Let’s face it: we’ve become entirely dependent on cell phones. Whether we’re checking Facebook, tweeting about current events, finding directions to the local sandwich shop, or simply making a phone call, it’s hard to avoid remaining glued to our pocket-sized computers. In fact, web browsing surveys tell us that over 50% of you may be reading this very article from a smartphone. That’s why it’s so difficult to come to terms with the idea that a natural disaster like an earthquake could turn our cell phones into overpriced paperweights. If the cell towers aren’t functioning correctly, and the local wifi is without power, our cell phones become essentially useless.

SmartPole cell phone tower

Fortunately, Philips (a lighting company) and Ericsson (a communications company) have come together to provide a solution that decentralizes the cellular network and provides a network of backup cell towers. Then again, if you spotted one of these “Smart Poles” on the curb, you probably wouldn’t guess it’s a cell tower at all, because it looks and functions like an ordinary street light. That is—if you’ll forgive the pun—brilliant. And, for the first time ever, this system has been put into service in the city of Los Angeles.

In a nutshell, these towers serve to boost the 4G LTE wireless signal for cell phone users on a daily basis. The poles are connected via a high-speed fiber network, providing reliable and widespread cell service throughout LA. More importantly, if a serious earthquake strikes the San Andreas fault, each one of these poles that remains standing will continue to provide cell phone connectivity. This is extremely helpful to law enforcement and emergency services, and it ensures victims will be able to stay in touch with their families if disaster strikes.

To learn more about these ingenious SmartPoles spread throughout LA, check out this article from Gizmodo.

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