CategoryA02. Applied Innovation
EntrantROMEO Brisbane, AUSTRALIA
Idea Creation ROMEO Brisbane, AUSTRALIA
Production ROMEO Brisbane, AUSTRALIA


Name Company Position
Marco Eychenne ROMEO Digital Creative Director
Oscar Nicholson ROMEO Digital Head of Innovation
Mike Kennedy ROMEO Digital Senior Writer
Amanda Schultz ROMEO Digital Managing Director
Joel Garvey ROMEO Digital Technical Director
Jade Stephens ROMEO Digital Senior Designer
Michael Schmidt ROMEO Digital Developer
Jonny Lu ROMEO Digital Developer
Caitlin Lilley ROMEO Digital Account Manager

Why is this work relevant for Innovation?

Life-Fi is a new, world-first, patented technology platform, and a first for media, that uses a device everyone carries — their mobile phone — to attract people to areas on beaches patrolled by lifesavers and lifeguards, without downloading an app. The product solves a universal beach safety challenge — that of ensuring people gravitate to patrolled areas, where they can swim safely, and educating them about current beach conditions in real-time through a mobile phone experience in their own language.


Context: Surf Life Saving Queensland presented an open brief to the agency. Their objective? Get people to swim between the red-and-yellow flags where lifesavers and lifeguards can keep them safe. The idea of using a technology that is ubiquitous and ‘essential’ was most appealing. The challenge was developing the tech to deliver the idea. The major restriction was that portable Wi-Fi of this nature had never been created before —a movable zone of Wi-Fi signal generated from virtually anywhere. Another limitation was the agency would have to invest in development to prove the idea. Budget: Initially, the agency set up an innovation lab with a dedicated Tech Lead to build and test the hardware, while Coders worked on developing the interface delivered by the units. After a successful trial of the first portable unit, funding for the rollout was secured through the Queensland Government’s $34 million ‘Connecting with Asia Strategy’.

Describe the idea

Surf Life Saving Australia is “striving for zero preventable deaths” in Australian waters: (2020 Strategic Plan). 50 people drowned on Australian beaches in 2017 —almost all close to, but outside, patrolled areas. Beachgoers don’t understand, don’t see, or can’t read the beach report. Migrants and tourists account for over a third of drownings in Australia. Using a portable Wi-Fi signal that could focus on the area around the red-and-yellow beach flags would attract mobile phone users. Knowing people don’t want to download apps, we developed Life-Fi. Once users connect via a prompt, our experience delivers surf safety messages, real-time updates on beach conditions and messages from lifeguards. Life-Fi – through a patented piece of code – extends captive portal technology, turning otherwise passive Wi-Fi into a platform for real-time communication, with 4G coverage provided by a client company of Telstra.

What were the key dates in the development process?

Life-Fi began development in September 2017 and was successfully trialled in April 2018, after which funding was secured from the Queensland State Government. The official launch was on 16 November 2018, and 10 units were rolled out to Queensland tourist hotspots in the following two months, with 4 more ‘roving’ units developed. A patent application was accepted in late 2018. Surf Lifesaving New Zealand, Surf Lifesaving New South Wales and the Surf Life Saving Association of Japan are in the process of implementing Life-Fi. The technology product is now able to be rolled out to save lives globally and is being leveraged for other applications.

Describe the innovation/technology

Life-Fi generates a wireless network that only works between the flags. Life-Fi automatically detects users’ mobile language settings (Chinese, Japanese, Thai, German, French and English) prompts them to connect and serves them a culturally specific experience around surf safety information and guidance. The Chinese Life-Fi experience, for example, speaks to them in a way that is respectful and sensitive to their preferred methods of being instructed. It also displays surf-safety visuals anyone can understand. The experience is operated from portable, waterproof, hard-case units — branded to represent Surf Life Saving — with a DNS, 4G router and web server, narrowcasting the signal through dual-band antennae. Patented code developed for the idea extends captive portal technology, to obviate the need for app downloads, with the 4G coverage provided by a client company of Telstra. Life-Fi continues to be rolled out to beaches around Queensland as more units are built and more funding is released.

Describe the expectations/outcome

Lifesavers have welcomed Life-Fi as an alternative to plastic-bound phrasebooks for communicating with tourists. The vision is for Life-Fi to be standard life-saving equipment around the world. Scalability: The majority of mobile phone users don’t download any apps in a month, and the average user only two (comScore 2017 US Mobile App Report). Thus, the scalability of this captive portal technology is vast, with other applications being investigated through a new agency division. Life-Fi has proven its relevance to the surf safety sector and will continue to be rolled out to beaches Australia-wide and beyond. Retail applications are attracting particular interest. The Life-Fi launch on the Gold Coast reached nearly 1 million people Australia-wide, and millions more across China and Korea, through China’s national online news service, Australian news reports were syndicated across 44 stations.


Supporting Webpage