Communication in the harsh, uninhabited and undeveloped environment of the Australian Outback is a huge challenge.
That’s why Paul Gardner-Stephen, a senior lecturer at Flinders University in Adelaide, has partnered with Toyota and the communications and advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi on a solution.
The three partners are building a literal mobile network, using fleets of Toyota Land Cruisers equipped with Wi-Fi devices attached to their windshields.
The devices provide a signal effective range of 25 km (15.5 miles).
Using Wi-Fi, UHF and Delay Tolerant Networking (DTN), the devices can send emergency messages or geo-tagged info between vehicles in the Outback, which are then relayed to the rest of the world.
It’s a potentially handy tool in the event of a natural disaster; or for keeping in touch with crews that are out of range and need a Wi-Fi network for assistance (or communicating during high-speed chases across a blasted hellscape in a post-apocalyptic, water-scarce future Australia).
Currently, a fleet of 10 SUVs are being used in the Flinders Ranges of Southern Australia, where the tech will not only be stress-tested but refined for use in more areas, including some possible commercial use.
It’s definitely a smart take on addressing a connectivity problem in one of the least-densely populated areas of the world.