Researchers at Flinders University in Australia are involved in a project that allows mobile phones to be used in disaster zones and remote locations.
Dr Paul Gardner-Stephen, a lecturer in computer science at the university, said that the aims of the Serval Project were to provide fast, cheap, robust and effective telecommunications systems where conventional phone infrastructure has been destroyed or is not cost effective.
The Serval Project – named after an African wildcat – consists of two systems. The first is a temporary, self-organising, self-powered mobile network for disaster areas, formed with small phone towers dropped in by air.
The second is a permanent system for remote areas that requires no infrastructure and creates a mesh-based phone network between Wi-Fi-enabled mobile phones and, eventually, specially designed mobile phones that operate on unlicensed frequencies.
By using existing mesh network technology developed by Village Telco and integrating Distributed Numbering Architecture (DNA) software developed at the university into phones, Dr Gardner-Stephen claims that telephone access can be provided to millions of people who currently lack any or affordable telephone coverage, as well as being able to help those affected by disaster.
’It will allow people in remote or isolated townships, or farm workers in network black spots to talk to each other,’ he said. ’People in a disaster-ravaged area will be able to contact friends and family and aid workers will be better able to co-ordinate relief efforts.’