A while ago I wrote an article about my thoughts on putting a tablet in your emergency bug out gear. There are many benefits to having a little tablet to keep books on and use for navigation with GPS and offline maps.
Now, what if you could plug a 13 dollar USB dongle into that tablet, and be able to receive most of the usable radio spectrum: emergency broadcasts, weather, police / fire / medical, Citizen’s Band, Family Radio, FM radio, etc?
Thanks to the wonders of Chinese manufacturing, cheap chipsets and a quirk found by a researcher in a common USB TV dongle that no longer receives TV since the world went to digital, all the stars have aligned to make that happen.
It’s called Software Defined Radio or SDR for short, and all these USB TV dongle-widget-thingies based on the RTL2832U chipset can receive most transmissions you would be listening for in an emergency. This device does not transmit, but hey, you can’t have everything for this price.
This little wonder weighs very little even with the included antenna. I know people who pack receive-only emergency radios in their gear, and this could potentially replace that. I’ve played with it more on the PC than my tablets, but I have tried a couple Android apps and they work. All you need is an adapter to connect regular USB devices to your tablet or phone.