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End: 2013-01


SERVAL Long-range WiFi Add-on

Serval Project's goal is making mobile phones useful, even when there is no cellular network or internet available. This particular project prototypes a "helper device" for long-range WiFi.

Serval has developed various technologies that allow voice calls, SMS, file sharing and other services in a completely distributed manner. Robust security is being progressively introduced into these technologies, with voice calls already enjoying end to end encryption, and our UDP-like Mesh Datagram Protocol (MDP) also enjoying automatic encryption.

The Serval Project is intended to be useful in disaster and emergency situations anywhere in the world, as well as for people in rural, remote and developing world settings where traditional cellular service may not be available or may be too expensive. The Serval Project's technologies also have obvious application to enabling freedom of speech and communications for people under oppressive regimes.

Serval currently uses ad-hoc WiFi on mobile phones to form the mesh network. This requires root access on Android, and is unlikely to ever be possible on iPhone. Also, ad-hoc WiFi, while useful, has many limitations, including limited range and relatively high power consumption. This particular project aims to prototype a "helper device", that would consist of a WiFi-enabled Arduino-compatible device attached to a low-cost radio module, and then to integrate that hardware with the Serval platform.

The result will be a box that allows any WiFi enabled phone (Android, iPhone, Blackberry, Nokia S60 etc) to connect to the mesh. Some platforms will have a first-class native client, e.g., Android, while others will be able to use an HTML client to access mesh functions.

Moreover, the box will be capable of long-range communications to other such boxes. Current estimates suggest that ranges of 6x-18x WiFi range are possible, allowing line-of-sight range of perhaps 1km or more.

Finally, the box will be able to be integrated with satellite data terminals and short-burst data modules (basically satellite SMS) to allow the connection of mesh networks to the outside world.

Project of Serval, Australia