World-first technology being trialled on Queensland beaches this summer is set to save lives by breaking down the communication barriers between surf lifesavers and international tourists, educating beachgoers, and encouraging all swimmers to stay between the flags.
In the past 10 years there have been 75 drownings recorded on Queensland beaches and, of these, 31 victims (41%) were international tourists or recent migrants.
Meanwhile, of the 5,000+ rescues performed by Queensland’s surf lifesavers and lifeguards since January 2017, almost 80% have occurred outside of the red and yellow flags.
In response, Surf Life Saving Queensland (SLSQ) has worked with Actify Live and Romeo to develop mobile wi-fi technology between the red and yellow flags, capable of pushing out real-time surf safety alerts in seven different languages.
The new technology, called Life-Fi, will allow beachgoers to access unlimited free wi-fi between the flags along with a live feed of multilingual information on conditions, closures, and other safety tips.
With thanks to funding from the Department of Innovation and Tourism Industry Development, Life- Fi will be trialled at a number of tourist hotspots this summer, with plans to expand the technology to all patrolled beaches across Queensland in the coming years.
SLSQ chief executive officer John Brennan OAM thanked the Queensland Government for its vital support, saying Life-Fi would play a key role in protecting both international and domestic beachgoers this summer.
“For us, the benefits of Life-Fi are two-fold; it’s a great way to encourage all swimmers to stay between the flags, but it’s also a wonderful platform to provide live information on conditions and safety tips, particularly to international tourists in their own language,” he said.
“It’s not uncommon to see international beachgoers who don’t speak English and who don’t have a lot of experience in the surf, and it can be a really challenging situation for our lifesavers and lifeguards.
“Even trying to communicate simple messages such as ‘swim between the flags’ or ‘watch out for that rip’ can be almost impossible at times when you don’t speak the same language.
“We can use Life-Fi to educate and engage with all beachgoers, be it international or domestic, and that could literally mean the difference between a drowning and a positive outcome in the right circumstances.”
Initially Life-Fi will communicate safety information in English, Arabic, Hindi, Simplified and Traditional Chinese, Japanese, and Thai, with opportunities to expand on the number of languages moving forward.
Tourism Industry Development Minister Kate Jones said Life-Fi would make Queensland beaches
appeal to more tourists.
“We want to give Queensland lifesavers the cutting-edge technology they need to make our beaches the safest in the world,” she said.
“That’s why 10 surf lifesaving clubs will receive Life-Fi later this year, with a further four mobile devices moving along the coast as needed.”
“There is no doubt this system will save lives,” she said.
Life-Fi will be trialled at a number of beaches across Queensland over summer, with exact locations to be announced in the coming weeks.