An application developed by Flinders University to maintain mobile phone contact in disaster areas without cellular signals won a humanitarian prize of $ 279,000.

An application developed by Flinders University to maintain mobile phone contact in disaster areas without cellular signals won a humanitarian prize of $ 279,000.

Serval Mesh software allows users to talk to and send text messages to each other even when normal mobile phone coverage fails.

He is one of five winners of the federally sponsored Pacific Humanitarian Challenge, which will share $ 2 million to further develop their projects.

The Challenge to Encourage Innovative Approaches to Humanitarian Problems received 129 applications from 20 countries.

The Flinders University project, led by Dr Paul Gardner-Stephen in collaboration with the New Zealand Red Cross, can transfer coded messages between mobile phones using the app, even in the absence of mobile phone coverage.

“We’re pretty happy with it,” said Dr Gardner-Stephen The advertiser.

“We’ve been working on it for about six years, testing it at Arkaroola, and it’s now leaving the lab for use around the world.

“It has already been downloaded over 100,000 times.

The app works with commercial Android phones and enables secure, infrastructure-free, peer-to-peer voice, text and data services.

Although the range is limited to several kilometers, it would allow messages and information to be transmitted from city to city or property to property in the event of a disaster.

The technology was designed for humanitarian use in disasters, but Dr Gardner-Stephen noted that it can also be used in remote communities where there is no cellular network for normal communications, thus opening up the possibility of a wide range of uses.

The $ 279,000 prize will allow the group to conduct a pilot project in the South Pacific and further develop the technology.

“We will be carrying out the trial in Fiji, Solomon Islands or Vanuatu, or perhaps at several sites,” Professor Gardner-Stephen said.

“The idea is to work in areas without mobile phone coverage to familiarize them with it, so that it can be easily used in the event of a disaster.”

The winning entry noted that one of the defining characteristics of emergency communications in Pacific countries is the fragile or nonexistent nature of their telecommunications infrastructure.

“In the event of a severe earthquake or cyclone, it is common for already limited cellular capacity to be turned off or exceeded,” he says.

“The lack of private mobile communications is hampering rescue and relief efforts; prevents timely analysis of needs; gives rise to excessive stress; and as time passes and desperation rises, presents opportunities for civil unrest and looting.

“Therefore, there is a great need for a secure and inexpensive peer-to-peer mobile phone network technology that can be deployed quickly and efficiently after a disaster. “

Serval Mesh software includes the ability to broadcast information such as weather forecasts and locations of rescue centers across communities via mobile phone in the acute phase of a disaster.


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