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Last update: 2007-12-03

End: 2009-01


community-oriented mobile phone infrastructure

The Bricophone is a community-oriented mobile phone infrastructure in Open Source. It is a low cost, low energy, open hardware, open source project built for communities up to ten thousand people within regional distances. The characteristic of the Bricophone infrastructure is that it does not require any static infrastructure like relays, antennas, or digital data centers. This provides the opportunity for special uses in poor communities, mass rescueing in disastered areas, and cultural and social activities like festivals and other mass events.

Bricophone user's profiles

  • populations and communities in areas where regular cellular phone infrastructure is not possible for economical, energetic, or environemental reasons: areas with a poor population, mountains, seas, desertic or humid areas, protected natural or archeological sites.
  • populations and communities in areas where regular cellular phone infrastructures lack power or have been destroyed: war or natural catastrophes as earthquakes, floods, cyclones, and cold or hot extremeties.
  • communities in social or cultural mass meetings, lile festivals, protests, gatherings.

The Bricophone is not a replacement for regular cellular infrastructures nor an open-source cellullar phone for regular mobile phone networks.


The sole purpose of the Bricophone infrastructure is voice communication. It works with brand-new wireless sensor network technologies used in industrial equipement. The main caracteristics of these new sensors technologies are mesh-networking, low-cost, and very low power consumption. These three technical caracteristics are the key of the project's potentialities.

  • Mesh networking is a technology where each point of the network can route information to any other point in the same connected network. The routing of the information is done automatically as in internet, by an automatic choice of the closest device without central control.
  • The Very Low Cost of the specialized wireless chips of the Bricophone allow to equipate different devices, not only for building mobile bricophones, but also for routing devices to transfer the calls though longer distances. The compactness of the electronic components allow the creation of very small devices. The low cost and relative simplicity of the hardware allows DIY (Do It Yourself) possibility and further improvements by the Bricophone community, as we can see in the Arduino project.
  • The Low Power Consumption allows the utilisation of solar, wind or muscular energy, or very long period powering. Low energy powered bricophone routers can run month or years without maintenance, even in harsh environnements.

Project setup

In Spring 2007, the first basic voice-over-wireless tests with sensor technologies were executed. In September 2007, the first workshop took place in Brussles. In November, a workshop took place in Brazil.

The next steps programmed by the leading team for the coming months:

  • A multi-lingual website replacing the first existing pages
  • Communication tools for community works: wiki, code repository, forum, mailing list
  • Prototyping workshops in hardware, software and community tools in Paris (F), Brussles (B), Amsterdam (NL), Sheffield (UK), Barcelona (E) during 2008.
  • Communication and partnership: Artfactories network, (a platform of international resources for creative centres) and Bricolabs network are participants of the project and will disseminate the knowledge through their networks.

Dissemination workshops

The first planned DIY fabrication and dissemination workshop will be helt in Dakar, Senegal, in the Ker Thiossane Art Center, during the Pixelache 2009 festival.

More dissemination workshops will follow in the different continents, at the initiative of local community members.


There is a technological risk which no-one can predict on the moment, about the quantity and the quality of calls that can be routed through a huge mesh-network. Even the producers of these new technologies have no answers yet, although they claim that their networks can have more than 65,000 nodes. Our first calculations predict a critic mass of just a thousand people per network, when not all communicating at the same time, which is sufficient for our goals (rescuing people in disasters etc).