They are using the Analog Devices AD9364 high-performance, highly integrated radio frequency agile transceiver for communications. In addition, they are also using the Samsung ARTIK 7, which is a module that offers great performance for high-end gateways with local processing and analytics to improve latency and responsiveness. With the ARTIK 7 is an Intel Cyclone III FPGA.

Watch the Full Interview below: