Business Week has a special report on new wireless technologies that “will soon reconfigure the Web using radio spectrum that doesn’t cost a dime.”
the unlicensed portion of the radio spectrum is turning into a hothouse of technological innovation. For years, these radio frequencies were neglected, the lonely domain of cordless phones and microwave ovens. In the past few years, however, engineers at institutions from Massachusetts Institute of Technology to Dutch giant Royal Philips Electronics (PHG ) have been hard at work on a grander vision for the unlicensed radio frontier. That tinkering is what sparked the creation of Wi-Fi, the wildly popular wireless Net technology that took off last year with the support of chip giant Intel Corp. (INTC ).
Wi-Fi is just the first step, though. Hard on its heels are four equally innovative technologies — WiMax, Mobile-Fi, ZigBee, and Ultrawideband — that will push wireless networking into every facet of life, from cars and homes to office buildings and factories. These technologies have attracted $4.5 billion in venture investments over the past five years, according to estimates from San Francisco-based investment bank Rutberg & Co. Products based on them will start hitting the market this year and become widely available in 2005. As they do, they will expand the reach of the Internet for miles and create a mesh of Web technologies that will provide connections anywhere, anytime. “Now you have a toolbox full of wireless tools that can help with each problem, whether it’s reaching a couple of inches or a couple of miles,” says Ian McPherson, president of Wireless Data Research Group.
These technologies will usher in a new era for the wireless Web. They’ll work with each other and with traditional telephone networks to let people and machines communicate like never before. People in what have been isolated towns, be it in Ireland or Idaho, will find themselves with blazingly fast Net connections. Zooming down the highway, you’ll be able to use a laptop or PDA to check the weather or the traffic a few miles ahead. Back at home, couch potatoes will be able to dish up movies from their PC and transfer them to the flat screen in the living room — without any wires at all. And tiny wireless sensors will control the lights in skyscrapers, monitor utility meters in suburban neighborhoods, even track toxicity levels in wastewater. This will give rise to the Internet of Things, networks of smart machines that communicate with each other.