We recently open-sourced our software/cognitive radio platform Iris. Paul Sutton has taken a lead on this and formed a company called SRS which is the vehicle he is using for open sourcing the platform. Paul has just started a blog on Iris which begins with some of the basics and will build up to more complex details. It looks like it will be really useful for anyone using Iris.
The national radio broadcaster here in Ireland, RTE, has a series called Drama On One which is just beginning the What Is Life season of plays inspired the world of science. It seems the season marks the 70th anniversary, this year, of the ‘What Is Life” lecture series in Dublin by Erwin Schrödinger, physicist and Nobel Laureate. Together with Tim Forde from CTVR, I have been involved in first of the plays which is to go out on air on the 7th of April – What Next for Hedy Lamarr by Joe O’Byrne ( podcast at rte.ie\dramaonone).
When I say involved, I of course do not mean in a starring role. A companion piece has been created for the play in which Tim and I discuss Frequency Hopping and other radio related things.
I had always known that Hedy Lamarr was involved in the invention of Frequency Hopping but I think did not realise until I looked into it a bit further how brilliant she really was. She seemed to really get that a mix of art and technology and working across the boundaries of different disciplines offers great possibilities. It was together with Georg Antheil that she patented her idea. He was an avant-garde composer. They both worked at creating a radio system for guiding torpedoes that could not be jammed by the enemy – a secret communication system – as it is entitled in the patent. They seem to have worked through their ideas and come to solutions through their understanding of music and the mechanics of systems such as the pianola. The story goes that the patent was not taken up and that spread spectrum was `rediscovered’ by a company called Sylvania at a later stage. However it is a remarkable story and a remarkable invention.
I am including here a diagram I cam across some time ago by Suresh Goyal and Rich Howard from Bell Labs which I always felt did a great job at explaining a CDMA variant of spread spectrum. The frequency hopping variant is very much self-explanatory.
Apparently today is World Radio Day. I had actually never heard of it. The official website is here. It seems UNESCO passed a resolution to create World Radio Day and it is actually the second World Radio Day in fact. And there is to be a World Radio Day prize issued on the 13th of February every year starting from this year. Though it is not really clear what the prize is for! I was wondering if I could apply for the prize – because we here in CTVR just love radio!!!
My initial excitement around the idea of celebrating radio was somewhat dampened though when I read on to find that WRD seems to be about Radio Broadcasting in the most traditional sense only? ?? I would rush to add that listening to the radio is one of my favourite activities. But it seems such a pity that, from the limited material on the website in any case, that radio would not be celebrated in all its glory (all its forms and the legal and illegal aspects).
The timing of this day though coincided nicely with an event we had here last night as part of the Engineering Fictions writing workshop that is currently being run here by Jessica Foley. People meet to write and the writing is seeded by some topic that is connected to Engineering in a strong or not so strong way. Last night I seeded the session through talking about Cognitive Radio and the composer John Cage. Let me explain —
When I wrote a book on Cognitive Radio I ended the book with a few sentences that speculated on the future. They went as follows:
“How ‘cognitive’ the next generation radios will be, remains to be seen. During a discussion in our research group about our aims for our research, one of the team suggested that we should aim for a radio that is so cognitive it gets bored. Whatever the level of academic folly in this, cognitive radio is never boring. ”
So this is where the jump to John Cage came in. John Cage was a very famous composer. Among his huge body of work are four pieces composed for radio – i.e. in which radio is the instrument. In 1951 he composed Imaginary Landscape No. 4. The piece is is scored for twelve radios. Two performers play each radio – one dials the frequency, the other changes the volume and tone. The piece of course is very indeterminate as what you hear when one of the operators dials a specific frequency from the score depends on what station, if any, is on that frequency and what is actually playing at the time. There are three other pieces for radio namely, Speech (1955), Radio Music(1956), and Music Walk (1958). The score of Radio Music is shown below – it includes a list of frequencies that are to be selected, dashes indicating silence and the total time for the piece is 6 minutes.
Anyway, in my head I imagined our cognitive radios getting bored and deciding to collectively perform a John Cage piece for their own amusement and subsequently possibly composing something themselves as they get braver.
One of the intriguing things about the John Cage pieces is that the frequencies selected by Cage are ones that are in the AM radio bands. In many places around the world, AM radio is being turned off. So if you look at some of the performances of the pieces such as the one here in NYC, the performers will have mapped the frequencies to those in a different band. In the example here they use the FM band knowing that they are more likely to hit active radio stations. There of course is also an argument to be made that the Cage pieces can no longer be played once AM radio turns off for good.
This discussion led us all to ponder not just on the algorithmic framework that Cage created but also on the ‘lost’ radio stations – and pine for some form of ‘radio archaeology’ to unearth them.
I think all of these topics and many more make for good thoughts on World Radio Day!
I gave a keynote at the WinnForum in Washington D.C. this week. Part of my talk was focused on the sharing economy. As most people know Aviz recently bought Zipcar and this has been heralded as a huge step forward in the bedding down of the sharing economy. I thought it might be useful to look at the mobile communications sector from a broad sharing economy perspective rather than just start with the typical topic of ‘spectrum sharing’ and to look at how we can feed this into experimental work. As one of my colleagues fondly told me recently – my slides without me are totally useless (because they are all image and no words) - I thought I might write a few words to explain them. The useless slides are here btw. The comments below talk through each of the slides.
I used some material from the 2010 Latitude & Shareable study on the sharing economy to frame the talk as well as material from Rachel Botsman’s very well know book on collaborative consumption – What’s Mine is Yours. The Latitude study is carried out, from my understanding at least, from the perspective on an end user and attempts to understand the users motivation for sharing. It does not focus on the telecoms world. It talks about technology, community, environmental concerns and recession as drivers of the sharing economy as well as looking at some of the different structures of the sharing process (e.g. life-cycle structure , community structure etc.). Rachel Botsman captures lots of these themes in her book and talks about the move from hyper consumption to collaborative consumption. The opportunities being all around items which we use infrequently or for which the burden of ownership is too high. Read more…
Analogue TV was turned off in Ireland today at 10am. I am in the USA so I missed it. I feel quite annoyed I was not there. Even though there would be nothing to see really. So I am saying ‘bye bye’ from here. And there is something nostalgic and poetic about Analogue that makes its passing somehow a little sad! Though of course having said that I am a firm believer that TV broadcasting is a literal waste of space – especially in countries with large cable penetration.
I do hope this is the start of something new though. By something I mean some serious use of TV White Space and some serious step towards sharing and more dynamic spectrum usage. TV White Space has moved from a research topic to a very firm development topic but there are still many who are not convinced of that so hence the need to get trials happening. [See White Spaces Ireland].
I was at IEEE DySPAN last week and one of the keynotes – Vanu Bose – made the comment, ‘ we have to get White Space right’ and advised that people in the USA should just get on with it and ignore the ‘spectre of the incentive auctions’. I think he is right. At least in Europe we do not have that spectre.
A screen grab of our counter from switchoff.ie – the analogue signal all gone.
We held an event called ‘Filling the White Spaces’ in the Science Gallery last week. It focused on the fact that the Analogue TV signal in Ireland is being turned off on Oct 24th and we have oceans of spectrum here to ‘get it right’ and ‘do something great’. See our counter here.
We have posted details of the event online. You can see slides, discussion notes and photos there.
The event was very well attended and in response to the interest , Tim Forde and myself have decided to create White Spaces Ireland. As you will see from the website White Spaces Ireland aims
- To disseminate information about the latest advances in spectrum access techniques
- To foster white space trials within Ireland that will support innovation, identify commercial opportunities and assimilate evidence for policy development and legislation
- To promote Ireland as a Spectrum Playground
- To support the goal of providing all citizens, businesses, and institutions within Ireland with access to high-quality broadband so that Ireland can reach its full economic potential.
We are currently working with interested parties in beginning the process of identifying trial opportunities., which I have to say is very exciting. Though White Spaces Ireland is open to all, even those not planning to be involved in trials.
October 24th is the date on which Ireland will turn off Analogue TV. [See the CTVR count down to the momentous event!] As most people know the term white space is used to refer to the chunks of spectrum that become free once the once the old TV signals are turned off. White Deserts rather than White Spaces may be more appropriate for us – as you can see from the images below. Note the measurements are taken in Dublin City Centre. Over the next few weeks we will be posting material here on this issue. And of course we are having a Filling the White Spaces Event on September 26th for all those interested.
CTVR is having a TV White Space Event on September 26th in the Science Gallery in Trinity. As most people will know the switch off of analogue TV has led to opportunities for new services as the transition from analogue to more spectrally efficient digital television has resulted in additional white spaces becoming free. In Ireland we have not, to date, really focused on this spectrum. Trials that use these TV white spaces have taken place in the UK and the USA and both Ofcom and the FCC have developed regulatory policies for using the bands. [Email firstname.lastname@example.org to register your interest in attending]
The Filling the White Spaces workshop aims to inform the audience as to these opportunities by sharing the experiences of companies that have already conducted trials in the UK and USA (list of companies at the end of the post). It is about showing what’s out there already and trying to get things moving in Ireland. We will therefore be looking to identify opportunities for Irish exploitation of this new spectrum resource in the context of on-going global developments. We are framing this discussion around three questions –
1. Should we do a set of me-too trials just to get buy-in from the regulator and powers that be?
2. Should we look into new kinds of applications that might be relevant (for example on the Trinity Campus or in the Dublin City Centre) – and do this within FCC/Ofcom rules?
3. Should we challenge the FCC/Ofcom rules and do something that is less conservative?
There will also be demos during the event. The companies involved – see list below - will be doing some – and CTVR will be doing some too. Our CTVR antenna team in DIT have created a special fun antenna for the event. It is an antenna in the shape of a TV (see the picture). Ok – that is a little obvious. But it makes me laugh. I am such a nerd. Mathias John and Antonie Dumolin made the antenna.
In all seriousness the DIT Antenna Team, led by Prof Max Ammann, are amazing. They do all sorts of antennas and are particularly great at minaturising wideband antennas. Obviously making small antennas for the TV bands is very desirable given the frequencies. The antenna in the image uses some of their specific optimisaation techniques based on genetic algorithms. The guys had done a full characteristion of the antenna and even turned up in CTVR headquaerters with polar plots of the antenna radioation pattern etc. I will post a full description of our demo after the event.
The companies which will be presenting at the event have a lot of expertise in the TV White Space and it will be great to hear the practical details of the trials. Hopefully the details will inspire action! BTW THE EVENT IS OPEN TO ALL. Email email@example.com to register your interest in attending.
Line up for the event -
Microsoft will present an overview of recent White Space regulatory developments, including highlights from the Cambridge White Spaces Trial. They will also discuss how TV White Spaces could be game-changing for improving broadband penetration and spurring economic development.
Neul is a UK-based company who have developed FCC and Ofcom-certified disruptive technology that uses White Space network which has been specifically designed to be ‘data only’ in order to support the explosive growth of wireless data, including M2M applications. Spectrum Bridge is a US company that offer a unique software platform that manages available bandwidth in real-time for licensed and unlicensed spectrum.
Spectrum Bridge’s ASA-based TV White Space platform was certified by the FCC as the first TV White Spaces database.
Adaptrum is a Silicon Valley based start-up that has developed a FCC-certified TV White Space radio which they have commercially trialled in the US demonstrating how this technology can help bring broadband service to underserved populations.
Fairspectrum is a Finnish company working in the field of spectrum sharing technology. They have recently deployed a TV White Space geolocation database which is used to control the licensing of cognitive radio devices operating in the 470 – 790 MHz frequency range.