Data exchange (txt files) through radio frequency

Hi all,

I've a project I've been asked for, and I would like to check its feasibility with you. Thanks already for your advices !

Context
I'm working as a voluntary for the red cross (Home – Red Cross EU Office). The red cross is present in lots of events in my town (concerts, sport events like marathon, cultural events, etc.) and provide medical support/assistance during these events.

As an example, let say that I run the Brussels marathon, I feel bad and fall on the ground. The red ross people will come to pick me, register me in their system, and give me the needed medical assistance.

During these events, the red cross people are spread amongst different locations, and need to communicate with the central server to be aware at any time of that kind of information :

  • how many did we help
  • at what time that particular person received medical assistance
  • Is that particular person still under red cross watch
  • etc.

This data is stored locally on a computer (in each local entity), and synchronized on a central server. The data is sent through wifi or 3G.

The problem is that :

  • wifi connexion is not always available
  • If too many people attend the event, the 3G is not working well.

Project
In order to solve these issues, the project I'd like to make is to exchange the needed data through radio frequency, using two arduino boards and the needed RF shelters.

The requirements are the following :

Transmission needs to be two ways :

  • Transmission of data from the local entity computer to the main server
  • Transmission of the data from the main server to the local entity computer

The data that needs to be sent is the content of a text file. Each line of that text is a set of characters, separated by semi columns, and give information on one person. Here is a sample below
1,P03,001,Last name,first nameF,14H20,14H30,U3,000,115,,doctor initial,901,01/07/07 14:58,,

The transmission range should ideally cover some 1 or 2 miles/kms.

Questions
My questions are :

  1. Is this project realistic
  2. Will I be able to easily process txt files (preparing it for sending, sending of the date, handling on the server when received). What about the noise, the speed, the range ?
  3. What material do I need ?

I'm a newbie with Arduino and Microcontrollers, so any help/advice/information would be appreciated.

Thanks already for your help !
Benoît

I would expect Arduino - Arduino wireless connections (such as using an NRF24xx transceiver) wouldn’t have sufficient range for what you want - especially in a crowded and fluid situation.

And taking account of the sort of data you need to exchange I suspect a RaspberryPI or BeagleBone would be a more suitable platform than an Arduino. The real strength of an Arduino is its ability to control other hardware such as relays or LEDs and to collect data from sensors without the “interference” of an operating system that is also trying to run several other programs.

It seems to me that a very important factor to take into account for your project is that it must work reliably without the need for specialist support. That’s where a mobile phone solution shines - though I understand what you say about the phone system becoming overloaded.

Perhaps the answer to your problem lies in an evolution of the present system to make it more resilient to phone outages. I’m sure, for example, that the number of people who are treated or the time some specific person was treated does not have to be kept up to date second by second or even minute by minute.

If you want a system to share data in a small local area (say within a town square where a support centre is located) it may be possible to install your own portable wifi hotspot.

…R

The other thing I'd be very, very wary of is transmitting any kind of personal data en clair.