Pocket FM is a portable FM radio transmitter that enables people in crisis regions or developing countries to communicate without internet, mobile phones, television or when electricity is unavailable.
Despite technological innovation, local radio continues to be a vital source of information and entertainment in many regions. Throughout the developed world, people use television, newspapers and the internet to stay up-to-date but these sources are not an option in rural areas of developing countries. At times of disaster, war, and population displacement, local radio can provide updates which help save lives. This is where Pocket FM comes in.
Pocket FM is currently running beta-tests in crisis regions and developing countries such as Syria and Tanzania.
The interface is straightforward and easy to use. Simply connect any antenna, power supply, or anything with a headphone jack or USB and the device starts transmitting.
Pocket FM also works with solar power and has an inbuilt sat-receiver. Its radio programs are aired over a radius of up to 8 km.
The system has a robust casing, making it look more like a radio receiver than a transmitter. Pocket FM is the size of a shoebox which means it is safer to move around in difficult conditions.
Pocket FM can function independent of an external power supply or other established infrastructures. It can be connected to a generator, car battery, wall socket or even to a solar panel.
Secure your device by setting up a pinlock that allows transmission when the correct code is provided.
Pocket FM has an inbuilt power monitor that shows voltage levels and current power consumption.
Pocket FM automatically finds a new frequency when the default frequency isn't available or is jammed. Listeners can find the station by its RDS signature, which is broadcast along with the audio signal. RDS can also be used to quickly send out short text messages to listeners.
A team of specialists from diverse backgrounds researched the needs of people in crisis regions, mapping potential solutions. The co-creation process involved all relevant internal and external stakeholders, including people working in crisis regions and developing countries.
Based on their input IXDS and MiCT developed the transmitter and shaped it to their needs. Pocket FM is built in a modular way which makes it easy to customize the device for specific cases.
In crisis regions, facing conflict, or in humanitarian catastrophes, there are many severe challenges to spreading information. The telecommunications and transport infrastructure may have been destroyed and there may be no reliable electricity supply. The existing broadcasting infrastructure could be controlled to limit freedom of speech.
Pocket FM was designed to cope with these challenges. We tried to use standard components as much as possible, enabling users to modify and repair the units with locally available materials.
In the next version, we intend to make the system more autonomous to improve the safety for those operating and transporting the transmitter, with the goal of operating and monitoring the system remotely. By optimizing the electronics, the signal should cover at least a 10 km radius.
In addition to connecting it to the internet, GSM or 3G offers the possibility of accessing programs via a cloud system and remotely controlling the entire system. Connecting many Pocket FMs helps identify if one of them is broken and this can be remedied within the grid. To avoid any abuse, the sessions can include a signal identified by the Pocket FM software.
Pocket FM is always on the lookout for people who can contribute to the project. Drop us an email if you'd like to get involved.
We have built Pocket FM in a way that makes it easy to adapt to different situations. Pocket FM is operated using Raspberry Pi, which makes it easy to connect and develop new features in the future. Our aim is to develop the platform to be as sustainable as possible and we want to work with the feedback from people on the ground to provide new features through software updates.
Pocket FM was kickstarted within the Syria Radio Network (Syrnet), a project by MiCT funded by the German Federal Foreign Office.http://www.mict-international.org/projects/syrian-radio-journalists-working-together/