[ASC-media] Media release: outback phone calls hop 'like roos'

JCA Media jcamedia at starclass.com.au
Wed May 25 11:30:40 EST 2005

Desert Knowledge CRC Media Release

May 25. 2005


Outback phone calls are poised to imitate the kangaroo - and start hopping across inland Australia.

Faced with the prohibitive cost of building a normal telephone infrastructure throughout the vast realms of Central Australia, scientists in the Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) are working on a neat solution. 

They are planning a network where phone calls 'hop' from one mobile handset to another until they arrive at the intended recipient. 

The 'roo-call' project will revolutionise communication and life in Australia's desert regions, says Desert Knowledge CRC Chief Executive Officer, Dr Mark Stafford-Smith.

"It's a fresh example of Australian inventiveness in overcoming the challenges of distance and isolated living, in the tradition of the School of the Air and the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

"Outback people like to roam.  Our Sparsenet project is matching technology to the needs and wishes of inland communities, businesses and individuals - without a vast, costly infrastructure," he says.

Known as multi-hop ad-hoc networks, the idea is that each mobile phone unit serves as a carrier in an ever-moving network which has only a few fixed transmission points, explains project leader Dr. Mehran Abolhasan of the University of Wollongong. 

"Multi-hop ad-hoc networks are mainly made up of end-user nodes, or mobile handsets. These form a cooperative network that routes and transports traffic between participating nodes wherever they are, within range. As the range of each node is limited, it may take several hops, from one node to another, for a call to reach its intended destination or to connect to the national communication network. 

"Clever software manages the calls through this dynamic network and picks the best route - or set of hops - without phone users even being aware of it. All they have to do is leave their mobile handsets switched on." 

The aims of the project include:
"	To design a pilot voice communication network for remote areas that is low-cost to build and easy to operate
"	To make call devices and software that are resilient and robust, so they perform well in tough conditions without constant maintenance
"	To provide real-time phone services and messaging to people moving around in remote areas
"	To enable it to connect to regular nationwide phone and internet services.
"	To trial community broadcasts through the same network.

"Our goal is to create an affordable, low maintenance and easy-to-use voice and message network for remote areas," Dr. Mehran Abolhasan explains.

"It will provide better, more convenient technology to help individuals, businesses and communities keep in touch as they move around in remote areas. It will also link the Outback more closely with the rest of Australia and, especially, with world markets."

The multi-hop approach promises to bring important benefits to fields such as medical alerts, emergency services, text messaging, and financial services, he says. It could open the way for community forums, held by hook-up over huge areas.

Dr Stafford-Smith says the technology is being designed to meet the needs of a wide range of users, including indigenous people living in isolated communities who travel a lot, pastoral and mining workers, transport and tourism businesses, government and service providers as well as outback residents in general.

"Around 48 per cent of remote communities in inland Australia still don't have a basic phone service - and this way we can provide them with one."

The multi-hop technology also has major export potential to other regions of the world beset with similar challenges of isolation, immense distances, and sparse mobile populations, he adds.

"Like the Royal Flying Doctor Service, whose expertise is now in demand around the world, we expect this will be another way Australian inventiveness can turn a disadvantage - isolation - into a fresh export opportunity," Dr Stafford-Smith says.

More information:

Dr. Mehran Abolhasan, Desert Knowledge CRC and the University of Wollongong, 
02 42213347, 041 166 5792, Mehran at titr.uow.edu.au 

Dr Mark Stafford Smith, CEO Desert Knowledge CRC, 08 8950 7162 or 0408 852 082
Mark.StaffordSmith at csiro.au

Elke Wiesmann, Desert Knowledge CRC, 08 89507142, 042 700 9240, elke.wiesmann at csiro.au

Website: http://www.desertknowledge.com.au/crc

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