Pioneering wireless technology company Zetifi has been awarded a $1 million grant from the NSW Bushfire Commercialisation Fund, in a testament to the company’s commitment to adapt its novel wireless technology — initially designed for farms — to the critical communications sector. This development marks a significant step forward in enhancing connectivity for emergency services.
Zetifi’s journey began with a vision to bridge the digital divide in rural areas, particularly on farms, where reliable internet connectivity was a longstanding challenge. Company founder Dan Winson, a network engineer from Wagga Wagga, experienced firsthand the frustrations of limited connectivity in rural and remote areas and this experience inspired him to establish Zetifi in 2017, with a focus on developing cutting-edge wireless solutions for farms.
Zetifi’s initial breakthrough was the creation of ‘sleepy’ solar-powered wireless repeaters, which extend the reach of existing Wi-Fi networks across vast agricultural landscapes. This allowed farmers to monitor their equipment, manage irrigation systems and gather crucial data remotely. With the support of more than $8 million in government funding to develop and commercialise the technology and a recently completed $12 million capital raise led by Telstra and GrainCorp, Zetifi’s product line-up has expanded to include long-range Wi-Fi hotspots, vehicle and machinery gateways, and location-aware smart antennas.
It became clear that Zetifi’s potential extended beyond the fields, with the company’s technology having proven resilient and adaptable — qualities essential for critical communications, especially during emergencies like bushfires. The Bushfire Commercialisation Fund recognised this potential, leading to the recent grant award that aims to adapt Zetifi’s technology for the needs of the critical communications sector.
The implications of Zetifi’s adaptation for first responders are immense. Firefighters often operate in remote areas with limited connectivity, making effective communication a challenge during crucial moments. With Zetifi’s technology, fire trucks can now be equipped with long-range Wi-Fi hotspots, enabling real-time communication, data exchange and information sharing even in the most remote locations from a small number of vehicles equipped with satellite connections out to the masses of vehicles and firefighters. This interconnectedness enhances coordination, situational awareness and resource allocation during firefighting operations, ultimately leading to more effective and safer outcomes.
The Bushfire Commercialisation Fund’s recognition of Zetifi’s potential underscores the importance of collaboration between the private and public sectors in addressing critical societal needs. As Zetifi’s technology finds new applications in emergency response, it stands alongside a range of existing and emerging technologies that hold promise for safer and more efficient firefighting operations.
This article first appeared in the September/October 2023 issue of Critical Comms.