Australia is a beautiful, vast country with hardly anybody living it. That’s why some 70 percent of the landmass has no cell coverage. But there are still enough people around to try and come up with a creative strategy for backcountry communication.
Flinders University in Adelaide and a media outfit called Saatchi & Saatchi Australia is working with in Toyota to implement the use of little devices that get strapped on to Land Cruisers roaming around the country, creating and ad hoc network for emergency communication.
With the device uses a combination of Wi-Fi, UHF radio waves, and something called Delay Tolerant Networking (DTN) which technologists have been experimenting with for decades as a means to communicate between moving computers.
Apparently NASA is testing a similar concept for interplanetary communications.
Each vehicle fitted with such a device becomes a comms hotspot with a range of up to about 15 miles. Somebody near the SUV could use its network with their own phone to get a message out which would then be forwarded from one Land Cruiser to another as they passed within range of each other until the signal could hit a fixed network base station.
The premise is “to provide a first-of-its-kind disaster response lifeline one of the most cut-off places on earth,” but you might also be able to send important poop emojis from the Simpson Desert, too.
Toyota is running a fleet of Land Cruisers with this tech over an area of about 30,000 square miles in the remote Flinders Ranges to see how well it works and figure out if it’s actually a viable outback connectivity solution.