Toyota creates emergency mobile network for Landcruiser owners

Mobile beacons are being trailed with the help of Flinders University

Mobile beacons are being trialed with the help of Flinders University

Saatchi & Saatchi has created an emergency mobile phone network that uses Landcruisers as beacons to transit messages in what it is claiming is pioneering technology.

The project, which has been developed in partnership with Flinders University, aims to capitalise on the high ownership of Landcruisers in rural and remote areas where mobile phone coverage is often non-existent.

Toyota claims that in some towns up to 90% of residents own a Landcruiser and that 65% of Australia is without reliable mobile phone coverage.

The project is founded on special beacons attached to a fleet of Landcruisers in the Flinders Ranges which use a mix of wifi, UHF and Delay Tolerant Networking (DTN) technology to pass signals from a mobile phone to a nearby beacon. The beacons then store and pass the signal to the next nearest Landcruiser-based beacon until it reaches a beacon in range of a mobile network, which then allows the message to be sent.

Each beacon has a range of up to 25km.

Dr Paul Gardner-Stephen of Flinders University said finding a way to create emergency communications in remote areas was an important project and Toyota and Saatchi had come up with a unique solution.

“Humanitarian technologies aren’t just something nice to have, they all too often end up being the difference between life and death,” Stephen Gardner said.

“It is hard to conceive of a more robust and extensive support network for outback Australia than the collective Landcruiser drivers of this country.”

Brad Cramb, divisional manager, national marketing at Toyota said the beacon project married well with the Landcruiser’s outback heritage.

“The marrying of communications technology and the Landcruiser ­- a vehicle that has a long history in the outback -­ presents a huge opportunity for us to provide much-needed infrastructure to remote communities around Australia,” Cramb said.

Mike Spirkovski, executive creative director at Saatchi  & Saatchi said that the idea had come from a simple brief  looking at how to help the community, but the concept had now been embraced by Toyota’s innovation department and the company was looking at a commercial release of the product.

“We called up the experts and found the best guys at Flinders University,” Spirkovski said.

“We now want to amplify it and get global eyes on it. We think its a brilliant use of WiFi.”

The devices have now been in testing in the outback since August last year and the agency is also hoping to get government support to get access to more radio spectrum and extend the range of the beacons even further.


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