Sensor Nets Get Small



Motes, those tiny, low-powered sensor devices just got smaller. Moteiv, a San Francisco startup, recently introduced Tmote Mini, the smallest device yet. It fits in the MiniSD slot and can be incorporated in stationary network nodes, phones or PDAs.

The Tmote Mini comes standard with a temperature sensor, but includes hooks for connecting multiple sensors.

The Tmote Mini combines a Texas Instruments MSP430 microcontroller with a TI/Chipcon CC2420 low-power radio, forming the “mote core” for use in WSN applications. The Tmote Mini line is offered in two configurations: the standard module has 0 dBm (1mW) output power at 2.4 GHz, and an enhanced module with +20 dBm (100mW) output power at 2.4 GHz. (Both versions are IEEE 802.15.4 compliant).

A PDA or smartphone can become a mobile monitoring station using the $30 to $50 devices.

Motes self-configure themselves into wireless sensor networks. Hundreds or thousands can form a system.

Applications include asset tracking in industry and health care, micro-climate monitoring in agribusiness, security surveillance in the military, monitoring corrosion on airliner airframes, energy management in commercial buildings – and adding sensing capabilities to toys.

Moteiv’s products are based on the IEEE 802.15.4 wireless personal area network (WPAN) standard, and comply with the ZigBee narrowband wireless protocol for home and building automation. These technologies appear to be the de facto emerging standards in the WSN industry.

Sensor networks in commercial buildings for energy management, will reach $2.6 billion in revenues by 2011.

WiFi Planet has a profile on the twenty-something co-founders and the possible applications.

The original blue-sky idea was “smart dust,” computing devices the size of a speck of dust – hence, “mote” – that could be embedded in paint and other liquids and sprayed into an environment or onto surfaces to create ad hoc mesh networks.

In vineyards in Northern California, wine growers are installing WSNs with soil moisture sensors to tell them when the grapes need to be irrigated. With ground-level soil moisture sensor networks, growers can tell in real time exactly how much irrigation is required and when. The sensor network can even turn on an irrigation system automatically when soil moisture reaches a certain threshold.

Another key application segment for Moteiv is mobile asset management in harsh environments such as rail yards, truck depots and grocery distribution centers. A mobile asset tracking system would allow a worker to walk into an environment, query the network to find the lost asset, then upload its location over the cellular network.

The military is looking at using Tmote Mini-powered WSNs in isolated areas to ensure they remain secure in the absence of direct monitoring. Healthcare providers at Johns Hopkins University are exploring using ad hoc WSNs in disaster situations. Triage nurses with Tmote Mini-enabled mobile devices could attach nodes to casualties and program the nodes with their assessment.

M2M has a detailed report (pdf) on a variety of sensor devices.

The Building Automation and Control Network (BACnet) runs Building Automation and Control Networks for “smart buildings”. BACnet is an American national standard, a European standard, a national standard in more than 30 countries, and an ISO global standard. The protocol provides interoperability for a variety of HVAC and lighting gear.

According to IT industry analyst IDC, by 2008, there will be 16.4 billion networked devices worldwide, the majority of them wireless. Networked edge devices will handle more than 50% of all network traffic.

Kiyon has a wireless BACnet WiFi Mesh, for wireless building automation. Unfortunately, it recently announced it is leaving the building automation business.

SCADA is the acronym for Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition. SCADA systems are typically used to perform data collection and control at the supervisory level. For example water plants and electrical substations.

Related DailyWireless articles include; Sensors Expo 2007, Lower Power Sensor Nets, UltraWideband: All Together Now?, Firefighter SmokeNet, Public Safety Mesh, Solar RoofNet Wiki andOSCON 2006.

Rhode Island Wireless: Show Me the Money



This is going to change everything. — Jerry Maguire

Rhode Island’s plan to build a state-wide WiMAX network was setback this week when the General Assembly chose not to back a $28.5-million loan, reports the Providence Journal.

The money was needed as a guarantee to build the Rhode Island Wireless Innovation Networks (RI-WINs). But Legislators took out the loan-guarantee language when they passed the budget last week. The provision would have put state taxpayers on the hook for loan payments if the initiative failed to produce the revenue expected by the Economic Development Council.

The lawmakers told him [Saul Kaplan, executive director of the EDC] they wanted to see more private-sector participation in the program and suggested that other financing mechanisms be found, Kaplan said in an interview yesterday.

“So that’s exactly what we’re going to do. We’re having conversations with several private-sector players,” he said.

The idea behind the RI-WINs initiative was to build a secure, high-speed computer network that could be accessed anywhere in Rhode Island. Potential clients could be public safety agencies, emergency response workers, or companies that have a need to communicate with field representatives.

RI-WINs was not envisioned to be a Wi-Fi network for consumer use, such as those being developed in Philadelphia and San Francisco. The EDC wanted to roll out the network statewide, and formed a nonprofit business plan with the help of Altman & Vilandrie, a Boston telecommunications firm.

In May 2005, a feasibility study was made. In June 2006, RI-WINs went live with its pilot phase. This year RI-WINs hoped to begin the build out the network.

The May 2005 study assessed the feasibility of constructing a border-to-border wireless network in Rhode Island. The initial effort was funded with an $856,000 federal Homeland Security grant (pdf), making Rhode Island one of 12 recipients out of 130 applicants.

The $28.5 million that RI-WINs would have borrowed was for the initial construction of the network, financing costs and expenses through three years of operations.

STATE-WIDE BROADBAND NETS

RHODE ISLAND:
POPULATION: 1,076,189
AREA: 1,044 square miles
PEOPLE PER SQUARE MILE: 1,033

VERMONT:
POPULATION: 623,050
AREA: 9,249 square miles
PEOPLE PER SQUARE MILE: 65.8

SOUTH CAROLINA:
POPULATION: 4,321,249
AREA: 30,109 square miles
PEOPLE PER SQUARE MILE: 133

KENTUCKY:
POPULATION: 4,041,769
AREA: 39,728 square miles
PEOPLE PER SQUARE MILE: 101.7

OREGON:
POPULATION: 3,641,056
AREA: 97,073 square miles
PEOPLE PER SQUARE MILE: 35.6

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2005

While several companies, such as Verizon and Cox, have already invested millions of dollars in communications infrastructure within Rhode Island, Kaplan said those companies are focused on serving densely populated areas.

Private-sector companies don’t serve the “enterprise market” very well, he said.

“The key tomorrow is going to be that broadband connection that travels with you, on your laptop, your PDA,” he said. “Remember, this is an economic development platform we want to be out in front on.”

A May 2005 feasibility study (pdf) indicated that the most effective network would utilize WiMAX backhaul with WiFi technology at the consumer edge. The 1 Mbps state-wide network was expected utilize a combination of hotspot, mesh and WiMAX architectures.

The estimated infrastructure cost was some $14 million — much less than the estimated $39.9 million it would cost to use cellular technology. A statewide meshed Wi-Fi network would require 9,000 access points while just 120 WiMAX base stations would be required to cover the state.

Rhode Island is the smallest state in the Union, spanning just 1,044 square miles with a population near 1 million.

The Center for Public Integrity’s “Well Connected” Project monitors efforts to ensure that government information about broadband deployment is available to the public.

The chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., released draft legislation in May that would require the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration to create and publicize a nationwide map in which a broadband provider’s service locations could be searched in detail.

The Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, last month introduced S. 1492, the Broadband Data Improvement Act. The bill would require the FCC to supplement the information it currently collects about broadband deployment with more localized data, including ZIP code plus four digits. It calls for the creation of online maps showing the availability of high-speed Internet services at the census-block level.

The Federal Trade Commission’s new report on “Broadband Connectivity Competition Policy,” was released this week in Washington.

“This report recommends that policy makers proceed with caution in the evolving, dynamic industry of broadband Internet access, which generally is moving toward more – not less – competition. In the absence of significant market failure or demonstrated consumer harm, policy makers should be particularly hesitant to enact new regulation in this area.”

Federal Trade Commission Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras and Commissioner Jon Leibowitz both said they needed to break through the rhetoric on both sides of the net neutrality issue net before making any policy decisions, reports C/Net.

Critics say the FTC has not been a bastion of “neutrality” themselves. Deborah Platt Majoras, the FTC’s Republican chairman, said extensive Net neutrality legislation currently pending in the U.S. Senate is unnecessary. The “Internet Access Task Force” reflected those views. The mobile phone industry is against equal-access obligations, of course.

The FCC hopes to limit a ballooning $4 billion subsidy program while policymakers develop reforms. The FCC has raised the idea of reducing the ballooning costs of the Universal Service Fund through “reverse auctions“, where the winning bidder is the one with the lowest USF subsidy. Cellular carriers blasted the FCC’s proposal to cap wireless universal service support in rural areas.

Related DailyWireless stories include; Rural Broadband Gets A Plan, Statewide/Nationwide Wireless Broadband, Statewide Wimax in Rhode Island, Vermont’s Statewide Access, South Carolina Proposes Statewide Free Wireless, Wireless Houston: Size Queen?, National Broadband: Fee & Free, Sprint’s Barry West and Clearwire’s Benjamin Wolff.

Qwest Proposes Universal Service Changes



Qwest proposed Wednesday to create a program that would subsidize high-speed Internet deployment to underserved rural areas that are not cost-effective for companies to service, reports the Denver Post.

The Universal Service Fund is paid for with a nearly 12 percent surcharge on phone bills. State public utilities commissions manage the program. The USF fund receives about $4 billion annually from a surcharge on the bill of every U.S. customer. About $1 billion of that is funneled to wireless carriers that provide service to rural customers, said Steve Davis, Qwest’s senior vice president of public policy.

“Wireless subsidies have grown beyond all recognition of the original intent,” said Davis. Qwest wants to trim subsidies paid to wireless companies from $1 billion to $500 million annually, leaving $500 million to subsidize rural broadband services. That money would be used for Qwest’s broadband deployment program.

Qwest’s 14-state local-phone service territory includes vast rural areas. Unlike AT&T, Verizon, Sprint or Clearwire, Qwest does not own cellular frequencies or WiMAX frequencies at 2.5 GHz.

Strategies differ on how to deliver broadband everywhere:

All would like free money from Uncle Sugar — or more precisely a piece of the USF funding created by ratepayers.

Currently, most USF funding collected from ratepayers goes to prop up rural twisted pair infrastructure or subsidize duplicative wireless cellular carriers.

Qwest has submitted their proposal to the FCC. Their program would be within the purview of the FCC and wouldn’t require new legislation. According to the Denver Post, the FCC would have to approve the proposal by the end of the year for the program to be launched by Qwest’s goal of fall 2008.

Currently, universal service funds are allocated by state PUC’s to eligible telecommunications carriers. The current proposal would allocate USF subsidies to the lowest bidder in an under-served region. That has the potential to reduce the inefficiencies that plague the current USF system, say proponents.

Under the Qwest program, state utilities commissions would identify regions that need broadband deployment. Companies would submit bids for one-time subsidies to provide the service to residents in those areas.

The USDA’s $1.2 billion Rural Utilities Service program, which is tasked with funding rural broadband deployment, was attacked this May by Congress for not doing anything of the sort. The Washington Post reported that since 2001 more than half the money has gone to metropolitan regions or communities within easy commutes of a mid-size city.

Members of the House committee said the five-year, $1.2 billion Universal Service Fund to provide rural communities with broadband was broken. It missed many unserved areas while channeling hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidized loans to companies in places where service already exists, charged the committee.

RHODE ISLAND:
POPULATION: 1,076,189
AREA: 1,044 square miles
PEOPLE PER SQUARE MILE: 1,033

VERMONT:
POPULATION: 623,050
AREA: 9,249 square miles
PEOPLE PER SQUARE MILE: 65.8

SOUTH CAROLINA:
POPULATION: 4,321,249
AREA: 30,109 square miles
PEOPLE PER SQUARE MILE: 133

KENTUCKY:
POPULATION: 4,041,769
AREA: 39,728 square miles
PEOPLE PER SQUARE MILE: 101.7

OREGON:
POPULATION: 3,641,056
AREA: 97,073 square miles
PEOPLE PER SQUARE MILE: 35.6

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2005

“If you don’t fix this, I guarantee you this committee will,” House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin C. Peterson (D-Minn.) told James M. Andrew, administrator of the Rural Utilities Service this May. “I don’t know why it should be this hard.”

A study found more than half the funds instead went to urban broadband deployment, and just one out of sixty-nine loans went to wiring a region without any broadband service whatsoever.

The USDA has responded by issuing a new set of proposed rules aimed at making sure the fund is doing what it was originally designed for. The USDA is also pushing to have the program extended until 2012 as part of the 2007 Farm Bill.

Three planned statewide broadand wireless networks in the United States include the states of South Carolina (31,000 square miles), Vermont (9,249 square miles), and Rhode Island (1,044 square miles).

ConnectKentucky is being hailed in Congress as one model for federal high speed internet policy. Currently, 93 percent of Kentucky homes can access broadband, and ConnectKentucky expects every household to be capable of using high-speed Internet by the end of the year. Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) cited the program’s success when he outlined a national plan for universal high speed internet access.

The 700 Mhz band will be the cheapest method for supplying rural broadband. That’s because signals travel about 3 times further than cellular or WiMAX. Only one tenth the number of towers are needed at 700 MHz.

Since Verizon/General Dynamics won the $10B IWN contract for federal 700Mhz radio towers in virtually every community across the nation, they are well postioned to leverage that asset into commercial 700 MHz service. Verizon would also like to get USF subsidies to provide that commercial service.

Public Knowledge made a video summary (above) of the Hearings on 700MHz this June. Google and Frontline want the FCC to require winners of 700 MHz spectrum allow “open access”. Cellular lobbyists editorialize against it.

Verizon opponents might argue that Verizon can afford to pay more for 700 MHz — they’re getting subsidized twice — once from the feds (by building the IWN infrastructure), and once by ratepayers (providing USF subsidies).

Frontline Wireless, on the other hand, would provide “open access”, enabling competitors to resell services, and build out a public service network — free. Wireless Priority Service (Wikipedia), gives public service users priority on busy commercial cell sites. First responders, under the Verizon plan, would pay for gear and “walled garden” service.

The Treasury would probably get more money under the Verizon plan. But consumers and public safety users would probably pay more.

Republicans generally support bigger bucks to the feds — the Verizon & AT&T approach — while most Democrats support a more competitive “open access” approach — typified in the Frontline and Google proposals. Both approaches need a sound business plan. But a business plan for 700MHz may be disruptive — another reason Republicans may be cautious.

Related DailyWireless stories include; AT&T “Open” to 700MHz — Not, Rural Broadband Gets A Plan, Congressional Fix for Universal Service?, Supernova Shout Match, Statewide/Nationwide Wireless Broadband, Statewide Wimax in Rhode Island, Vermont’s Statewide Access, South Carolina Proposes Statewide Free Wireless, Wireless Houston: Size Queen?, National Broadband: Fee & Free, Sprint’s Barry West, Clearwire’s Benjamin Wolff, Clearwire & SatTV Do a Deal, WildBlue -1 Goes Live, Satellite Repeaters: Grounded in Reality?, Hearings on 700 MHz, Rural Broadband Dying, Verizon Makes its Move for Universal Service Fund, Senate Testimony on 700MHz Sharing and FCC to Rural Users: 700MHz is the Ticket.

Nielsen Expands Phone Data



The Nielsen Company, the longtime monitor of television consumption, is buying Telephia, a private company based in San Francisco that collects data on the cellular market, reports the NY Times.

Telephia tracks consumers’ phone calling, mobile Web surfing, video viewing and other data for advertisers. Nielsen has been building mobile tracking products on its own, but Telephia will greatly advance its ability to track media consumption on every screen, Nielsen executives said.

Telephia’s consumer research is based on surveys of different people each time, in contrast to Nielsen’s practice of monitoring what the same people watch over time, says The Times. But Telephia also holds some patents for media consumption tracking on the cellphone that is similar to Nielsen’s approach in television.

Participation TV industry is one of the hottest areas of the mobile industry, says RCR News. According to Telephia, Americans texted nearly 35 million times in the first quarter of this year, generating roughly $35 million in revenue. Game shows and reality programs like “Deal or No Deal,” “Wheel of Fortune,” “Dancing with the Stars,” and “Hell’s Kitchen” utilize SMS for audience participation — and increased revenue.

Aggregators like SinglePoint deliver tens of thousands of votes/entries per second by telephone, IVR and SMS.

Seattle-based M:Metrics also measures mobile phone useage through surveys and by installing monitoring software on a user’s mobile phone.

InfoSpace says it’s hard to get big companies interested in advertising in the mobile space when so much is unknown. But analysts expect the global mobile content and applications market will be greater than $80B by 2010 and by 2011, more than 3 billion mobile subscribers are projected. Of those, approximately 74% will be mobile data subscribers, contributing 20% of revenue for operators.

Internet ads now account for 5.5 percent of total spending by the top 100 advertisers in the U.S. That adds up to nearly $10 billion, and the Internet’s about even with radio and ahead of outdoor, according to Advertising Age.

Leichtman Research Group, Nielsen/NetRatings, Point Topic and IT Facts have additional statistics.

SiBEAM Goes 60 GHz



Startup SiBEAM today revealed its new WirelessHD chipset, designed to “make wireless multi-gigabit throughput a reality”, in the home.

SiBEAM’s operates in the 60 GHz or ‘millimeter-wave’ unlicensed band, with 7 GHz of frequency bandwidth. Technology competitor UWB operates from 1.5 to 7.5 GHz, while 802.11n uses one or two 20 MHz-wide channels (generally in the 5 GHz band). SiBEAM uses adaptive beam-steering technology that takes advantage of the directional nature of 60 GHz signal.

Wireless USB“, using UltraWideband and the WiMedia spec, can deliver 480Mbps 10 feet or so, but HDMI and DVI cables deliver data rates in the gigabit range. That’s where Wireless HD comes in.

SiBEAM says the main advantage of unlicensed 60 GHz is that compression chips are not needed for HDTV, since it can handle the gigabit speed required by baseband HDTV (video).

The WirelessHD Interest Group has released specification for final review.

Related DailyWireless articles on the Millimeter Band include; Millimeter Gigabit Gets Competition, 60 GHz Radios, 60GHz Comes Home, 60 Ghz Long Shot, 70GHz Radios, Wireless USB from Alereon, Wireless USB Gets a Standard, SkyPilot & DragonWave: Cheaper/Faster Infrastructure, Superbowl Unwired, UK Frees Millimeter Band, 10 Gig Wireless? and Large Millimeter Telescope, .