Networking startup delivers high-speed data services to remote Australian farmers

While city dwellers may take having ubiquitous mobile phone coverage for granted, for farmers on the land it’s often a very different situation. Having zero bars of signal strength means simple tasks like making a phone call or checking email are impossible.

Determined to overcome this challenge, Wagga-based entrepreneur Dan Winson has developed a wireless networking system which boasts city-like data speeds for users in remote locations.

Wilson said his aim is for the service to help farmers both in Australia and worldwide.

Dan Winson.jpg“We use traditional Wi-Fi technology to create a farm-wide wireless network,” he said. “A user can make and receive calls on their mobile phone and access the internet as they would when connected to a conventional mobile network.”

Winson’ noted that his company, Zetifi, has already completed 40 trials of the tech which features a gateway device to link to a nearby 3G or 4G mobile tower and repeaters extending access farm-wide through a Wi-Fi network.

The company also offers a repeater unit designed to be installed in a vehicle that delivers network coverage within a 200-metre range. “Wi-Fi is a stable technology that has been in use for more than 20 years,” added. Winson. “We have packaged together off-the-shelf and customised components to create a farm-wide network that can be easily deployed in remote locations.”

Winson and his team have focused their efforts on making the equipment as power efficient as possible with many of the network devices being solar powered, which means they can be deployed just about anywhere.

“You certainly don’t need to be an electrician or a data engineer to get a network up and running,” he said. “In many cases, farmers will be able to deploy their new network themselves and be operational very quickly. Because a Zetifi network can deliver 3G or 4G-like speeds across the entire coverage area, users can stream video and downloading large files in places they previously could not have even made a mobile phone call.”

Key benefits of the Zetifi offering include:

Dramatically improved mobile phone and internet coverage.

The ability to make use of Wi-Fi connected video cameras to improve security around the farm. 

The ability to ramp up productivity by making it possible to install precision guidance technology on tractors and other farm machinery. “

The Zetifi team is continuing to develop its technology and has applied for both Australian and international patents. It is also developing relationships with a range of channel partners to distribute equipment more widely. The company expects to undertake a retail launch of its offerings next year.

 Last year Zetifi, then known as Agrinet, became a member of the SparkLabs Cultiv8 agriculture technology accelerator. Cultiv8 works with entrepreneurs to foster new AgTech ideas and grow them into successful businesses.

The SparkLabs Cultiv8 program, which accepts a new cohort of businesses each year, offers a combination of mentoring support, legal advice and access to a network of agricultural research stations at which new technologies can be trialled.

“The support and advice we received from Cultiv8 has been invaluable,” Winson said. “The business mentors have valuable knowledge expertise in building a high-growth company from the start-up phase. They have really helped us to prioritise both our time and our funds.”                                                                                                                                           

Huawei launches Wi-Fi 6 ‘AirEngine’ in Australia

Huawei Technologies has launched its world Wi-Fi 6 ‘Air Engine’ technology into the Australian market, enabling local enterprise customers to access the near 10Gbps capable Wi-Fi access points by June.

Huawei which bills its Wi-Fi 6 access point AP7060DN as the first commercial Wi-Fi 6 product in the industry. “With the arrival of Wi-Fi 6 set to revolutionize Wi-Fi connectivity in the educational sector Huawei Australia will conduct the launch at The Higher Education and Technology Agenda (THETA) conference in Wollongong, NSW,” it said.

Dr Osama Aboul-Magd, a Huawei Distinguished Engineer and key developer of Wi-Fi 6 via his work as a Senior Member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), will deliver a presentation at the event launching the technology.

The deployment of Wi-Fi 6 ‘AirEngine’ technology will enable a four-fold increase in available bandwidth for end-users to deliver total throughput of 9.6Gbps – allowing some 400 end-users to be connected concurrently to one Wi-Fi 6 access point.

This extra capacity will be critical to enable the successful delivery of bandwidth intensive applications such as Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality which can require around 300Mbps per device. Wi-Fi 6 also delivers 50% lower latency than Wi-Fi 5 technology.

In addition, the ability of Wi-Fi 6 to serve four times more end-users per access point than existing Wi-Fi technology will help to support the huge surge of connected devices in the Internet-of-Things sector.

In a further bonus for enterprise customers facing rising power bills Wi-Fi 6 also utilizes 30% less power than older Wi-Fi technologies.

The key strength of Wi-Fi 6 will be in enabling significantly improved Wi-Fi connectivity in high-traffic locations such as educational institutions, retail locations, sports stadiums and other area where large numbers of end-users require concurrent Wi-Fi connectivity.

“Wi-Fi 6 is a real game-changer so every organization, including large enterprises and those who work in sporting events need to think seriously about upgrading their networks to Wi-Fi 6.

“A good deployment example is a university where they have typically 30,000 students covering several acres of a campus.

“With Wi-Fi 6 and its ability to support a large number of end-users the number of Wi-Fi access points required to cover the same area and the same number of end-users will be far less than when using Wi-Fi 4 or Wi-Fi 5 technology.

“So, from an economic scale deploying Wi-Fi 6 actually makes economic sense in many situations.”

Telstra’s drone tech strategy takes to the skies ahead of 5G rollout

Telstra is getting serious about using drone technology to boost its arsenal of various access technologies, developing and trialling new drone capabilities that have the potential to assist in disaster management scenarios using the telco’s mobile network.

The technology was on display at Telstra Vantage, where the Telstra Labs team displayed a drone swarm and a mobile ‘cell on wings’ demonstration using 4GX on the Telstra mobile network.

“Especially when you use a swarm of drones to find a lost child, the area covered is instantly so much larger than when you use only one drone,” said Telstra CTO Hakan Eriksson, noting that the potential impact of the technology would increase explosively once the 5G mobile network is deployed.

“[But] this works now, we’ve tested these and it’s operating,” he added.

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The drone swarm is a set of drones operated by a single pilot flying in formation and using vision capture tech to quickly and efficiently scope an area impacted by fire or flood.

As the technology and regulations mature, allowing for the use of multiple drones per pilot, it will become feasible to routinely deploy drone swarms to simultaneously cover and search a large area.

This, Eriksson said, could save lives in an emergency rescue situation, and time and money in less dramatic situations.

The ‘cell on wings’ is a mobile small cell fixed onto on a drone in order to temporarily boost mobile network coverage in a local area, which is particularly useful in emergency situations.

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The Telstra CTO explained that this can be done through a tethered backhaul, by wiring a network cable to the drone from the ground while it is flying, or via a wireless line of site extension, relaying the signal from another tower.

Richard van der Draay is in Melbourne as a guest of Telstra

UK firm Veea Systems unveils on-board wireless network & computing platform for trains

UK-based Veea Systems, the company delivering business-ready services at the network edge, has launched a new on-board edge computing and mesh Wi-Fi platform for trains.

The SmartRail VeeaHub allows operators to deliver connectivity to passengers and staff, as well as provide multi-media entertainment, staff comms and engineering monitoring applications, regardless of whether the train is connected to the internet.

“The deployment-ready platform is being publicly demonstrated for the first time at InnoTrans, the international trade fair for transport technology,” said Veea Systems.

The firm said as smart transportation changes the way passengers travel, the need for reliable connectivity to facilitate a new range of services for transit agencies and travellers had become ever more urgent.

“From ongoing maintenance and staff communication, to streaming media content servers and advanced CCTV functionality; the opportunities are endless,” Veea Systems  added, highlighting that the SmartRail VeeaHub provides localized mesh network connectivity across all rail carriages.

“This allows a new class of business, safety and passenger applications to be deployed and operated simultaneously at the Edge without any backhaul connection” the company said.

The system has been designed and certified for deployment on a UK rail passenger vehicle, with an initial preloaded set of applications targeting the rail industry.

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Veea Systems CEO Alan E Jones

“As connectivity has become ubiquitous travelers demand the provision of services throughout their journey regardless of whether the train is in a cellular blackspot,” said Veea Systems CEO Alan E Jones. “At the same time train operators are looking to update legacy rolling stock with technology for train engineering monitoring and staff communications tools.

The VeeaHub SmartRail has been selected by the UK’s Department for Transport (DfT) and InnovateUK to receive grant funding to demonstrate an edge computing service for use on board trains with the UK ROSCO, Angel Trains. The ongoing joint project, which is part of the wider £3.5M DfT programme, First of a Kind: Demonstrating Tomorrow’s Trains Today, utilizes the VeeaHub to deliver a variety of applications for train operators and passengers.

Veea will be demonstrating the new product at InnoTrans 2018 in Berlin at Hall 6.1 Booth 116 along with a range of other vertical-specific market applications.