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October 20, 2014

WiFindUs: Lost no more

A new idea from an Adelaide entrepreneur hopes to make telecommunications blackholes at music festivals and large events a thing of the past.

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  • Words: Johnny Von Einem
  • Pictures: Andrè Castellucci

For every successful music festival that occurs, there is an accompanying black hole of communication created, through which no text message or phone call can ever successfully travel.


Greg is a serial entrepreneur. Tonight – October 23 – he and his team-mates from the New Venture Institute’s Enterprise Workshop are in the running for a series of awards at the program’s Gala Night celebration.

It’s an isolating experience familiar to most festivalgoers, and was the source of great inspiration for the entrepreneurial Greg Stevens.

“You go with your mates and you have the best fun, but you often have differing opinions in what bands you want to see, so invariably at some stage you split up and you have quite a difficult time trying to find one another with the infrastructure not being able to cope with the demand of the calls,” he explains.

“It prompted us to think of a solution to how we could improve communication at these festivals.”

Greg first conceived of that solution in 2012 with colleague Mateus Nolasco. Since then, the pair have joined with Ben Quast, Mark Gillard, Travis Grunt, Hussein Al Hammad and Mitch Templeton to form business WiFind Us and evolve the idea. Working periodically with two Flinders University groups – the Serval Project and Flinders University Event Safety Research Group – they are now drawing close to an on-premise test of the technology at an event.

The WiFindUs system works by creating a new, localised network for devices to connect to, which transmits data on a higher frequency – independent to that of standard communications. The app also restricts the type of data users can transmit so that the network can cope with more people using it concurrently.

“All telecommunications providers operate on a standard telecom frequency, which is lower, and they allow all their customers to transmit data on this lower frequency,” Greg says.

“What we’re looking to do is restrict the type of data that the users can transmit, which means that we can therefore control the bandwidth of our network and allow our network to still be operable even though there are lots of people using it.”

Punters aren’t the only ones suffering due to the communication blackout; it’s made the work of emergency services more difficult, and that’s where WiFindUs has found its most promising application.

“Say for instance there’s someone who needs help … security comes along, they’ll submit the fact they’ve found someone in the location of their phone, then that’ll go back to base, and someone at the control centre is then going to be able to dispatch their assets.”

The first trials of the software will be the Melbourne Cup Race Day event at the Morphettville Racecourse, where the company will be working with two major providers of event security and first aid to test the system in a real-world situation.

The emergency services are their primary focus at this early stage, but Greg is hoping that once the value of their network is established, it will become a regular fixture at all large-scale events and they can start offering the service to attendees.

“We see there being a huge future in creating real-time little interesting things at festivals, or at events, which interest the consumer and get them involved, get them to interact with other consumers.”

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