The Digi-Cult

A New Religion for a Digital Age


Posted by Rod Leland on October 8, 2008

We arguably live in a ‘wireless world’.  I hate the term ‘wireless world’ because it sounds like it came straight out of a technology text from the 90’s but nonetheless, it’s true. A LOT of the items and machines we use and interact with every day are wireless.

Although again, I’m not an average or typical user, here are some examples.  I’m typing on a wireless keyboard and using a wireless mouse that both use Bluetooth to talk to my computer.  My computer is using WiFi to stream music and photos to my TV as well as pulling files from my server and sending pages to my laser printer in the basement.  My cell phone is of course, wireless and I can call, text, and browse, practically anywhere.  My toothbrush charges wirelessly using induction. My car key uses RF to unlock doors. My many remotes all use infrared light to talk to their respective devices. I have an RFID card in my wallet that allows me into a building.

So many devices and processes have become untethered that wireless communication is taken somewhat for granted now. I want to highlight a few technologies that are upcoming that could add to our wire-free utopia and shift the status quo a bit.

RFID, or ‘ Radio Frequency Identification’ is a technology that uses a powered reader and an unpowered chip or tag to communicate small amounts of data wirelessly.  RFID could be considered fully adopted as far as its applications in stock and inventory tracking, and shipping/asset management.  Wal-mart uses RFID to track all of its inventory and stock.  A label is applied to the box, the label contains the information needed such that when it is scanned or read, the system is aware of how many units, where they came from, if they arrived on time etc.

RFID is well suited to these applications.  However, there are always those that want to push the limits of new technology and early adoption.  A fantastic example would be the few brave individuals who have had small RFID chips implanted into their bodies.  With a bit of innovation and some lines of code, doors automatically unlock, computers wake upon arrival, and lights dim and brighten upon entering a room.  If RFID security can be improved and money is put towards developing more practical uses, I think that this is one technology people will NOTICE as being adopted or becoming mainstream in our lives.

WUSB, or Wireless Universal Serial Bus is exactly what it sounds like.  A wireless and backwards-compatible standard that should take many of the devices we use everyday via regular, old, vanilla, plugged-in USB, cable free. If WUSB ever sees mainstream adoption, we could see this technology built into everything and used everywhere with little or no configuration or setup.  WUSB is somewhat similar to Bluetooth technologies, but range, data throughput, and presumably, setup and configuration will all be superior.

WiMAX, or Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access (no one calls it that) in simple terms is WiFi on steroids, and this technology, is coming. Soon.  WiMAX has numerous mega-beneficial applications and things are going to get super awesome, super quickly when we see North American buildouts of WiMAX networks.  It’s a pretty simple concept really.  It’s just a wireless standard, like WiFi, except you get TEN (holy shit) kilometers out of it.  Not the 100-meters-if-there-arent-any-walls like your home network.  Even at the outskirts of the signal range, users should see 10 Mbits/second down. That’s around 1.1 megabytes a second, Or Shaws High-speed cable internet connection, or a regular MP3 file in about 3 seconds.  From 10 KM out.  Not bad.

WiMAX is highly efficient for what it does and the reach, given the speeds attainable, is unheard of.  For a simple example, Lethbridge covers around 130 square KM.  a Wimax signal covers around 315 square KM.  One tower could serve every Lethbridge resident (if Lethbridge’s population was distributed cyclically).  Or for another example, imagine getting the Internet speeds you get at home, anywhere in the city.

Lastly, INDUCTION.  The only downside of all these new wireless devices and standards is that when a device goes wireless, its now dependent on a chemical battery.  Battery technology has lagged WAY behind the technology it supports.  Thankfully, there are some advances being made.  In oversimplified terms, resonant induction is the transmission of electric current through the air in a controllable and safe manner.  The physics guys call it Evanescent Wave Coupling.  Either way, my toothbrush uses this to charge wirelessly.  I drop it in the dock, and without any electrical contacts or anything, it changes a sealed battery inside.  All fine and well, but a couple millimeters is hardly useful.  However, MIT and Intel have both shown way’s to “send” power a couple feet at 40% and 75% efficiency respectively.  We should start to see some great proof-of-concepts for resonant induction in the very near future.

There be changes a’brewing says I.



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