Entrepreneur on world stage

The Serval project, the world-leading remote phone network developed at Flinders University, has put inventor Dr Paul Gardner-Stephen in a line-up of some of the leading entrepreneurs around the world.

Dr Gardner-Stephen, from the School of Computer Science, Engineering and Mathematics at Flinders at Tonsley, was one of 30 innovators selected in an elite list of finalists in the 2016 Rolex Awards for Enterprise.

The finalists were selected from a pool of 2,322 applications representing 144 countries. They presented to a jury panel of eminent scientists, explorers and social entrepreneurs in Switzerland earlier this year.

The overall laureate winners included a polar scientist, a robotic suit designer and an eye specialist who wants to save millions of people from going blind. The judging panel included a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, the first Canadian astronaut to walk in space and leading business people from Asia and the Middle East.

Serval is a telecommunications system that allows smart-phones to communicate when telecommunications networks fail. The open-source software and technology has won a long list of awards and financial backing, including from the Pacific Humanitarian Challenge earlier this year.

A pilot of Serval in the Pacific is being planned for 2017, when the system will be used to help provide and sustain communications for vulnerable communities, as a first step towards wider use.

Dr Gardner-Stephen says the project aims to make mobile telecommunications available to all people, regardless of income, location or disaster by allowing off-the-shelf cell phones to communicate directly without needing cell towers.

As part of a Mercator Fellowship, Dr Gardner-Stephen is currently working at the Technische Universität (TU) Darmstadt in Germany on further development of the Serval technology with Löwe NICER collaborators at the Secure Mobile Networking Lab .

In Germany he is working with the NICER and BMBF SMARTER research projects, which are investigating the use of smartphones for emergency communication from a European perspective.

Dr Gardner-Stephen said: “As Germany’s premier research fellowship scheme, the Mercator Fellowship is designed to support the kind of long-term and productive relationship that we are looking for, to ensure the widest impact of the Serval Mesh technologies that we have developed at Flinders.”

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