Sophisticated GSM-based car communications systems have always required a second SIM card to operate but now Nokia have developed a system that will communicate with your Bluetooth mobile phone and use the subscriber details of your mobile to make calls and to log onto services such as Nokia Smart Traffic products.
It’s all about making the services more convenient to access for users – you can leave your mobile phone in you briefcase or bag, yet the in-car systems will soon be able to use Bluetooth SIM Access Profile (SAP) not only to get onto the network but read and write data (such as your address book and schedule) to the phone. It will also lead the way to more convenient (and legal) hands-free calls from cars. Presumably, a home version of this system will be on its way – the system is not too far off the very product used in vending machines in Finland.
The in-car system will be presented at the 8th annual Nokia Mobile Internet Conference, 29 – 30 October 2003, in Nice.
SIM Access applications
The IEEE has approved the 802.15.4 wireless standard for simple devices. More widely known as ZigBee, designed for low power, low complexity units, applications for 802.15.4 include interactive toys, inventory tracking and smart badges. WPAN (Wireless Personal Area Network) devices are intended to operate in the user’s Personal Operating Space (POS), an area of effect of about ten metres.
Based on the broader Bluetooth specification, the standard covers three data rates: 20kbps, 40kbps and 250kbps, but is differentiated from HomeRF and Bluetooth by its greater emphasis on device simplicity and low power consumption.
Of course, there will be more privacy worries raised as inventory tags employing RFID (Radio Frequency ID) tags become more sophisticated, smaller and indeed washable. Clothing stores will not only be able to track their products in the warehouse and on the shelves but will know when you come back wearing something you bought there. Gillette recently abandoned (for the time being) plans to use RFID technology in their Mach 3 line of razor blades in Europe.
Digital Sun already have an interesting 802.15.14 product in the market: the S.Sense. There are two main components: a receiver that fits the control box of your garden sprinkler and an number spikes that you insert into your lawn. When the spikes detect that the ground is dry, they notify the sprinkler to do its stuff. Because of the low power consumption of the standard, each spike will fun for about a year on a AA battery.
IEEE on 802.15.4 Link
ZigBee Alliance Press Release (PDF)
Gillette on RFID Link
After moving house and finding he didn’t have a broadband provider, Steve Kovsky of Anchor Desk decided to prove that is was possible to share a CDMA data connection around a home network – despite both his CDMA and data card provider telling him it wasn’t possible.
Using Sygate’s Home Network software he battled with adversity and arose victorious. While it only gives him a 100kbs connection, it is faster than a dialup or single channel ISDN and has the advantage over a DSL connection that he can relocate with ease – assuming him service provider gives decent coverage.
Given the difficulty 3G is having getting a foothold in many markets, perhaps this is a marketing angle they should be looking at.
Sygate Home Network link
Tom Hardware reviews the Linksys WMA11B Wireless-B Media Adapter.
In the same vain as other Digital Media Adaptors based on the Intel reference design, this VHS cassette-sized unit connects to a TV set, Using the supplied remote control it allows the browsing and playback of photo’s, music and video, that are held on your networked Windows PC, to be enjoyed through your TV screen. Interestingly, the serving machine has to be running Windows XP but can be connected either via cabling or using 802.11b, WiFi connection.
It’s essentially the same functionalisty as Sony’s Roomlink, but has the advatage that you don’t need to buy a Sony Vaio PC to serve the content from. To date, Sony won’t sell the serving software seperatley.
It’s works with the mainstreem formats of media, but there’s no mention of the Ogg Vobis, which is growing in popularity with computer audiofiles.
Their view of the product is that it’s a good first stab. Street price should be around $149.
A Taiwanese company, Asia Pacific Broadband Wireless Communications, today launched a service enabling subscribers to watch a live video stream of traffic congestion, from an initial forty two cameras, on their mobile phone.
We’re assuming this isn’t for some strange realityTV-type entertainment but to check the density of traffic levels before travelling. Clearly it grabs headlines, but the video alone sound like a bit of a novelty as it’s pretty hard to judge the actual speed of traffic. We think the ideal would be to display the average speed to the traffic at your particular motorway junction on your mobile.
Funnily enough Dan Kemp, lead programmer at Live Information Systems, has created a Quick’n’Dirty system (his own description) to do just that – he’s call it mTraffic. It scrapes the information from the UK Highways Agency site repackages it for PDA/Smartphone, WAP and an XML feed – very neat.
In the current flurry of new wireless networking, we have a new player on the block – ZigBee, the new PAN (Personal Area Network) protocol.
It’s been designed to be very low in power consumption and for most of the applications being targeted, its 2 AA batteries should have a life of 6 months to 2 years, but that does vary by application. One of its secrets is that the devices will only communicate when their application deems necessary.
With it’s maximum data rate is 250kbps, compared to 1 Mbps for Bluetooth but as we know, modems speeds are around a fifth of this, so it’s not painfully slow and many applications for devices don’t need loads of bandwidth.
Range is expected to be ~30 meters in a typical home, compared to ~10 meters for unamplified Bluetooth products.
ZigBee networking capabilities include 254 devices per network, compared to 8 for Bluetooth networks. There can also be up to 100 co-located networks.
With its small stack size (28Kbytes), which is about 10th of the Bluetooth – so the computing spec required to run it will be lower.
The entire bill of materials for a radio module is expected to initially be $6.00, coming quickly down to $2.00 to $3.00. Significantly lower than any other wireless network technology.
Products are expected to be available in middle of 2003 and it’s projected that over 400 million units will be produced per year by 2006.
Low cost wireless control within the home has a chance of becomes a reality.
An interesting twist (of the knife?) for 3G licence holders, in Germany two public broadcasters want to levy a licence fees on 3G handset owners because they’re able to receive TV and radio.
There was some muttering from the BBC about 18 months ago about letting UK licence payers have free access to the BBC’s Internet content while charging residents of others countries but I haven’t heard much about it since then.
I suspect that this time the BBC won’t be raising the same questions as their German counterparts as they’re very conscious of their ability to licence their content to the 3G operators via BBC Worldwide.