A. Michael Noll
May 14, 2016
© 2016 AMN
The rush is on for more and more wireless bandwidth and broadband systems, as the world embraces 5G, perhaps on its path to the ultimate 10G. But in the rush to broader broadband communication, a need for considerably less bandwidth should not be overlooked.
There is attention today to the “Internet of things” – whatever it might ultimately become. The vision today is appliances at home, items in stores, and even clothes all telecommunicating information.
One example is communicating information to control lights in a home. But is takes only one bit to tell a light to be on or off – and this communication might occur only a few times over a 24-hour period. The average bit rate would be about 0.1 milli bits per second (0.0001 b/s). Controlling appliances might take a little more, but would still be miniscule.
This would be a very local network at a very low bit rate – ultra-narrowband communication over very short distances, requiring very little power. It would be a cloud – or fog — within the home of ultra-narrowband communication, perhaps wireless or perhaps over the power-line.
There already is 60 Hertz electromagnetism within the home from the power lines in walls and sockets. Perhaps this ultra-narrowband communication could somehow ride over that 60 Hz cloud. Or a new form of Bluetooth might emerge.
The “things” on utility poles – transformers – need to be monitored remotely. They are already connected to the 60 Hz power line, and could use it to telecommunicate, again at low bits rates.
At a time when all attention is focused on more bandwidth, particularly mobile bandwidth, the new opportunities might be in the opposite direction. Innovation sometimes comes from challenging the accepted wisdom of the day.
It seems that nearly every physical object either has a sensor, or soon will. And that can lead to censoring by government or by us.
The tires in an automobile have sensors of the tire air pressure, which is a good thing since it informs us when the tire needs more air. Sensors also inform us when the tire has worn enough to need replacement, and that too is a good thing. However, when the tire information is transmitted to a tire store that then attempts to make a sale that can be an invasion of privacy. When the car transmits information about where it has been that also raises questions about invasions of privacy.
Light switches are accessible over the Internet and thus have sensors as to whether they are on or off. Thermostats that are Internet accessible sense room temperatures. When hacking occurs there will be risks to our homes, and also to our privacy.
Even people have sensors of body temperature and heart rate. Drones are multiplying and are being use to track us and potentially invade our private lives.
One potential problem is that sensors can lead to censoring if government gains access to the information. There also is the risk of self-censorship in what we say and where we go.
Where will this fascination with sensors lead? What crises will be created and will they be sufficient to halt the progress or create adequate protection and limits? How much censorship or we willing to accept in return for the benefits of sensors?
Quello Associate and Professor Emeritus of Communications, Annenberg School at the University of Southern California