Wi-Fi is fast emerging as the most popular technology for wireless communication between disparate gadgets, but security remains a major concern. However, researchers at Boston University’s College of Engineering are working on an alternative way of connecting devices that will be innately more secure than Wi-Fi.
Moreover, an LED-based communication technology will enjoy a distinct security advantage. It will be more secure compared to Wi-Fi due to the inability of light to penetrate through opaque surfaces like walls.
“Imagine if your computer, iPhone, TV, radio and thermostat could all communicate with you when you walked in a room just by flipping the wall light switch and without the usual cluster of wires,” said an ebullient Thomas Little, a BU engineering professor, about the idea. Soon, our networks will quite literally “light up”.
A study by market research firm In-Stat has found that our dependence on wires is rapidly waning with the rise in the sales of embedded Wi-Fi devices. The study pegged the sale of embedded Wi-Fi devices around the world at 294 million units in 2007. It expects the figure to leapfrog to 1 billion by 2012.
According to the study, Wi-Fi enabled cell phones will usurp PCs as the most popular (largest) category of Wi-Fi devices. Even digital TVs are expected to interact with a wide gamut of devices using Wi-Fi in the imminent future. As Wi-Fi marches towards ubiquity, there are some compatibility and security issues that need to be addressed urgently.
Commercial wireless systems, which top out at hundreds of megabits per second, still have a ways to go before being on the level of optical fiber, which boasts tens of gigabits per second. Looking to close that gap, engineers at Battelle, a research and development firm based in Columbus, OH, have found a way to send data through the air using millimeter-wave technology.
Achieving faster speeds by harnessing the millimeter-wavelength frequency of the wireless spectrum isn't new, but it is both expensive and complex due to the equipment involved to generate the signal. Or at least it used to be. The Battelle team has taken off-the-shelf telecommunication components and, by modulating data on two low-frequency laser beams, has been able to create a pattern of interference that acts as a 100GHz signal (millimeter-wave technology operates on frequencies between 60GHz and 100GHz). By doing so, the team demonstrated a 20 gigabit-per-second signal in its lab.
While the research looks promising, a shipping product could still be years away. Putting the system together using existing components has helped to break through the cost barrier, but the new challenge will be to create a smaller device that's less unwieldy.
This multi-function Wi-Fi device is super handy in some applications; utterly useless in others. It’s great if you have an extensive hardwired network and want to deploy a wireless access point and a three-port switch in a room your Wi-Fi router can’t otherwise reach. But it sucks as a wireless bridge because of its extremely poor range.
Going green is something that just about everyone is worrying about these days, and NETGEAR is no exception. Having recently announced a new line of Wireless-N routers with the Prius driving consumer in mind, they’ve finally thrown their hat into the eco-friendly ring.
NETGEAR’s new routers will be shipping in packaging that has been made from at least 80% recycled materials, as well as boasting a fancy new on/off switch that will allow users to save energy when the network isn’t in use. There’s also a separate on/off switch that will allow users to turn off only the router’s wireless component.
The inside of the routers will be getting quite a makeover as well, "The enhanced wireless speeds and greater coverage provided by Wireless-N technology enables the simultaneous use of applications such as voice-over-IP, video and multimedia streaming, console gaming, and Web surfing. The launch of these new Wireless-N networking solutions makes it easier and more affordable for consumers to replace their existing routers or modem routers and upgrade their WiFi networks to support these more bandwidth-intensive applications. The new product family is feature-rich in terms of performance capabilities and ease of use as well as energy-efficiency,” says Som Pal Choudhury, NETGEAR’s senior product line manager for advanced wireless products. And when he says affordable, he means it. These bad boys will run you only $89 for the router, and $119 for the router with a built in DSL modem.
Creative this week unveiled its Sound Blaster X-Fi Notebook, which as the name implies is an add-in soundcard for (cue the drum roll) notebooks. But wait, doesn't Creative already offer an X-Fi geared towards road warriors? The answer is yes, and the X-Fi Xtreme Audio Notebook has been available for some time now, but this re-release sports a slimmer profile, a new color scheme, and the ability to transmit wirelessly.
That's right - when paired with the optional Creative Wireless Receiver, the X-Fi will have the ability to beam music to your speakers rather than remain tethered. The new soundcard supports up to 4 wireless receivers, and each one can be placed up to 100 feet away from the notebook.
The slimmed down peripheral fits into both ExpressCard 34 and 54 slots (previous version is 54 only), and brings the usual assortment of goodies to the table, including CMSS-3D, EAX Advanced HD, and Creative's Crystalizer technology. You get a pair of headphones bundled in, along with a free download of PowerDVD with full DTS and Dolby Digital decoding support.
Look for availability by the end of month, with the X-Fi Notebook priced at $80 and optional receiver commanding $70.
If your ISP goes down during a bad thunderstorm or other unexpected outage, you might find yourself reflecting on just how dependent you've become on this thing they call the interweb. But while most of us only have to suffer through temporary downtime on rare occasions, what about the "other 3 billion" people who lack internet access altogether?
Google hopes to change that, and with the help of Liberty Global and HSBC, the three internet saviors are backing a start-up called O3b Networks (can you guess what O3b stands for?). Initial production of 16 low-cost satellites is already underway and will eventually provide the infrastructure for locales without high-speed networking cable, including emerging markets in Asia, Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East.
"The O3b Networks system wil completely change the economics of telecommunications infrastructure in the world's fastest-growing markets for communications services," O3b said in a statement.
Look for the service to become active in 2010, with the door being left open for even more satellites down the line.
You gotta give some credit to the Zune, who despite weaker-than-expected sales and the inevitable release of new, updated players from Apple’s popular iPod lineup (as well as an iTunes upgrade), attempts its hand at persuadable marketing with new emphasis on the media player’s wireless capabilities.
According to Microsoft, the Zune promises to take music discovery “to the next level” by offering users the ability to wirelessly download and stream millions of song from wireless hot spots around the country. Zune’s software and firmware updates will allow users to purchase music directly from the built-in FM radio as well as wirelessly access the Zune store on the go. And if wireless isn’t available, the media player will queue the download until the user is back in a connected area.
Microsoft is attempting to take advantage of the fact that its player has wireless capabilities and the user can purchase the song as soon as he or she discovers it from the radio, in a store, from a commercial, etc. Zune customers will also have the option to pay for music per song or by purchasing a Zune Pass.
How connected to the internet do we need to be? I already tote my laptop everywhere in the house with me. Often it is quicker to email me as opposed to calling me. As it is, my wife gets mad at me if I bring the laptop in to watch a chick flick on TV with her. It is as if I mitigating my affection for her by not suffering through Sex and the City with her.
As if my internet addiction isn’t bad enough, Chrysler is making a roving hot spot option available on it’s mini-van’s. I now have to convince my wife that she needs a mini-van. Then maybe I can get the dealer to slip in the UConnect Web option on the sly. I can then play dumb when she asks why I have an internet connection so often when she is diving down the road. “Oh a lot of open hot spots in this neighborhood, honey.” Do you think she’ll buy it? Me either.
From a technical aspect the UConnect Webis way cool. It is however also pretty disturbing too. I cringe when I think of all the people I see driving in rush hour traffic shaving, applying makeup, reading the paper, or working their Crack- uh, I mean BlackBerries. I can just imagine adding a laptop to the mix. It’s bound to create a lot more combination vehicles like a “Chevroler”, or a “Forlet”. Of course, vehicles combined due to driver inattention just lose all of their value.
With around 40,000 traffic fatalities a year in the US now, do we really need to get our hit off the net in the car too? We don’t need to add fatalities beyond Fatal1ty to the information super highway. Chrysler’s intention is for the service to be used by the kids in the back seat, but do they really believe that is where it will stay? This article from the NY Times says no, but do you agree?
In between the ultra-high frequency television channels sits a spectrum of TV "white space," and as U.S. broadcasters transition from analog to digital transmission in time to meet the Federal Trade Commission's February 2009 deadline, these vacant bands are becoming a point of contention.
Google, Motorola, Microsoft, Philips, and others envision these vacant bands being used for universal wireless internet, and to plead its case to the FCC (and apply some pressure), Google has setup a website called FreeTheAirwaves.com with a four minute YouTube video outlining why opening up the spectrum would be a good thing.
But not everyone is in agreement with Google and Co.'s semi-Utopian vision. According to audio industry professionals, opening up the spectrum could be disastrous. Why? Because wireless audio equipment could suddenly find itself facing significant interference from electronic devices searching for wireless connectivity.
"The radio frequency environment is going to become more crowded and more difficult to use," says Mike Torlone, director of marketing services at AKG Acoustics, a division of audio-equipment manufacturer Harman International.
The fear is that everything from celebrity concerts to the local church sermon could potentially be affected, but Google thinks there are ways around the problem, such as using a geolocation database to ensure no white space device could transmit without first getting the all-clear from the database.
What's your take? Should the FCC open up the spectrum, or will doing so cause more problems than it purports to solve?