Lower Power Sensor Nets

Sensor networks are an emerging way to monitor inaccessible and unwired places. The units communicate with each other, and send the information they gather at intervals to the human operators. They’re used to monitor wildlife activity, for example.

But sensor network protocols, based on WiFi use too much power. The researchers experimented with Zigbee nodes squeezing out more efficiency and performance.

Now, after three years of research by USC’s Information Sciences Institute, a new protocol, SCP-MAC, has been produced. It promises a dramatic improvement in energy efficiency.

The protocol is said to combine two techniques: ‘low power listening” in which units switch on for only very brief periods; and “scheduled channel polling” which synchronizes and schedules the listening.

ISI research scientist Wei Ye, working with project leader John Heidemann and programmer Fabio Luis Silva in the ISI Laboratory for Embedded Networked Sensor Experimentation developed the protocol. The research was supported by the National Science Foundation, Intel and other funders.

They implemented SCP-MAC using TinyOS on Mica2 motes from Xbow. Crossbow’s XMesh technology uses low power, 32 bit PXA271 XScale processors with 32MB of RAM and 32 MB of Flash and an integrated 802.15.4 radio with a built-in 2.4GHz antenna.

UCLA’s Center for Embedded Networking Sensing (research projects), “envisions a world where researchers, students, industry and goverment routinely use distributed sensor and actuator networks to understand and control both natural and artificial systems.”

The IEEE 802.15.4 standard operates at data rates of 10 kbps to a max of 250 kbps. Wireless links can operate in three unlicensed frequency bands (2.4GHz, 868Mhz and 915MHz). When lines of communication exceed 30 feet, the 802.15.4 standard creates self-configuring, multihop networks. It is intended to operate in an unlicensed, international frequency band with applications in sensors, interactive toys, smart badges, remote controls, and home automation.

The ZigBee Alliance specification is a combination of HomeRF Lite and the 802.15.4 specification and operates over 16 channels with data transmission rates of up to 250kbps. ZigBee’s technology is slower than 802.11b, Bluetooth and UltraWideBand, but it consumes significantly less power and can connect up to 64,000 nodes on one network.

Dust Networks, Crossbow Technology, Ember and Millennial Net are some of the leaders in the field.

Related DailyWireless articles include; Geocoding Content & Telemetry, WiFi Tracking Tags from AeroScout, PanGo & Ekahau, Firefighter SmokeNet, Zigbee 2006, RF-ID Machine Net, and 900 Mhz Telemetry.

IBM + Google = Foaming Cleanser

IBM and Google are teaming up to bring “gadgets“, mini applications that run on a browser, from the consumer Web to corporate networks, reports ZDNet.

The partnership will allow business users to access Google gadgets from IBM’s WebSphere Portal software. WebSphere Portal 6 and Portal Express customers can get Google Gadget Portlet for free starting in April.

It will allow users to search on an Internet directory of Google gadgets and configure them to run on IBM’s software. A salesperson, for example, could use a gadget to plot customer information from a sales application on Google’s Web-based mapping service.

By having the gadgets run within a browser controlled by IBM’s portal software, customers can take advantage of IBM’s network access security as well other features important to corporations such as backed-up data, said Larry Bowden, IBM’s vice president or portals and Web interaction services. In addition, employees can store information, such as names and addresses, on the company’s network while using Google gadgets, he added.

IBM hasn’t integrated gadgets from other providers yet, but Bowden expects the company will in the future.

Wikipedia explains a key technology behind gadgets — AJAX.

Ajax, shorthand for Asynchronous JavaScript and XML, is a web development technique for creating interactive web applications. The intent is to make web pages feel more responsive by exchanging small amounts of data with the server behind the scenes, so that the entire web page does not have to be reloaded each time the user requests a change. This is meant to increase the web page’s interactivity, speed, and usability.

Samsung + Beceem Go Mobile

Beceem will be supplying Mobile WiMAX silicon to Samsung for use in fixed and mobile WiMax applications, reports Unstrung.

Samsung is currently the front-runner in the mobile WiMax market. Samsung 802.16e gear is used in Korea’s WiBro standard, and will be used by Sprint in their Washington DC Mobile WiMAX rollout later this year. SkyCross designed and manufactured the first internal and external antennas for WiBro and is applying its experience to similar WiMAX networks.

Beceem is among the first vendors to develop “Wave 2” mobile WiMax chipsets, which specifies smart antennas and MIMO for better range and speed. MIMO was specified in the 802.16e standard. “The first wave of Mobile WiMAX gear that gets certified will be 2×2 MIMO,” Intel’s Knudsen said. “There is no specific plan to do more than that, but as other silicon gets developed, more sophisticated multi-antenna systems will continue to come to market and get certified.”

‘Mobile WiMAX Wave 2’ is expected to be deployed by Sprint and other operators this year. Wave 1 devices have 20M/6Mbps download/upload speeds, but Wave 2 is expected to go twice as fast; 40M/12Mbps.

According to Wireless Week, Clearwire also has licenses for 2.5 GHz spectrum covering 210 million people in the United States. Clearwire CEO Ben Wolff (left) says they have spectrum covering all or parts of 72 of the top 100 markets.

This year Sprint will provide Mobile WiMAX service, in Chicago and Washington D.C. Motorola WiMAX gear will be used in Chicago while Samsung Mobile WiMAX gear will be used in Washington D.C..

Samsung showed off “the world’s first mobile Wimax PDA phone” (right) at CES last month. Samsung’s SPH-M8100 phone runs on Microsoft’s Windows Mobile 5.0 and features both CDMA celllular and 802.16e, with a 2.8″ color screen, a 2-megapixel camera, mobile television and a TV-out port.

Related DailyWireless stories include; Mobile WiMAX PlugFest, Sprint to Demo Mobile WiMAX at CES, Mobile WiMAX in Hillsboro, OR, State-wide Wireless Broadband Access, Mobile TV: Six Flavors, Grand Rapids + Clearwire, Clearwire Launches in Seattle, Clearwire’s $900M Payday, WiMAX World 2006, WiMAX Interop: Good So Far, Maravedis WiMAX Report, Intel Inside Clearwire, Moto in MobileWiMAX Chips, Sprint: It’s WiMAX! and Mobile WiMAX: It Begins.

U-verse Big Bang

San Antonio-based AT&T, the nation’s biggest phone company, said it has ironed out technical glitches with the service and is readying an expansion of its U-verse IPTV service that will take it to all major cities in its 22-state service area and 8 million households by year-end, reports the San Antonio News Express.

“We’re ready to take our foot off the brake and step on the accelerator,” John Stankey, AT&T’s group president for operations, said Tuesday. “By the end of the year, we will be up and running in every significantly sized market where we operate.”

The company quietly began offering U-verse in Milwaukee, Wis., this week. It will launch next week in Dallas-Fort Worth and later in the month in Kansas City. The expansions will bring to 14 the number of markets where the service is available.

AT&T launched U-verse in San Antonio last June and expanded into Houston and nine other markets late last year. The company, eager to bundle video with phone and Internet services, wants to reach 19 million customers by the end of 2008.

The company’s partners in the video rollout include Microsoft, whose software lets customers receive programming over Internet lines, and Motorola, which produces set-top boxes for the service.

Rival phone company Verizon Communications Inc. is installing new fiber directly to customers’ houses to deliver its video service, called FiOS.

“Today, one or two high-definition streams is fine for most people,” said Michelle Abraham, analyst with research firm In-Stat. “But there’s no question that in the future, people will be bringing more and more HD sets into their homes. They may want to watch one HD channel while recording another while someone in the other room watches a third.”

Stankey, however, said AT&T has no plans to take fiber directly to customer homes, except in new housing developments. If bandwidth demands rise in the next few years, the company has the option of using technology that doubles up its copper wires or brings its fiber-optic lines deeper into neighborhoods.

“That still makes more economic sense than going in and building fiber directly to the home,” he said.

Fiber to neighborhood nodes costs less than running it to homes. AT&T spends $270/home while Verizon spends $933/home for each home passed. AT&T’s node-to-home bandwidth is about 24Mbps, enough for its maximum 6Mbps broadband and a couple of television channels, but two HD channels would be a stretch.

But AT&T won’t reach its 18 million home goal this year, the original “Lightspeed” goal, reports USA Today. Instead, it will reach less than half the original target: 8 million.

Some analysts have speculated that AT&T might shift its strategy to include more fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) deployment, says Telephony Magazine.

Tellabs, the chief supplier of fiber access gear to Verizon Communications and the former BellSouth, has been having more intimate discussions with AT&T following its merger with BellSouth, according to the vendor’s chief financial officer, Tim Wiggins.

We’re having much more strategic discussions with AT&T, Wiggins said. How that plays out time will tell.

MediaFlo Debuts March 1st

Verizon Wireless will begin offering mobile television on March 1, according to coverage maps on the carrier’s Web site, reports RCR News.

Verizon Wireless has branded the service as “Vcast Mobile TV.” No further details were offered, and the maps offered the caveat that mobile TV would be available only in “select markets” on March 1. The maps do not currently show coverage in major markets such as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Diego or Las Vegas.

The carrier is using Qualcomm’s MediaFLO for the service. Cingular also announced it will use MediaFLO for mobile TV, and is expected to launch commercial service later this year.

Last month Verizon Wireless announced it will offer two mobile television-capable handsets, the Samsung SCH-u620 and the LG Electronics VX9400 (with a swiveling screen).

The carrier announced last month that it would offer shows from CBS, Comedy Central, Fox, MTV, NBC News, NBC Entertainment and Nickelodeon. Other than the launch date of March 1, Verizon Wireless’ Web site does not include did not include any additional information on programming or pricing for the service.

MediaFLO USA plans to go live in 20 to 30 markets in the first quarter and already has live networks covering entire metropolitan areas from Las Vegas to Chicago.

Qualcomm’s MediaFLO uses a proprietary (FLO) system running over their dedicated channel (UHF channel 55), while Aloha Partner’s HiWire intends to use the DVB-H mobile tv standard on two 6 Mhz wide channels, UHF channel 54 and 59, which they bought at the FCC’s lower 700 MHz auction nearly 5 years ago (for a relative song). Modeo uses a dedicated 6 Mhz wide channel at 1.675 GHz.

In January, Steve Kaluza, Transmitter Supervisor for KGW-TV, Portland, Oregon, said: “MediaFlo plans to begin radiating from their new antenna at the top of the Skyline Tower Site’s main tower Friday, January 5th. They are on channel 55, 716-722 MHz., at 50,000 Watts ERP.”

This week in Congress, executives from XM and Sirius will argue for a $13 billion satellite monopoly. Traditional broadcasters also favor consolidation. In October, the National Association of Broadcasters asked the FCC to relax ownership limits in local markets, so companies could control yet more stations per town.

There’s really only six or seven guys around the country right now deciding who’s on the radio,” says Victor Ives. “There’s a lot of talent out there that hasn’t been able to find its way on the air. It creates a tremendous opportunity for us.” His satellite feed and streaming video broadcast, called White Springs TV, is free and runs a mix of movies, cartoons, short subjects and interactive content.

Related DailyWireless Mobile TV articles include; Mobile TV: Six Flavors, Verizon Launching MediaFLO, Modeo’s NYC Mobile TV Delayed, Hiwire Moves on Mobile TV, Zune Phone Goes WiMAX?, Sprint to Demo Mobile WiMAX at CES, MobiTV + NDS = Content Management, Verizon Wireless Does YouTube, Modeo in NYC, UK Tests TDtv, T-Mobile: 3G, No FLO, Mobile TV Metrics and HDTV from Aircraft.

Boingo Offers Voice over WiFi

Boingo Wireless has announced Boingo Mobile, the first global Wi-Fi Internet service designed for Wi-Fi-enabled mobile phones and devices.

Boingo Mobile lets users enjoy access the Internet using their Windows Mobile handsets over Boingo’s hot spots for a monthly flat rate of U.S. $7.95.

Voice over WiFi can also be utilized. Belkin’s Wi-Fi Phone for Skype ($199, right) has Skype software built-in.

The free Boingo Mobile software can be downloaded for Windows Mobile 5.0 Smartphones or Pocket PC devices. It automatically provides connection and roaming authentication to more than 150 different Wi-Fi network operators worldwide for $7.95 per month. Boingo Mobile provides high-speed Internet access at airports, hotels, restaurants and convention centers worldwide.

Boingo Mobile subscribers can use the Wi-Fi access for all Internet-enabled services and applications on their mobile phones, as well as make wireless VoIP calls. Additional features include push email, sending SMS, watching online news or video, performing photo or video uploads and downloads, searching the Internet, accessing Intranet services, as well as other network-based uses from their mobile phones.

First announced at the 3G Global Congress a few weeks ago in Spain, the service is said to provide connectivity to more than ten thousands hot spots in more than 60 countries around the world including France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States.