Future of mobility: More machine than man

The proliferation of “smart” technology and peripherals could soon stress already-crammed networks, but one solution to the congestion could be a cube-shaped device the size of your hand, one expert said.

A panel discussion on the future of mobility at the Executive Leadership Conference in Williamsburg, Va., explored what soon could emerge on the mobile technology side and some of the challenges in adding devices to the networks.  

As parts of the government are moving to make decisions “better, faster, cheaper,” there will be an increased reliance on mobility and the mobile platform for providing that connection, said Tod Sizer, vice president of the Wireless Research Lab at Bell Labs, which is part of Alcatel-Lucent.

Mobility is going to become more important and more mission-critical, regardless of which agency or department people work for and “the way you do your job,” he said. But with the wireless transition come new devices and more data on an ever-shrinking spectrum.

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Wireless capacity – the number of bits per second – will increase by 30 times in three years and by 100 times in 10 years, Sizer said. But he believes the demand will rise even faster. In the future, there will be more devices on the wireless networks that don’t have an interface for a human being or a keyboard, which means there would be a machine performing some sort of function, Sizer said.

“The number of machines that are going to be on the networks is going to overtake [bandwidth], I suspect, and in 10 years, it’s going to be 10 times as many,” he said.

Having a deluge of mobile devices will stress the networks, Sizer said, and one way to alleviate that would be to get more spectrum. However, “my guess is that the amount of spectrum that will become available is about factor 2,” Sizer said.

Another solution would be to make more cell towers, but “God forbid, because nobody wants more cell towers,” Sizer joked. Instead, Bell Labs engineers have developed the “lightRadio" cube -- a palm-sized device that works like a portable cell phone tower.

The inconspicuous-looking cube is a greener alternative to the massive cell towers currently in use, and it also saves money for the operator. But its small size is its biggest advantage, Sizer said.

“By having something this small,” he said, holding the cube in his hand, “I can put it anywhere and that’s key because we really want to put these where people are rather than where people are not.”

 ELC is a production of the American Council For Technology and the Industry Advisory Council.


About the Author

Camille Tuutti is a former FCW staff writer who covered federal oversight and the workforce.


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