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Monday, April 4, 2011

Towards 4G; WPAN and the Person-Centered Concept

There is a strong consensus that new technologies should be centered on the user, improving quality of life and adapting to the individual. The communications/computing technology tends toward “invisibility” and “calmness”. The offered services tend to be pervasive, causing minimum distraction to the user with respect
to their configuration and usage. The computing environment is becoming smarter and more responsive, with devices able to establish disposable, seamless connection to the required resource. While the traditional communications paradigm aims to establish the communication link between devices, the focus now shifts to communication among persons and functional/data resources. The addresses of sources/destinations in communication links are determined either by the person who owns them, the service they are able to offer, or the resource’s contents. This causes radical changes in design, for example, in addressing (content-based or capability-based), security, and so forth. As a consequence, new research fields are emerging, addressing different aspects of this problem. Examples are service portability and virtual home environments, concepts aimed at providing users with the same service experience independently of user interfaces, terminal capabilities, access network technologies, and network and service providers. Another important and related emerging area is pervasive computing targeting environments where networked computing devices are ubiquitous and even integrated with the human user.

There is an essential difference in thinking about 4G wireless systems compared to the way 3G and other present wireless standards are produced. While the latter standards have been put in a technology-driven development process, early 4G philosophy is being approached from an application viewpoint, with an implied assumption that technology will follow to enable the realization of the application vision. The essence is to provide a ubiquitous networking capability in which questions of data speeds are rendered irrelevant by the universal availability of more bandwidth than the vast majority of users would ever need. The 4G wireless communications will tend toward the personal. The user will no longer be “owned” by any operator: The users, or their smart agents, will select at each instant the best system available that is capable of providing the required performance. The selection will be made according to the user’s profile, the type of data stream, and the traffic load in the available networks.

A fundamental concept behind WPAN systems asserts that any time two WPANequipped devices get within (approximately) 10m of one another, they can form a spontaneous, just-in-time, disposable connection. The purposes of such connections fall into three broad categories;

1. Leveraging device synergies: This refers to allowing devices to offer their capabilities to one another by establishing appropriate wireless data connections. Thus, for example, a laptop computer can serve as a configuration interface for a digital camera. In general, these synergistic connections will help solve the human-interface problems that arise from stuffing more and more complexity into smaller and smaller packages.
2. Making queues obsolete: People spend a lot of time waiting in a queue for access to the system needed to execute functions such as cash transactions or airline seat assignments. In most of these case, customers could serve themselves without waiting if they could obtain secure access to the same system via a handheld device like a PDA or cell phone equipped with WPAN capability.
3. Grouping Internet users efficiently: The motivation behind this usage of WPANs is the fact that most people spend the majority of their day within 10m of some kind of Internet port. The number of such places and hours per day spent in that state will only increase (e.g., in airports, hotels, shopping malls). Wherever densely packed users gather in small spaces, WPAN can offer data connections at much higher speeds, for many more users, with far longer battery life than that possible with cellular-based systems. Many expect the combination of wireless WPAN and wired Internet to become a fast-growing complement (and even alternative) to the next generation cellular systems for data, voice, audio, and video. A possible Internet access scenario of interconnected WPANs is shown in the figure below;
Initially, WPAN technology offered an efficient cable replacement, easing the interconnection of communications, computing, and/or information storage devices. In the long term, this short-range wireless communication may largely influence the ways computing operations are conceived and performed. Thus, the ad hoc connectivity brought by the WPANs can motivate the design of the computing devices themselves, as well as the distribution of the computing tasks and capabilities over different devices. The prototypes of WPAN-distributed computing (to differentiate from the notion of distributed computing) can be seen in wearable computers. Wearable computers consist of head-mounted displays, microphones, earphones, processors, mass storage, and a diversity of control interfaces.

The Personal Operating Space (POS), introduced by the WPAN, is a new concept in communications. The POS is tethered to an individual, moving along with him or her and enabling his or her personal devices to communicate in an ad hoc manner. It further allows the individual to communicate with other devices whose communication range intersects with his or her POS. Thus, the WPAN concept shifts the well-established communication paradigm. The POS plays the role of the universal access interface to the networked user.

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