Friday, February 13, 2009

U of C, Berkeley Research Leads to Radio in Bug

Last month (January 28th), The University of California, Berkeley succeeded in controlling a live rhinoceros beetle by radio. A video of the experiment was previewed at the MEMS 2009 academic conference taking place in Sorrento, Italy. In the experiment, radio signals were sent to six electrodes attached to various locations of the beetles brain and muscles, thus allowing university researchers to control the movement of the beetle’s wings and some other parts. They equipped the beetle with a module incorporating a circuit to send signals to the electrodes, wireless circuit, microcontroller and battery. Controlling the movements of an insect is not a first for the university. This was the first time using a radio control system.

Rhinoceros beetles with a weight of up to 3g were used in this experiment because they can carry the controlling module (weighing about 1.3g) on their backs. And another reason is that they look cool, according to the university.

So what’s the point of this exercise? Considering that the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is funding the research, military purposes are a likely contender. Commenting on this point, the university said that the technology can also be utilized for peaceful purposes. For instance, the radio-controlled beetle can be useful in places that are too narrow or dangerous for a human to enter and for many other purposes.

For that use, the university is planning to mount sensors including a camera on a beetle in the future. With the sensors, rhinoceros beetles will be able to work as surveillance robots in place of humans. As they can carry a weight of 3g, 1.7g of sensors, in addition to the 1.3g of the current module, can be mounted.

However, the ultimate goal of this research goes beyond just incorporating sensors. Beetles are already equipped with "sensors," such as their own eyes. In addition, they have a system to derive energy from food. So, the university is aiming to make the most of insects' own sensors while using their energy system as batteries.

I think we are on a slippery slope with this one. Attack of the Rhino Beetle? I might have trouble sleeping tonight.

EB Presents Wireless Device and Infrastructure Solutions

by MWJ European Editor, Richard Mumford

EB intends to demonstrate how it bends the limits of technology to design market-moving wireless device and infrastructure solutions to increase market competitiveness, revenue-potential and wireless portfolio.

In Hall 1, Stand 1F07 the company will reveal news for the highly-anticipated Mobile Internet Device (MID) market, as well as reference designs for integrated satellite-terrestrial communications. It will also demonstrate new infrastructure base station solutions for mobile WiMAX, including EB's next-generation radio channel emulator performing a live-replication of the mobile WiMAX environment.

COMSYS Mobile Demonstrates Multimode Data Handover

by MWJ European Editor, Richard Mumford

Comsys Communication & Signal Processing Ltd will be demonstrating multimode data handover between Mobile WiMAX and cellular networks as well as a customer commercial handset running the company’s Mobile WiMAX/EDGE solution in Hall 2, Stand B73. The multimode data handover between Mobile WiMAX and GSM-EDGE networks will demonstrate how service continuity is achieved over Comsys Mobile’s ComMAX™ CM1100 mobile WiMAX baseband processor in conjunction with any third-party legacy cellular baseband, or independently with the CM1125 WiMAX/EDGE processor, thus providing a multimode solution that enables the user to always be connected.

Comsys Mobile will also be showing commercial multimode devices supporting both mobile WiMAX and GSM-EDGE networks and visitors will be able to experience live demonstration of the CM1125 running in the ECS EliteGroup’s S370 Personal Internet Communicator.

“Our booth at Mobile World Congress will be a must-see attraction for industry stakeholders in the WiMAX community,” commented Ehud Reshef, director WiMAX product marketing at Comsys Mobile. “Visitors will be able to see a range of mobile WiMAX devices, supporting WiMAX and GSM/EDGE and incorporating Comsys Mobile’s unique baseband processors. Integrating them in customer devices highlights the maturity and uniqueness of our product offering, and demonstrates in an extremely tangible way the viability of WiMAX/EDGE service continuity.”

SA Predicts Rapid WiMAX Growth in Asia

Strategy Analytics said the predict that consumer WiMAX subscriptions in the developing countries of Asia will grow from a few thousand now to almost 27 million by 2013. Their research predicts that the strongest growth will come outside the major cities of Asia. Subscriptions in villages and small towns are forecast to grow at almost 300% per year, three times the rate of major cities. Government policies aimed at closing the rural-urban “digital divide” are one reason for this rapid growth, but historic lack of broadband alternatives is at least as strong a factor.

“Big cities are the obvious place to start,” says Tom Elliott, Director of EMCS and the report’s principal author. “They have high concentrations of Internet-savvy young people. But they also have a lot of competition. The real WiMAX opportunity is outside of large cities.” Packet One, a WiMAX provider in Malaysia, appears to be following such a strategy. Its first deployments in were in Kuala Lumpur, but it has moved rapidly to launch in Johor and Penang, two less densely populated states outside the capital region.

“Incumbent broadband suppliers and cellular operators offering High-Speed Packet Access, HSPA, alternatives are formidable competitors in the big cities,” notes David Kerr, head of Strategy Analytics Global Wireless Practice. “There’s simply a lot more un-served demand in market towns and provincial business centers.”

WiMAX seems to be really catching on in areas that currently don't have much infrastructure and deployments are growing. LTE better hurry up!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Highly Integrated Chip and Platform Solutions From Infineon

by MWJ European Editor, Richard Mumford

Infineon’s Wireless Solutions Division is a leading provider of semiconductors and system solutions to serve the growing trends in the mobile communication market. In Hall 1, Stand B19 the company will present its highly integrated semiconductor solutions, complete systems platforms and Software products. The focus will be on highlighting different ‘flavours’ of ultra low-cost mobile phone platforms, ranging from 2G to 3G and something new in positioning technology, the A-GPS solution.

Experts will be on hand to discuss the company’s comprehensive cellphone semiconductor and system-level offering ranging from integrated single-chip GSM/GPRS/EDGE solutions to slim HSDPA/HSUPA modem platforms.

Other highlights include:
● Infineon's road to LTE
● Comprehensive cellular transceiver portfolio covering all bands and all modes from GPRS up to LTE and WiMAX
● Smallest HSPA+ RF solutions for best-in-class cellular talk time
● Smart modems for smart phones: HSPA modem platforms combining high performance and small footprint
● More voice: comprehensive ULC platforms with innovations for even lower costs
● Internet-for-all: entry phone platforms with a common architecture from GPRS to low-cost 3G

Google Starts "White Spaces" Group

It was recently announced that Google is teaming up with several technology companies, including Comsearch, Dell, HP, Microsoft, Motorola and Neustar, to form a new coalition called the White Spaces Database Group, which will provide and compile into a database technical specifications for devices that will use white space spectrum.

White spaces are unused slivers of spectrum in the 700 MHz band that sit between broadcast TV channels. Google and others successfully lobbied the FCC last year to open up that spectrum for unlicensed use so that new wireless devices could access that spectrum. In its ruling in November, the FCC said that devices using a combination of geolocation technology and spectrum-sensing technology could be approved for unlicensed white space use. Before sending or receiving data, devices will be required to access this database to determine available channels. And the device will not transmit in channels that are already known to be in use.

TV broadcasters and wireless microphone companies have long opposed the use of this spectrum fearing it will interfere with their services but Google believes that using geolocation technology used along with spectrum sensing technologies will offer complete protection to licensed signals from harmful interference. Do you think the TV broadcasters and wireless microphone companies have a legitimate complaint?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Garmin Gets into the Smartphone Game

Building up to Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona next week, several well known companies have been hinting about new smartphones offerings, each with a specific use case and no shortage of challenges to overcome.

Taiwanese PDA and computer-maker AsusTek Computer and personal navigation device (PND) company Garmin formally announced that the two companies will introduce a jointly branded line of smartphones, called Garmin-Asus nuvifone, the first of which will debut at MWC. Jonney Shih Chairmen of Asustek said that the Garmin-Asus phone will likely launch worldwide by next year and that the G60 will be announced at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. The MWC is already pegged to be the launch pad for both Dell and Acer’s additions to the smartphone family. Garmin-Asus will also compete against popular devices such as the iPhone and T-Mobile's G1 Android-based handset by specializing in location-based services (LBS), executives from both companies said.

The location-centric smartphone could hypothetically take the place of a traditional PND and is optimized for communication and navigation. The first nuvifone also will feature Ciao, a social networking application that combines location-based social networks in the device and the same turn-by-turn, voice-prompted navigation as Garmin’s PNDs. It comes preloaded with maps and points of interest that are searchable by category, establishment name or destination.

In expanding beyond its core competency, Garmin will be hard-pressed to find distribution channels or carrier partners, said Neil Mawston, director of global wireless practice for Strategy Analytics. The brand is not associated with mobile devices, and it already attempted its first nuvifone device back in early 2008 with very little uptake. Teaming with Asus is a step in the right direction, but Mawston said they are far from success.

“Garmin is one of the world’s biggest players in [PND] and has a good reputation,” Mawston said. “If they were to come along with a good set of apps and a store that goes with it and prove to carriers there is a potential to grow revenue through new services like social location — if they could prove there is potential to raise ARPU — there is definitely potential to work with big players. But at the present time, you struggle to see how they are standing apart from the competition. They don’t have the brand strength, the brand isn’t exciting, and the services don’t stand out — they are good rather than great.”

Personal navigation, along with gaming devices, is a segment that many analysts believe would make prime candidates for app-specific mobile Internet devices (MIDs), pocketable computers optimized around mobile Web browsing. But the segment is still a few years off as vendors focus on the netbook and smartphone category.

Agilent Cover Mobile Communications T&M Spectrum

by Richard Mumford, MWJ European Editor

Agilent Technologies will showcase its measurement solutions for LTE, TD-LTE, HSPA+, E-EDGE (EDGE Evolution), WiMAXTM, UMA/GAN, 3GPP W-CDMA, GSM 3GPP Long Term Evolution, femtocells, mobile business analytics and VoIP for MSS.

Visitors to Hall 1, Stand D45 will see Agilent demonstrate:
● The Radio Digital Cross Domain (RDX) solution that provides a single test environment for MIPI Digital Radio Frequency (DigRF) v3 and v4 protocols.
● MIMO channel emulation and co-existence test, solved with the N5106A PXB MIMO receiver tester.
● Industry-leading mobile test solutions for HSPA+, HSDPA, E-EDGE, UMA/GAN and GPS.
● LTE RF measurements and LTE high-definition video streaming using an LTE device simulator.
● WiMAX RF, protocol and application test, including base station emulation, protocol logging, network conformance test, radiated performance test, pre-RF conformance test, and protocol conformance test (including TTCN3-scripting).
● The E6474A-645 LTE Receiver Measurements, together with W1314A measurement receivers, enable network equipment manufacturers and wireless operators' RF engineering teams to measure the coverage of LTE eNodeBs – identifying P-SCH and S-SCH RSSI and LTE Cell-ID and detect cell overlap.
● Signalling Analyzer Real-time (SART) LTE, which runs on the Distributed Network Analyzer platform to provide a high-performance test solution for end-to-end system verification, troubleshooting and optimization.
● Comprehensive assureME applications, which help operators accelerate deployment of VoIP for Mobile Soft Switch Networks.
● Agilent's Wireless Data Analytics solution, which helps to improve operational and business performance by transforming huge volumes of signalling and usage data (IuPS, Gn, Gb) into actionable information.
● Wireless installation and maintenance (I&M) with the FieldFox RF Analyzer.

Ron Nersesian, vice president of Agilent's Wireless Business Unit stated, "Our newest measurement solutions shown at this event demonstrate our ongoing commitment to empower engineers to stay at the forefront of dramatically evolving mobile-communications technologies."


by Richard Mumford, MWJ European Editor

TriQuint Semiconductor will be showcasing the TriQuint Unified Mobile Front-end (TRIUMF) Module™ family, convergence architecture for mobile device manufacturers designing next generation 3G/4G products. The family aims to offer manufacturers a streamlined radio frequency footprint combining GSM, EDGE, WCDMA and HSPA transmit functionality into one module. This convergence of functionality into one power amplifier module should offer up to a 50 percent size reduction over today’s multi-band module solutions.

Andreas Nitschke, product marketing manager for mobile handsets at TriQuint stated, “TriQuint set the industry standard for size and performance with its highly-integrated TRITIUM and QUANTUM Module families for 3G devices. We are using this expertise and ability to design both active and passive RF elements into one elegant RF system solution in the development of the TRIUMF Module family. TRIUMF will take integration to a whole new level, combining support for multiple frequency bands and modes into a single converged solution.”

He added, “We are working closely with our chipset partners and customers to implement the architecture for next generation 3G and 4G devices with world-class RF performance in an industry leading size.”

Those interested in finding out more about the TRUIMF and TriQuint’s large portfolio of products can visit Hall 1, Stand A62 and look out for the 3GSM Mobile World Congress Wrap-up Article that will be published here after the show.


by Richard Mumford, MWJ European Editor

As a leading supplier of test and measurement solutions for wireless communications and with over 75 years of experience of driving innovation, Rohde & Schwarz will showcase its MIMO, 3GPP LTE, HSPA+, WiMAX™ and Edge Evolution in Hall 1, Stand D59. A new addition to the portfolio is the R&S CMW500 test platform solution that performs all relevant wireless device tests, especially for LTE and HSPA+. When equipped with the appropriate hardware and software components, the R&S CMW500 can perform T&M tasks ranging from RF and protocol tests up to complex application tests.

The company will also highlight two new models of the recently launched R&S FSV family. These two combination signal and spectrum analyzers have been expanded for applications up to 13.6 GHz and 30 GHz, respectively.

In addition Rohde & Schwarz SIT GmbH, a leader in the German crypto market, will display the latest version of its compact mobile voice encryption device that protects confidential mobile phone calls. The TopSec Mobile can be used together with state-of-the-art mobile phones due to its plug & play functionality and Bluetooth® interface.

Monday, February 9, 2009

College Students Chat with Space Station Using Their Radio

Four Toronto college students from The Humber College have accomplished a technological feat by making contact with the International Space Station last week using a radio system they designed and built themselves. It was a scheduled event so they did not just call them out of the blue.

The project got off the ground about a year ago as the students looked for a way to apply knowledge gained from their radio communication courses. The first message got no response, but a second attempt reached astronaut Sandra Magnus. They had a 10-minute window to talk to her, during which they asked some technical questions and passed on a few other questions from contest winners at the school. One student asked how well the International Space Station is protected from debris, while another wanted to know how it feels to see Earth from space.

While school contacts with the space station are routinely made through the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station program, many of those contacts are made using a traditional ham radio. “It's an incredible feat of undertaking and technology, and I'd just like to say I'm really, really proud of this team,” said Humber instructor Mark Rector.

So on the next revolution around the Earth, dial up the power on your ham radio and see if you can reach them!