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The fruits of a wireless world

The Wireless World Initiative (WWI) has developed prototype user-centred systems that will potentially enable millions of people to make the most of third-generation (3G) and beyond mobile technology. Here, we learn a little more about the individual projects that have helped to make this a reality.

Modern society is fast-paced and mobile. For ICT to really keep up with dynamic lifestyles, it has to be just as mobile. This is where the EU-funded MobiLife project comes in. Its main aim was to harvest advances in mobile applications and services – 3G systems and beyond – in support of people’s everyday lives.

Taking a user-centric R&D approach, MobiLife matched innovative applications and services with enabling technologies and service components and frameworks. Extensive user and industry evaluations made sure the services were fit for purpose, and key here was to find how to remove the main hurdles between service development and deployment.

The project’s main results have been collated in a recently published ‘MobiLife Book’ which outlines such basics as how to define service architecture/infrastructure with interoperable, user-centred components in mind, the importance of context awareness, privacy and trust, personalisation, as well as the sort of services needed to support all this.

Fresh fragrance on some old spice

The SPICE project’s mission was to provide the invisible threads to join together the different mobile infrastructures. It sought to create prototype systems that would bind together the dizzying array of platforms which currently exist in such a way as to provide users with a homogenous and seamless experience in post-3G era of mobile technology.

The project brings together leading European telecom operators and key IT suppliers with the ultimate aim of transforming “today’s confusing heterogeneity into an easily manageable and rich service environment by exploiting the diversity of device capabilities and fostering service adoption”. In the future, such sophisticated architecture would effectively hide from the user the complexity of services and applications crossing over different access domains.

SPICE developed prototype middleware systems which help different platforms to communicate and work with one another. It also created intelligent service enablers which manage user profiles, context information and proactive service adaptation. In addition, it worked on content management and delivery systems to facilitate the access to content across domains.

Winning formula for 3G technology

With the unprecedented explosion in wireless communication devices in recent years, the airwaves have become incredibly crowded. There are currently more than 1 billion mobile subscribers worldwide. And this trend is set to grow. By 2010, there is expected to be some 1.7 billion mobile users.

Creating the powerful wireless networks of the future requires more efficient use of available radio bandwidth. In addition, future growth of mobile and wireless communications is expected mainly from data-oriented services and applications, which require higher bandwidth. This also demands a rethinking of how information is transmitted through the ether.

With so much change in the air, the WINNER project is working to smooth the transition. It worked on developing more efficient prototype radio access technologies, finding mechanisms to enable different radio access networks to work together and developing methods for efficient and effective spectrum use.

Orchestrating the right ambience

The diverse range of mobile devices of the future will need to be able to switch effortlessly between a vast orchestra of different networks and wireless technologies. Like a maestro, the Ambient Networks project worked on developing integrated solutions to this complex conundrum.

With a strong industry-led consortium of the leading operators, vendors, SMEs and research organisations, the project’s approach is to increase both competition and co-operation in an environment with a multitude of access technologies, network operators and business actors. This comprehensive and coherent wireless network solution is based on dynamic composition of networks that provide access to any network through the instant establishment of inter-network agreements.

The approach is based on an open framework for network control functionality, which can be extended with new capabilities as well as operating over existing connectivity infrastructure.

Ambient Networks is all about “merging” networks. For instance, Alice is carrying her mobile phone, a bluetooth and her laptop. Together, she composes a personal area network (PAN). She enters a wireless free hotspot and her PAN immediately switches from her pay-for GPRS and “merges” with the hotspot network.

Electro-diversity in the wireless ecosphere

The E2R project aimed to realise the full potential of the diversity within the radio ecosphere – cellular, fixed, wireless local area and broadcast systems – by developing end-to-end reconfigurable systems. It devised, developed, trialled and showcased designs for reconfigurable devices and supporting system functions to offer an extensive set of operational choices to users, providers, operators, and regulators in the context of heterogeneous systems.

End-to-end reconfigurable systems will provide common platforms for multiple air interfaces, protocols and applications. This will benefit users by enabling them to access, affordably, the service of their choice wherever and whenever they like. E2R strove to remove walls (current technical and regulatory limitations) and build bridges (technical) in order to facilitate the vision of true end-to-end, seamless connectivity.

Christian Nielsen | alfa
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