"The future role of communications satellites may be to serve
only as intercontinental conduits, or [as] space junk. Very low
power transceiver/repeaters [scattered] everywhere may become
the communication superhighway of choice for the masses.
Think about unobtrusive, tiny, passive devices whose primary
power derives from a reasonably light sky, scattered
everywhere; contained entirely on one weatherproof, mass
Just make the chips cheap enough for everyone to afford one for
their rooftop, and one or more to paste on the tops of fence
posts and rocks. Instant communications infrastructure: no
regulation, no bureaucratic delays, everyone wins. Only one
question remains: who has the vision and deep pockets to rush
it to market?"
By the way, think Bill's idea is fantasy? While still far from a
single chip implementation, Metricom's "Ricochet" already scatters
license-free, low power, shoebox-sized transceivers on street light
poles (100 transceivers per 20-square miles) to provide seamless
wireless Internet service
Information Group (http://www.gigaweb.com) believes that 50% of
computers sold in 2004 may be mobile. Indeed, they feel that a
majority of these will be task-focused communicating computing
appliances, rather than general-purpose wireless notebooks.
How could this happen? Consider an "extreme" case of how
communicating computing appliances may become pervasive. The Dec. 30
Financial times, brought to our attention by Alan Maltzman,
describes how a "disposable, pinhead-sized silicon chip" plus an
antenna is now being embedded in experimental paper baggage tags in
London's Heathrow airport. These tags will be able to identify the
bags as they wend their way through the serpentine baggage
corridors, even if the tag is twisted or sitting under the suitcase;
situations that frustrate today's laser scanners. Might we one day
find such devices embedded directly into every suitcase we buy?
How will future computing devices communicate? Certainly current
technology initiatives such as Bluetooth
(http://www.bluetooth.com/default.asp) and HomeRF
(http://www.homerf.org) offer interesting solutions, but there are
additional wireless rabbits up technology's sleeve as well --
consider "ultra-wide-band," or "digital-pulse" radio.
The Dec. 1 New York Times (
tml) describes how the FCC is considering changing its rules to
allow extremely low power bursts of radio energy, not in the tightly
regulated frequency bands of the past, but scattered across wide
swaths of the radio spectrum. The advantages of devices
communicating "down in the noise" include minimal interference with
each other, better penetration of physical objects (rooms,
briefcases, etc.), good security, and, eventually, very low cost,
very high-bandwidth wireless data.
What might this mean in comparison to some of today's wireless
technologies? According to the Times, the more traditional Bluetooth
can transmit one megabit/second of data about 30 feet using a tenth
of a watt of power. By comparison, today's prototype ultra-wide-band
(time domain) chips from IBM can transmit 1.25 megabits/second for
230 feet using one-thousandth the amount of power! And one company
working in these directions, Time Domain Corp.
(http://www.time-domain.com/technology.html), believes that this
technology could eventually fuel portable devices communicating at
"billions of bits per second."
[An interesting footnote. How quickly I assumed advertiser support was
involved! So American... :-]
"I'm afraid [FreeServe] is far from free Internet access
as you know it; [the UK's] famous 1 to 4 pence per minute
[local] call charges make the Internet still a time-tolled
activity. Freeserve is not advertiser-supported, rather
relying on a share of the interconnect revenue generated,
which is bought in bulk from telecom companies. I do not
believe that U.S. residents should be envious in the
But it is, apparently, a very good idea; FreeServe has garnered
over 900,000 subscribers in three months (beating out AOL) and
is currently valued as high as 2.5 billion pounds. And now,
according to the Jan. 26 Computergram, the UK's Toys R Us has
announced a similar "free" service...
Rohit Khare -- UC Irvine -- 4K Associates -- +1-(626) 806-7574 http://www.ics.uci.edu/~rohit -- http://xent.ics.uci.edu/~FoRK