Airport RF-ID

Network Computing reports that McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas is overhauling its baggage-handling systems to incorporate radio-frequency identification tags.

McCarran is the first U.S. airport to commit to RFID on a large scale. Denver International Airport and Jacksonville (Fla.) have started small RFID trials, but steep pricing for the nascent technology–as high as 70 cents per tag until recently–has relegated RFID to aviation science fiction. Now the cost is dropping as manufacturing, transportation and logistics companies begin to deploy the technology. By far the biggest booster has been Wal-Mart, which is requiring all its suppliers to affix RFID tags to their cartons and pallets by 2006.

At McCarran, a new conveyor with RFID readers will cost about $100 million to build. The tags–900-MHz chips that store information about each unit to which they’re affixed–will cost $25 million, or 25 cents each, from Matrics, a venture capital-backed company.

By April, McCarran will begin affixing stick-on RFID tags to bags. The alternative to RFID, optical scanning using barcodes, require more labor. RFID tags are scanned passively, as they move through conveyors and are more accurate. Optical scanners generally have an accuracy rate of 85 percent to 89 percent, compared with 99.7 percent for RFID.

RFID provides a nearly real-time view of where bags are in the system, and simplifies the rerouting of bags when flights are delayed. Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines are both said to be looking closely at RFID technology for use in airports where they control their own IT systems.

Realtime Journalism

Are newspapers dead, dead, dead? You bet. Case in point: Newsplex “where the futures of journalism and news technology intersect”.

The partnership of The Ifra Newsplex at the University of South Carolina, Cingular Wireless and Textamerica will allow field journalists to photomoblog every detail of the Democratic presidential primary that takes place on Feb. 3rd in South Carolina. The project combines mobile phone and wireless technologies with traditional journalistic skills.

Seven teams of print and broadcast journalists, equipped with camphones will envelop the area, reporting its varied nuances as it happens. Swarm journalism.

But print is more than news and feature stories. Opinions, discussions, comics, horoscopes and entertainment make them work. It’s the buzz machine.

Will “newspapers” match their news product to a portable multi-media device? Probably not. About 20% of American households now have broadband, with the number expected to double by 2008. Connected journalists will redefine newspapers right out of the box. No bullshit media syndicate required.

RSS is The New News. Everyone knows that. Daily Rotation’s webpage lets you instantly select your news feeds without cost while NewsGator reads Usenet feeds as well as RSS feeds. It can synchronize your feeds to computers, public Web terminals, or handhelds. Bloggers can use it to post content to their blogs directly.

Real-time journalism will utilize video blogging, live audio and video, chat and news feeds. But why not rover-like picture coverage, or motion-capture for Famous Faces, 3D animation and games. Chandler, an open source software project, will supply email, calendars, contacts and tasks. Everywhere you want to be. VoIP live. Vidiator transforms MPEG-2 into MPEG-4, iMode, WAP Bitmap, M-JPEG, Real, or Windows Media for cell phones.

We live in a wireless cloud. It’s 2-way. Get a swarm of electric bikes, EV-DO phones, a hundred wireless netcams and a house band. Korea, Toyko, and Sydney will get there first.

This is reality. It’s putty.

Fusion Spots” could be placed all over the city. They would identify community news feeds that are commerce-enabled and location-specific. Mix story telling with “always on” vitality.

It’s a new vision. Right now. And you’re in it.

Mesh Protocols

An overview of Mesh Networking has been written by Tomas Krag and Sebastian B ettrich. They are wireless consultants working primarily on ways to promote the use of wireless technologies in developing countries.

Their current project, the Wireless Roadshow, deals with enabling local communities and non-profits in the developing world to plan, deploy, and maintain local, sustainable network infrastructure to enable voice and data communications, both locally and on the Internet.

They like mesh networking and list some of the reasons why:

  • Price: Each mesh node runs both as a client and as a repeater potentially saving on the number of radios needed and thus the total budget.

  • Ease and simplicity: If you have a box that is pre-installed with wireless mesh software and uses standard wireless protocols such as 802.11b/g, the setup is extremely simple. Since routes are configured dynamically, it is often enough to simply drop the box into the network, and attach antennas.

  • Organization and business models: The decentralized nature of mesh networks lends itself well to a decentralized ownership model.

  • Network robustness: Greater stability in the face of changing conditions or failure at single nodes.

  • Power: Extremely low power requirements, meaning that they can be deployed as completely autonomous units with solar, wind, or hydro power.

  • Integration: Mesh hardware is typically small, noiseless, and easily encapsulated in weatherproof boxes. This means it also integrates nicely outdoors as well as in human housing.

  • Reality fit: Reality rarely comes as a star, ring, or a straight line. In difficult terrain — be that urban or remote — where not every user can see one or few central points, chances are she can see one or more neighboring users.

Roughly following TechTarget and Telecom Glossary 2K definitions, we define a mesh network as follows:

“A mesh network is a network that employs one of two connection arrangements, full mesh topology or partial mesh topology. In the full mesh topology, each node is connected directly to each of the others. In the partial mesh topology, nodes are connected to only some, not all, of the other nodes.”

It is beyond the scope of this article to give a comprehensive list of available protocols and systems, but the authors maintain a Wiki-page with a list of links and further reading on the subject.

In the following we will briefly introduce a couple of the most commonly seen protocols, standards, systems, and products in the world of wireless mesh.

  • AODV is a routing protocol for ad-hoc networks designed with mobile wireless devices in mind. It is not subject to copyright protection and is in the public domain.

  • Mobile Mesh protocol contains three separate protocols, each addressing a specific function:

    1. Link Discovery
    2. Routing
    3. Border Discovery

    The Mobile Mesh software is covered by the GNU General Public License (Version 2).

  • TBRPF, or Topology Broadcast based on Reverse-Path Forwarding, is a proactive, link-state routing protocol designed for mobile ad-hoc networks, which provides hop-by-hop routing along minimum hop paths to each destination. It seems it is patent-protected unless it becomes a IETF standard.

  • OSPF is a link-state routing protocol. It is designed to be run internal to a single Autonomous System. Each OSPF router maintains an identical database describing the Autonomous System’s topology. From this database, a routing table is calculated by constructing a shortest-path tree.

  • GNU Zebra is free software that manages TCP/IP-based routing protocols. It is released as part of the GNU Project, and is distributed under the GNU General Public License. It supports BGP-4 protocol as described in RFC1771 (A Border Gateway Protocol 4) as well as RIPv1, RIPv2, and OSPFv2.

  • LocustWorld develops a free bootable CD solution based on the AODV protocol, and also develops and sells a complete ready-to-deploy MeshBox running its software, most (but not all) of which is available under the GPL. The MeshBox and mesh software have been used in a number of community networks in the UK.

  • 4g MeshCube. The German company 4G Mobile Systems has developed a tiny MeshCube running Debian Linux on a MIPS processor, using MITRE Mobile Mesh routing software. This is a ready-to-deploy gateway with both a wireless and a wired interface. With a power consumption of 4W (and potentially lower), it is ideal for deployment with an autonomous sustainable power source.

Mobile Mesh is a good starting point for mesh experiments since it can be run entirely in user space, and in our tests has worked for just about any Linux box we’ve tried it on. It also proved stable and performed OK as we dragged a mesh network out into the streets of Berlin at last autumn’s Freifunk Summer Convention — one laptop per street corner.

Qorvus’ embeds Linux Mesh software in a self-configuring and self-healing outdoor wireless networking and repeater topology

Boingo Wireless has signed a roaming agreement with mesh-enabled Verge Wireless, which operates Wi-Fi mesh networks in the Gulf South states. Verge uses mesh in its New Orleans Warehouse District network. “In addition to connectivity, we provide useful information to people at a convention or in a metropolitan area, and Wi-Fi mesh offers a means to achieve the broadest coverage cost-effectively,” said Carlo MacDonald, president of Verge Wireless.

Download a Mobile Mesh tarball from Better yet, read the full article on O’Reilly first.

Sensors of the World, Unite! Smart dust will use “energy scavenging” from solar energy or vibrations and only need about 10 microwatts. The real challenge may be in pulling thousands of smart-dust motes – each with extremely constrained processing, memory and communications resources-into a distributed network that actually does something useful.

“There’s nothing new about mesh networking,” says Kristofer Pister of Smart Dust Inc; what’s “magical” is doing it with incredibly constrained-resource devices.”

How about dozens of WiFi birdhouses, meshed together, complete with little video cameras.

AA battery-powered motes are designed to report subtle changes in their immediate vicinity, bouncing the data mote-to-mote until it reaches a larger, solar-powered microserver erected on a taller pole (birdhouse) several hundred feet away. In turn, the microserver wirelessly streams the information to a more distant central processor (in this case, a PC in the reserve’s lodge), and then, via the Internet, to any interested researcher anywhere in the world.

At the moment, there are just a handful of motes in operation, at the James Reserve north of San Diego, but eventually, there will be 2,000 to 3,000 of them throughout the reserve feeding into 10 microservers. It is a field test of technology and technique run by UCLA’s Center for Embedded Network Sensing (CENS), a new research center launched with a 10-year, $40 million grant from the National Science Foundation.

“The idea is to create the means to study habitats and ecosystems in real time, down to the microlevel, without having to actually be there in the field,” say researchers. We get not just a lot more information, but we can get it down to the scale of individual plants and what animals are responding to.”

Intel Research Labs are involved in sensor networks, ubiquitous computing, environmental monitoring and PlanetLab.

WiMax + Satellite?

Unstrung reports that Intel has been talking up “WiMax” to carriers worldwide.

Top of Intel’s list of interested parties is European incumbent British Telecommunications, Hong Kong’s PCCW Ltd., Reliance Infocomm Ltd. (in India), Iberbanda (Spain), MVS Net (Mexico), Neotec (Brazil), and UK Broadband.

“We have been in discussions with all the major carriers about WiMax, and they are all very interested in the work that is going on in this space,” Intel spokesman Dan Francisco tells Unstrung.

“We expect to be first to market with the 802.16 certified silicon by the second half of this year,” says Intel (see Intel’s WiMax Drive).

Well, maybe.

Some five chip makers are currently planning first-generation WiMax chips. They including Fujitsu (with Wi-Lan) Intel (with Alvarion and Aperto), Wavesat Wireless (with Atmel’s foundry) and a Taiwanese company or two.

Intel expects to launch 802.16a chips in the second half of 2004. Realistically, WiMax members say it will be the first half of 2005 before systems start shipping in volume for outdoor deployments.

The new revision “D” of the standard brings two key additions to .16a. (1) a sub-channelization scheme that allows chipmakers to use smaller, cheaper power amplifiers, and (2) hooks for using antenna diversity techniques such as multiple input, multiple output antennas. “Rev D is what WiMax compatibility will be all about,” says Futjisu’s Agarwal.

What carriers in the United States might be interested in WiMax? Perhaps phone companies, using outside satellite dishes, would be well positioned to pick up the wireless last mile.

Satellite television providers have captured 25% of the multi-channel market.

Rival U.S. satellite and cable services have offered no more than seven syndicated HDTV channels. In addition, as many as 88 of today’s most popular cable channels will be provided in standard-definition format, along with local digital over-the-air programming. NDS’s Digital Video Recorder, and MPEG-4 could also be deployed to double or triple the channel capacity.

VOOM is spun off from Cablevision, who is also the top bidder for licenses to build a U.S. wireless video and data network, called MVDDS, or Multichannel Video Distribution and Data Service, according to Federal Communications Commission. It operates within the same 12/14 GHz band used by DirecTV and DISH Network. But MVDDS is transmitted from local microwave towers, allowing enough bandwidth for hundreds of channels and high-speed Internet service.

When Northpoint Technologies fought to open the DBS spectrum at 12.2 GHz for terrestrial TV delivery, it was offered as a way to provide competition to cable and DBS. Now, as bidding in FCC Auction 53 for the Multichannel Video Distribution and Data Service (MVDDS) progresses, the two bidders that have emerged on top are backed in part by EchoStar and Cablevision Systems.

Satellite broadcasters initially opposed MVDDS and some are suing in federal court to stop it, claiming the spectrum is already too crowded and that local microwave antennas would interfere with their signals from space.

Small satellite dishes could now deliver it all.

DBS satellites deliver hundreds of national channels, MVDDS provides a dozen local high-definition channels, and 802.16a/d/e can deliver high-speed 2-way data, Video On Demand and even mobile voice.

No wires.

Chinese Security Boycott

Broadcom is boycotting the Chinese “security” standard. Broadcom’s CEO Alan Ross said Chinese regulations imperil the intellectual property of foreign suppliers by requiring them to share design information with local Chinese firms.

According to the Wi-Fi Alliance, China has mandated that all Wi-Fi equipment sold in the country must support a Chinese-designed data encryption system. That system, the trade group says, is considered a national secret, so foreign suppliers must find partners among 24 authorized Chinese firms.

China’s new Wired Authentication and Privacy Infrastructure (WAPI) is a homegrown proprietary extension to Wi-Fi that only a handful of Chinese manufacturers have access to. Equipment made and sold in China after Dec. 1, 2003, must have WAPI support, and chips must be made in China.

WiFiNetNews thinks there’s a backdoor

I have assumed all along, and see no reason to doubt, that the WAPI standard contains backdoor technology that will allow China to monitor any communications sent over “secure” links. Given the propensity for Chinese government monitoring of general Internet activity specifically, and warnings from security firms about purchasing technology designed in China that could contain embedded corporate espionage tools, this isn’t so much speculation as a high probability.

Nextel’s Consensus Move

Nextel kicked off a lobbying campaign this morning designed to ratchet up interest in the so-called “Consensus Plan“. That plan gives spectrum to public safety interests in exchange for other frequencies Nextel could use for “4G”.

The group includes the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the International Association of Fire Chiefs and the National Sheriff’s Association.

Wireless Week reports the battle between police departments, fire departments and other public safety interests is reaching a fevered pitch. They want the spectrum Nextel is offering them.

The group sent letters to the White House yesterday in hopes of getting presidential backing for their plan. According to IACP spokesman Harlin McEwan, the group also has embarked on other high-profile efforts to get the issue moving at the FCC. John Walsh, host of Fox Television’s “America’s Most Wanted,” talked with government officials in the last couple of weeks about the issue, McEwan said. FCC officials confirmed that Commissioner Kathleen Abernathy was interviewed last week by Walsh for this Saturday night’s broadcast of the show.

The attention-getting tactics come as the FCC is considering 11,000 pages of comments and proposals. FCC insiders say the commission is close to issuing a decision, with a draft of a final order now circulating among the five commissioners.

Opposition comes from cellular carriers who say Nextel would be given a free ride on new spectrum.

“I’m disappointed this is being painted as a corporate battle. It’s much more complicated than that,” said Lauren Patrich, FCC wireless bureau special counsel for media and outreach. “It’s the subject of debate” at the commission “everyday,” she added.

Nextel has won wireless licenses, spectrum, tower leases and other related assets from bankrupt Nucentrix Broadband Networks for $51 million in an auction. Nextel also bought Worldcom’s MMDS licenses for $140 million. That portfolio gives Nextel about 1/3rd of the 2.5 – 2.6 GHz MMDS licenses in the United States – as big as Sprint’s MMDS portfolio.

Nextel offered to give up 10.5 MHz of spectrum on the 800 MHz band for 10 MHz on the 1.9 GHz band, in the Consensus Plan. That plan would redesignate 1910-1915/1990-1995 MHz to Nextel in exchange for pieces of the 700, 800 and 900 MHz spectrum that were awarded to Nextel by the FCC but have caused interference problems with public safety users. Nextel would return those frequencies to the FCC for reassignment to public safety and private wireless operators in exchange for a block of new frequencies. Nextel has offered to pay $850 million to help facilitate this rebanding.

MMDS (between 2.5 GHz and 2.7 GHz), has 200 MHz of licensed spectrum. It’s shared with Instructional Television Fixed Service (ITFS), a band of twenty (20) television channels available for educational institutions.

MDS at 2.1 GHz was originally used to distribute, via microwave, a single channel subscription television service, usually HBO, to home subscribers. Nextel is testing Flarion for “4G” service in the MDS band. That system, which is often said to be the basis of the evolving 802.20 standard, requires licensed frequencies, below 3.5 GHz. Data rates would be mobile, as with 802.16e, but range would likely be better using lower frequencies, in the 700-800 Mhz band.

Mobile Data Architectures
802.16e 802.20 3G
IP 802.16a mobility (more than 1Mbps) IP roaming & handoff (more than 1Mbps) Circuit-switched cell data (less than 1Mbps)
Extentions to MAC and PHY from 802.16a New MAC and PHY with IP and adaptive antennas W-CDMA & CDMA-2000
Backward compatible with 802.16a Optimized for full mobility Evolving GSM or IS-41
Between 2-6 GHz Licensed Bands below 3.5 GHz Licensed Bands below 2.7 GHz
Packet Architecture Packet Architecture Circuit Architecture
Low latency Low latency High latency

Northrop Grumman has also partnered with Flarion to develop U.S. homeland security applications. Their IP-based system is targeting the 24 MHz of spectrum in the 700-MHz band set aside by the Federal Communications Commission for public-safety applications. Specifically, they want 747-752 and 777-782 MHz. This spectrum swapping deal, like the Nextel swap, would likely be disputed by competing cellular carriers.

T-Mobile has also invested in Flarion’s OFDM system, which boosts an average data rate of 1 Mbit/s, using standard PCS cell sites and standard cellular-size, 1.25 MHz channels. That makes it approximately four or five times more spectrally efficient than comparable 3G technologies, cheaper to implement, and significantly faster. It may transition to 802.20. T-Mobile is the U.S. government’s designated Wireless Priority Service where designated leaders are given priority cellular service.

The licensed MMDS band (at 2.6GHz) may be used by Sprint. They appear to be more supportive of the “mobilized” 802.16e varient rather than the “fixed” 802.16a/d standard or the narrower band 802.20 (mobile) specification. Sprint reportedly likes 802.16e because it can – at least theoretically – be received indoors with USB clients or in mobile laptop using PC cards. The expense of truck rolls could be eliminated.

So what have we got? Here’s my guess, which is just idle speculation:

  • AT&T and Cingular could merge, offering islands of 3G and oceans of EDGE. Mostly voice.
  • Nextel (and perhaps T-Mobile) could use their licensed 1.9, 2.1 & 2.5GHz spectrum to test out Flarion’s “4G” system in 2005, moving to 802.20 in 2007. Then they’d likely merge.
  • Sprint would use their licensed 2.5 GHz frequencies for 802.16e “mobilized” 4G in 2006. That could deliver “wireless internet” without a truckroll indoors and out. Verizon might go along but without MMDS spectrum, they’d be forced to share spectrum or use the 5.8 GHz band.
  • Landline phone or cable operators as well as cities and independent wireless ISPs will use 802.16a/d for “last mile” wireless in the unlicensed 5.8 GHz band starting in 2004. That gives them freedom to erect antennas where needed without the hastle of a license. Some may move to the 802.16e spec (in the unlicensed band) in 2006-7 for mobilized service.

Or not.

DailyWireless has more on Wi-Max Outed, 4G War News, 4G War in Sydney, Korean 3G vrs 4G, 4G Clouds in the United States, 802.16e Vrs 802.20, and Public Safety Communications.

Other related Daily Wireless articles include:

City Clouds


Public Kiosks


GPS & Mapping

End Users

Network Architecture