Google cooking up connectivity fix for skyscraper cities?

Being surrounded by vast buildings may remind you of Bladerunner, but they make your mobile unhappy. Google could be working on a solution.

Love skyscrapers, hate having no mobile signal? Google is reportedly working on a system that could use smart phones to plug mobile connectivity gaps in urban areas prone to patchy signal.

The system, codenamed Google Local Messaging Service -- or LMS for short -- is being developed by Google's South Korea R&D lab, according to a source who contacted CNET UK. The source does not work at Google, but claims to be close to a Google employee who is working on LMS.

The system is designed to partially patch connectivity problems that can plague densely populated urban areas containing lots of skyscrapers -- not exactly a massive problem in London at the moment, but possibly a future issue if London's planning authority continues to approve high-rise developments such as the Shard.

Residents of skyscraper-infested cities such as Seoul and Tokyo can certainly wander into connectivity-free canyons -- thanks to all that vertical steel and concrete wreaking havoc with phone signals.

Google's partial fix for skyscraper-based connectivity woes reportedly involves crowdsourcing other smart phone users in the immediate vicinity to act as an ad hoc mesh network -- allowing small quantities of data, such as SMSes, to be sent and received, even if you don't have cellular signal on your phone.

According to the source, Google LMS works by sending packages of data to other smart phones that are running Google's LMS app via Bluetooth. These phones then send the data to other Bluetooth-enabled smart phones also running the app, and on and on it hops until one of the phones reached has a Wi-Fi, 3G or 4G connection available and can then make like Postman Pat and deliver the message.

Messages could also find their way to a mobile user wandering through a connectivity-less canyon using the same system -- hopping until they reach the right recipient and identifying the individual by their phone's unique ID, says the source.

When you're not surrounded by a Bluetooth-enabled, smart phone toting mob, Google's LMS system will allow messages to be saved in "some kind of 'buffer'" -- presumably so they can wait patiently for a Bluetooth signal to come within reach before hopping off in search of connectivity proper.

It sounds like the digital equivalent of putting a message in a bottle and chucking it in the sea -- it might find its way there eventually, but don't be surprised if your recipient has grown old and died by the time the message pings into their inbox.

LMS clearly wouldn't support web browsing, but could be a neat way to keep SMSes flowing when people are plentiful but cellular signal is patchy.

At the time of writing, Google had not responded to a request to confirm the existence of LMS.

Do you reckon Google's LMS sounds plausible or is it something an R&D lab would play around with but which probably won't ever see the light of day? Transmit your comments below, or hop on over to our Facebook page.

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About the author

Natasha Lomas is the Mobile Phones Editor for CNET UK, where she writes reviews, news and features. Previously she was Senior Reporter at Silicon.com, covering mobile technology in the business sphere. She's been covering tech online since 2005.

 

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