> The six were then tasked with creating a dynamic database to coordinate the spectrum uses of at least 20 separate emergency service groups in an apocalyptic urban setting. The database was required to sense users, and deduce transmitter locations as well the as signalling systems used, identifying available frequencies for allocation to new arrivals and working out the potential for interference based on both the frequencies and the manner in which they are used.
Tell them that all they have is a hammer, and the problem has to look like a nail.
Wasn't the original design brief for the internet that it survive a nuclear war? Pretty much the same scenario.
I'd envisage a decentralized and self-organising cellular network. Plane-loads of solar-powered base stations, every one programmed to establish communications with its neighbours, create their own network maps, and to service any compatible handsets that arrive. You could have the network up and running within a few hours, parachuting the base stations from planes (or helicopters). Local hotspots without enough bandwidth? Same as mobiles - parachute in more base-stations, the cells automagically get smaller.
Hard to do if access permissions and communications privacy are issues, but in this disaster-response scenario they aren't. (And I thought that the military had already got something like this *with* security, for battlefield and/or post-EMP communications).
Of course, someone has to do the design work now, and stockpile the things in advance. Which they haven't done. Perhaps the problem will look like a nail after all.