Amateur Radio and Ingress

This will be something of a rather unusual post, and it won’t be for everyone, so please bear with me.

Some regular participants and listeners of the Monday Night Net may note occasional references to “the game”, “portals” or “missions”. This will only make sense to a few people, as we’re referring to an online game called Ingress. At least six Essex Ham members are playing Ingress, and in case you’re interested, here’s what it’s all about.

What is Ingress?

It’s an online game for smartphone users, with a twist. It requires players to travel to “portals”, which are effectively landmarks. When you start playing, you pick a side – either the blue team or the green team, and once at a landmark, you have the option to “capture” it, if it;s not your colour, or “link” from it, if it is your colour. The aim is to connect three portals together, to form a triangle. Here’s an example of a basic “field”:

Example of an Ingress field
Example of an Ingress field

That’s the basics. Of course, the other team are set to thwart you, by destroying your fields, blocking you, or building bigger fields over the top of you. There are real people (not computers), playing all the time, around the world, and the number of players is growing.

Here’s how Essex looks today:

The state of Essex on Ingress as of 2 April 2015
The state of Essex on Ingress as of 2 April 2015

The game requires you to walk or drive around to real places, getting people out in the fresh air, and makes use of online chat to talk strategy with other players. On your travels, you “hack portals” to collect ammunition and goodies which you’ll need to progress through the game. It’s very strategic, and very addictive!

Ingress & Amateur Radio

Teamwork is key to playing the game – when you start, you’re set to a low level, so may need help from others to get to a higher level. If there is a particularly strong alliance in your area, teaming up to defeat them is the key.

Those of us licensed have found that taking radios out on missions is a real boon, and if you ever hear simplex chat talking about “portals”, “hacking” and “deploying” , that’ll be some of the local Ingress players.

To the purpose of this post – Last night, a team of nine players were out on a mission to reclaim quite a wide area of turf. Three were licensed hams, and six weren’t. Teams were divided into four cars, and activity was in a five square mile radius. Obviously, we couldn’t use amateur radio, as not all players were licensed, and so we made use of a 70cm allocation that I hold a separate non-amateur licence for. This allows 5 watts mobile-to-mobile, on a frequency that can be programmed into Baofeng handheld without too much hassle. When I dished out some specially programmed cheap Baofengs to the players, there were some dubious looks. Some of the players had experience of PMR and were not impressed by the range. By the end of the mission, all agreed that the radios had made a huge difference. Even in-car on the rubber duck aerials, they performed well, and the mission was a success, with teams able to deploy strategically to tale out some very large enemy fields. The result? I suspect some of the other players will now be considering making more use of radio, and possibly getting Foundation licences, to get an edge over the opposing team.

To survive, ham radio needs younger blood, and to be seen to be useful and relevant to the smartphone-toting generation – Bringing amateur radio to smartphone users could be a big step in getting some more awareness for the hobby. Food for thought?

Interested in trying Ingress? Contact me and I’ll send you an invite. You’ll need an Android or iOS phone or tablet to play…

Already playing? Let me know too – be good to know who’s out there…

10 Comments

  1. Avatar M5AKA 2 April 2015 Reply
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  3. Avatar Gary Pearce KN4AQ 12 April 2015 Reply
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