Flinders University researchers are preparing to test a new version of open source wireless mesh project Serval that could pave the way for encrypted, carrier-free communications for defence and disaster relief organisations.
The Serval app uses wireless mesh network technology to turns any Android smartphone into a node, capable of sending, repeating and receiving signals to others in the mesh network.
It has been used by the New Zealand Red Cross in trial exercises in the past year and will undergo a second round of field trials next month to test encryption and range advances.
Flinders University project leader Dr Paul Gardner-Stephen told this week’s linux.conf.au conference that the app could allow users to make military grade encrypted voice, calls, SMS and share files for free without the need of phone towers or satellite providers.
“Our Mesh network will enable Government or military staff stationed overseas to communicate and transfer sensitive data securely and without the need of local phone tower infrastructure,” he told iTnews.
Dr Gardner-Stephen said Serval would pursue government and the defence use cases where personnel on the ground could not risk using the local infrastructure for particularly sensitive voice and data exchanges.
Red Cross field trials of new, encrypted features were due to take place in remote parts of New Zealand where local carriers did not typically provide phone service.
The app uses a purpose-built Rhizone protocol to enable 256-bit AES cryptographic encryption on all communications.
For the trials, Red Cross ground teams will perform day-to-day tasks including collecting sensitive onsite field report data, real time map tracking of all personnel for safety management, sending logistics requests and pushing app updates to handsets all via the mesh.
Serval has received more than $US1 million dollars in funding since the project's inception including $400,000 from open source pioneer Mark Shuttleworth.
The Serval app is available on the Google Play Store.