Home' InDaily : June 17th 2010 Contents Vol21No5June2010|3
Robust new phone system a relief in disasters
A project to develop robust mobile phone
networks for use in disaster zones and
remote locations has this month received
the support of the worldwide micro-
granting body, The Awesome Foundation.
Led by Flinders University's Dr Paul
Gardner-Stephen, the Serval Project
-- named after a problem-solving African
wildcat -- aims to provide fast, cheap,
robust and effective telecommunications
systems where conventional phone
infrastructure has been destroyed or is
"There are many situations and places
where telephone infrastructure is
damaged by bushfire, earthquake,
tsunami or unrest, or where no
infrastructure exists -- where
conventional networks are of less value,"
Dr Gardner-Stephen said.
"We are aiming to fill that void."
The Serval Project 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 can operate on other
unlicensed frequencies. The two systems
can also be combined.
"We have developed software which
we've called Distributed Numbering
Architecture ('DNA') that allows people in
isolated or temporary networks to
immediately use their existing phone
numbers," Dr Gardner-Stephen said.
"We believe that for a phone network to be
useful, you must be able to call people, and
have people call you on numbers that they
know. This is especially true in disasters.
This is the magic of DNA: it allows people to
use their existing phone numbers, so that
others can call them easily."
By integrating DNA with existing mesh
network technology developed by Village
Telco with unlicensed wireless spectrum,
Dr Gardner-Stephen and his team will be
able to provide telephone access to literally
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 coordinate
Professor Paul Arbon, Director of Flinders
University's Research Centre for Disaster
Resilience and Health said the Serval Project
addresses several key emerging issues in the
management of disasters and emergencies.
"The impact of disasters is increasing as
more people live in locations where they are
at risk and become more dependent on
essential societal infrastructure,"
Professor Arbon said.
"During disaster, most of the response
capacity comes from within the local
World primary health role for Michael Kidd
general practice and family medicine is
not well established -- to set up training
programs for medical students and
graduates, to look at standards for the
practices where people are working, and
to advocate with governments to
support strong systems of primary care,"
Professor Kidd said.
"The whole rationale behind it is that we
know that those countries with strong
systems of primary care have better
health outcomes for their populations,"
Professor Kidd is no stranger to strategic
roles -- a former president of the Royal
Australian College of General
Practitioners, he also chairs the
Australian Government's advisory
committee on HIV, viral hepatitis and
sexually transmissible infections.
Professor Michael Kidd
Professor Michael Kidd, Executive Dean of
the Faculty of Health Sciences at Flinders
University, has become the first
Australian in more than 30 years to be
elected President of the World
Organisation of Family Doctors.
Known as WONCA (a part acronym of its
full title), the organisation is the
international umbrella for a range of
national professional groupings of general
practitioners. As World President-elect,
Professor Kidd will take up the leadership
of an organisation of 123 member
colleges and academies representing over
300,000 doctors in 102 countries for a
three-year term starting in 2013.
"WONCA does great work in creating
links between countries -- and
particularly in assisting countries where
New communication system for disasters
community with community members
rescuing others. Mobile phones provide an
important part of this response. They can be
used to maintain the connections between
family members, to alert and coordinate
volunteers and, most importantly, can be
used to provide the community with
warnings and updates," he said.
The US$1000 fellowship, provided by the
Awesome Foundation's Boston Chapter,
will enable the project team to
demonstrate a prototype of the system in
coming weeks. Dr Gardner-Stephen said
that with adequate financial support, the
systems could be fully operational within
Links Archive June 16th 2010 June 18th 2010 Navigation Previous Page Next Page