Toyota LandCruiser Emergency Network

My latest work via Saatchi & Saatchi. As featured in Wired, Engadget, TechCrunch, PSFK and The Verge.

Nearly a year and I half ago I walked in to my then ECD’s office and said “what if you could connect all the LandCruisers in Australia to create a gigantic, roving emergency communication network. Not just the new ones, but all of them!”. Well, after a year and a half of toil it feels great for Toyota and Saatchi & Saatchi to finally announce The LandCruiser Emergency Network – an ongoing project to bring emergency communications to the Outback:

Toyota LandCruiser Emergency Network – Transforming Toyota LandCruisers into a pop-up, emergency mobile phone network powered by everyday Australian drivers.

Extreme terrain, killer predators, isolation from services and rapid onset of extreme weather make the Australian Outback one of the most inhospitable environments on earth. One of the biggest challenges faced by rural communities, and visitors, is a lack of access to mobile phone networks.

With over 5 million square kilometres, or 65% of the land receiving no mobile signal, the Australian Outback is one of the world’s most dangerous mobile phone black-spots.

In times of emergency this can be incredibly dangerous.

LEN industrial design. Inspired by the ancient relay batons

To quote the wonderfully eloquent editor of adland.tv: “People who drive Toyota LandCruisers are a special kind of helpful adventurers. There’s literally ‘LandCruiser gangs’ that drives out to remote places to drag Jeep’s out of situations too difficult for them to handle. Not even kidding”.

It’s estimated Toyota have over 500,000 LandCruiser vehicles in operation, making them the country’s most popular 4×4 and outnumber cell-phone installations in Australia 30 to 1. While rural Australians find themselves far from cell towers, they’re never usually far from a Toyota LandCruiser driver. The project seeks to take advantage of this scale by installing a small, inexpensive, signal-providing devices that turn LandCruisers into communication hotspots.

Simple plug and play installation

Together these create a store-and-forward network of emergency signals that anyone can use with just an ordinary mobile phone.

In times of emergency such as fire or flood, a mobilised and fully rolled out network like LEN can also create a coverage within an emergency zone. This enables the community in need to organise their disaster response, as well as communicate with the outside world.

Developed with Dr Paul Gardner-Stephen, Senior Lecturer at Flinders University School of Computer Sc, Engineering & Mathematics, and specialist in disaster and attack resilient technology, the plug-and-play devices are built upon the fundamentals of Delay-tolerant networking currently being explored by space agencies such as NASA for interplanetary communications and deep-space internet protocols and can be fitted to both old and new vehicles. The device’s design takes its industrial design from the relay-system baton design used to carry vital messaging across vast distances by the Ancient Greek, Roman and Chinese civilisations.

project-engineerThe LandCruiser Emergency Network launched in August 2015, with a successful, ongoing community pilot in 50,000 km2 of remote Outback South Australia.

Adland says: “It’s a brilliant idea that turns the LandCruisers out there into moving Wifi hotspots, enabling people out of reach from cellular networks to piggyback on their wifi-signal in order to send out an emergency signal/call. This is an idea that is actually changing the world – starting with the outback, of course”.

Saatchi & Saatchi global describes the idea as a “‎world changing‬ idea”.

Special shout out to the wonderful team I had the pleasure of going on this journey with: Paul Gardner-Stephen and his team at Flinders University School of Computer Sc, Engineering & Mathematics. Saatchi & Saatchi creative teams Wassim Kanaan, Guy HobbsPierre-Antoine Gilles – without who’s ingenuity, creativity and insight the project would not exist. The persistence of Sam Jones, Anna Warren, Mike Spirkovski and Gary Clark. The craft of Tod Duke-Yonge. The cinematography of Eddie Bell and the 8 crew. And a special thanks to Marg & Doug Sprigg and co. of the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary, and the friendly citizens of the Flinders Ranges, SA.

Role: Group Innovation & Creative Director at Saatchi & Saatchi.

Note: After delivering this project I left Saatchi’s to set up my own agency (Theo+Theo) with my lovely wife, award-winning design director Clare Theophane, but I will follow the project closely and hope it achieves the global potential I had always envisioned from the beginning.

Doug Sprigg, Project LEN volunteer Simple installation LEN in action

Agency Credits
  • Client: Toyota
  • Brand: Toyota LandCruiser
  • Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi Australia
  • Executive Creative Director: Mike Spirkovski
  • Group Creative Director: James Théophane
  • Senior Creative: V. Wassim Kanaan
  • Creative Team: Guy Hobbs / Pierre-Antoine Gilles
  • Integrated Executive Producer: Anna Warren
  • Producer: Michael Demosthenous
  • Head of Design: Tod Duke-Yonge
  • Senior Digital Designer: Jake Bruce
  • Group Business Director: Ben Court
  • Senior Business Director: Sam Jones