Tag: communications

NASA experiments with X-ray networking

x-rayNASA is researching new technology to transmit data at high rates over vast distances in outer space, as well as enable communications with hypersonic vehicles during re-entry.

At the moment such radio communications are impossible, but NASA boffins think that using X-rays could be just the ticket.

The science is based on the concept that other forms of light can carry data as well. Fibre-optics uses visible and near-infrared light. So NASA started to think about X-rays.

Keith Gendreau, an astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, thought of developing X-ray emitters that these spacecraft could use as navigational beacons to make sure they stayed in position relative to one another. The system would keep them aligned down to a precision of just 1 micron.

Gendreau then reasoned that by modulating or varying the strength or frequency of these X-ray transmissions on and off many times per second, these navigational beacons could also serve as a communication system. Such X-ray communication (XCOM), might, in theory, permit gigabit-per-second data rates throughout the solar system, he said

X-rays have shorter wavelengths than the visible or infrared light typically used in laser communication. This means that, XCOM can transmit more data for the same amount of power that laser communication requires, Gendreau said.

X-rays have shorter wavelengths, they can be transmitted in tighter beams than visible or infrared light, so less energy is wasted in trying to communicate over vast distances, he added.

A new toy called the Modulated X-ray Source, or MXS, which generates rapid-fire X-ray pulses. MXS is slated to get installed on an experimental pallet that will be deployed outside the International Space Station in 2018.

MXS will transmit data via X-rays about 165 feet to the Neutron-star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER), which is designed to study neutron stars and their rapidly spinning relatives, pulsars, and will launch to the International Space Station in early 2017

Li-Fi could ratchet up comms speed

Twilight of the Gods, Arthur Packham - Wikimedia CommonsA report said that an Estonian startup has tested technology that can transfer data at one gigabit per second.

The company, called Velmenni, has built a lightbulb which uses so called Li-Fi, and it’s 100 times faster than wi-fi, according to the International Business Times.

Li-fi enables visible light communications (VLC) technology, a bi-directional communications system which also offers better security than wi-fi and with less interference.

Li-fi was suggested by a German physicist Harald Haas, and implemented by a startup he created called pureLiFi.

Earlier this week, pureLiFi struck a deal with a French company to produce VLC tech by the third quarter of next year.

Project Loon could be hot air balloon

AlphabetGoogle, or rather holding company Alphabet, has said it will invest money to give people in poorer countries internet access.

The idea is to put solar powered helium balloons into the stratosphere to provide a wireless 900MHz spectrum and that will let people with LTE smartphones access the service. It’s called Project Loon.

But Joe Hoffman, a VP of strategic technology at ABI Research, said that the project faces several challenges.

Hoffman said: “If Project Loon is economically successful, it may have a five to ten year project lifetime as the worldwide population continues to urbanise and 4G networks migrate outwords.”

He said other challenges include price points will be difficult. “How can the porject aim to deliver mobile broadband service at ordinary mobile cellular prices or lower?”

Other difficults mean that the systems are supposed to generate 100 watts from solar power but that will create challenging power limits on both the transmitter and the on board electronics.

Other challenges include developing algorithms for mapping balloon positions, having a strategy if the weather is bad and relying on non PC resource helium.

Despite all of this, Hoffman said Alphabet is being creative. “Reaching the unserved will be technically and economically challenging, but if there is one company that can break through these barriers and be successful, it is Alphabet.”

Pegatron is cock a hoop about future

Taiwan scene - pic Mike MageeTaiwanese company Pegatron is forecasting a bumper crop because it is benefiting from the largesse of people buying Apple kit and other things it makes.

The company, which formerly was a small spin off concentrating on motherboards, will turn in revenues of close to $33 billion for its financial year because of its efforts to widen its product range.

According to the Taipei Times, CEO Jason Cheng told shareholders that its main product lines to be info tech, consumer electronic products and comms products.

But although manufacturing kit for Apple is good business, it ony accounts for 16 percent of its revenues.

Its big money spinner is communications products.

The company is essentially a contract builder of kit, and its customers include Asutek and Apple. The company is just about to finish building two new factories in mainland China, the Taipei Times reports.

Demand for communications ICs to outstrip computer applications

Demand for integrated circuits is to see a ‘major shift’ according to analysts, as communications applications outstrip demand for computers.

According to semiconductor industry analysts IC Insights, the market for communications ICs will move ahead of demand for computer applications by 2014, reaching $160 billion by 2016.   

The market is set to grow 9.2 percent this year to $90 billion, an increase from $82.4 billion in 2011.   In 2013 the market is forecast to reach $100.5 billion, before outpacing the computer IC market when it hits $114.4 billion in 2014.

Meanwhile demand for computer ICs has fallen.  The market was worth $110.2 billion last year, dropping to an estimated $100.7 billion this year.

IC Insights forecasts that the figure will then rise over subsequent years, reaching $128.5 billion in 2016.   This will not be enough to keep up with the burgeoning communications market, with the PC market stalling.

Recent figures from analysts IHS iSuppli have shown that the overall market for PCs is set to fall during 2012 for the first time in ten years.

Intel meanwhile missed its targets for the recent quarter, with a drop in demand for its PC chips hitting revenues and profits, while rival AMD has also suffered from slowing demand.

Radio jammed by massive solar flare

The cloud of supercharged particles emitted by a series of three solar flares is, as feared, disturbing radio communications.

The China Meteorological Administration (CMA) reports that shortwave communications have been disrupted by the flares, of which the third, on Tuesday, was the biggest in over four years. With flares categorised as C Class, M Class and X Class, it’s well into the X Class range.

And while there’s some debate about how much disruption the flare will cause, a similar coronal mass ejection (CME) cut the power to millions of people in Canada in 1973.

And the current storm is set to continue, according to space weather forecasters.

“An increase to unsettled to active conditions, with a chance for minor storm periods is expected late on day one into day two (18 February),” reads a forecast from the US’ NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center.

“The increased activity is forecast due to the expected arrival of the CME associated with the X2 flare that occurred on 15/02/11. Day three (19 February) is expected to be quiet to active as the disturbance subsides.”

Personally, we prefer the Radio 4 Shipping Forecast.

And more flares are likely to be on the way. Region 1158 – where this week’s biggest originated – is expected to produce more M-class flares over the next few days, and could produce an M5 or greater x-ray event. There’s also a chance of isolated M-class activity from Region 1161.

There’s a danger to astronauts on the International Space Station, says NASA, and even to air passengers and crew.

But, hey, those of us in reasonably northerly or southerly latitudes could at least be in for a pretty light show – especially if the lights do indeed go out.

“Further Northern Lights (aurora) displays are possible some time over the next two nights if skies are clear and the activity peaks in your local night-time,” says the British Geological Survey.

Solar storm unlikely to cause communications problems

Warnings that a solar flare could disrupt our communications have been denied by a meteorological expert who has claimed that there is “no evidence” this could happen.

No doubt his comments will come as a blow to those hoping to use the excuse of “I had no signal”, for forgetting to call and text their loved ones, or dodging those bunny boilers, this Valentine’s Day.

The reassurance from the spaceman follow reports that a Japanese satellite found two huge holes in the Sun’s outer atmosphere, otherwise known as the solar corona. Boffins viewing the images sent down from the satellite, said that the holes were blasting solar material into space.

The problem, they said, was that the holes allowed gas to escape into space through the sun’s red hot outer atmosphere where they then became solar wind and possibly result in a solar storm. They said that while this wouldn’t affect the earth, the solar storm could cause a disruption in communications, something that was witnessed in 1859, when similar solar flares messed around with communications and gave operators electric shocks. Telegraph poles were affected.

According to our solar expert,  these disruptions also affect radio communication. However he said the risk of losing all communication was very unlikely.

“Solar flares are something that happen every so often and nothing really for us to worry about. They don’t pose a threat to earth, but they could cause solar winds, which stream from the holes,” he told TechEye

“These winds could hit earth at an average speed of 400 kilometres per second, cause solar storms and in turn disrupt our communications scape. This includes mobile phones, the internet and of course IT networks. If the worse came to the worse, and there’s no evidence that it will, then we could be without communications for at least two weeks until everything. quite literally, blows over.”

NASA also doesn’t seem to be panicking claiming: “The holes are relatively cool in temperature as compared to the active regions nearby.

Maybe the old “I left my phone on the bus” will be a better excuse. The Mobile World Congress in Barcelona will remain unaffected, possibly unfortunately.

SpaceX wins huge satellite deal

Private space outfit SpaceX claims it has scored the “biggest” commercial rocket launch deal in history which it says is worth $492 million.

Iridium Communications wants 10 launches to put up the company’s next-generation constellation of satellites starting in 2015.

SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk said more than half of his company’s 30 launches are purely commercial. The statement means that those who thought that private space companies could not make cash were talking out of their own black holes.

Musk claims that SpaceX’s business success validates President Barack Obama’s proposal to outsource to private  companies rather than using NASA.

The move worries some members of Congress and some former astronauts who fear that relying on private companies to ferry humans into space is too risky.

The announcement comes less than two weeks after the first test launch of the company’s new Falcon 9 rocket, a test that SpaceX had pronounced a “near-total” success.

The other advantage is that SpaceX’s Falcon rockets are “100 percent” American-designed and -made. Although so was Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohen and they are pretty broken.

Recently the Wall Street Journal waded into SpaceX claiming that it needed $1 billion to proceed with its plans to develop the Dragon space capsule and Falcon 9 rocket.

Musk admits that he will need to take on more debt as he expands the company but that will not be a bad thing.

The Iridium payloads will be launched on Falcon 9 rockets from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, after SpaceX spends about $50 million to develop a launch pad there. SpaceX now has launch pads at Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands, and Cape Canaveral. 

WiMax will be phased out by 2015 says report

Mobile broadband, including LTE, will bridge the digital divide for internet and data communications and WiMax will be phased out according to a report by analysts at WiseHarbor.

In its extended forecast to 2020 for mobile devices including mobile and cellular modems in dongles and embedded modules, the analyst company also said HSPA, CDMA2000 EV-DO and LTE technologies will repeat – for Internet access and data communications by 2020 – the success already achieved by GSM and CDMA2000 1X in connecting 4 billion people worldwide for voice and text. It added that most of these would never require a wired internet connection..

It also predicted that LTE will be as successful as the technologies that preceded it including GSM. However, it will be 2016 – five years after the first LTE service launches in 2010 – before LTE accounts for more than 25 percent of mobile broadband device sales. LTE device sales will also however, not equal those with CDMA-based technologies including EV-DO and HSPA/HSPA+ combined until 2019.

It also seems it’s goodbye to WiMAX and hello to TD-LTE, which will takeover from the old technology when it reaches its peak by  2015. The report said whereas WiMAX has made significant commercial progress by occupying the unpaired spectrum that tends to be much cheaper than the paired spectrum used for CDMA-based technologies including EV-DO and HSPA, TD-LTE will eclipse WiMAX by prevailing in the use of unpaired spectrum as well as the paired spectrum already employed commercially by LTE. However as the industry, especially China Mobile begins to embrace TD-LTE manufactured products, TDD and FDD modes will marginalise WiMAX in the marketplace over the next few years.

The report said Asia Pacific will account for more mobile broadband and LTE device sales than any other region from 2011. The number of devices sold per capita will remain significantly higher in developed nations where average incomes are greatest and replacement rates are fastest. 

Device revenues from handsets, dongles and embedded modules will plateau from 2015 with falling average prices and saturating demand for phones. Thereafter, revenue growth will continue largely from the added value mobile broadband provides for the other types of devices in which cellular modems are being embedded, including tablet computers and consumer electronics.

Tech recovery is underway

Ta dah! The tech sector is properly out of the woods, says Forrester Research, with the global IT market set to grow by 7.7 percent to $1.6 trillion this year.

The US will be the best-performing region, with IT spending rising by 8.4 percent. It’s benefited from the Greek financial crisis, which weakened the Euro against the dollar – which is why Forrester has increased its forecast from the 6.6 percent rise it predicted back in January. Asia Pacific is set to do well too.

Western and Central Europe will show the lowest expansion, thanks to the stronger Euro and individual countries’ debt concerns.

Computer equipment and software will be the strongest product categories, especially PCs, peripherals, and storage equipment; operating system software and applications should do well too.

And communications equipment purchases are looking up, especially for enterprise and small and medium-size business buying. IT services will lag a bit, though.

On an industry basis, US manufacturers, financial services firms, utilities, and healthcare will see the strongest growth in 2010.  Those that were last shall be first, says Forrester – the industries that have had the worst declines over the last couple of years will show the biggest gains in 2010.

“Confirming past research, the largest US industry market for tech products and services is the professional services industry – $103 billion – followed by financial services ($81 billion), and government ($71 billion),” says the report’s author, Andrew Bartels.
 
“In terms of 2010 growth prospects, US manufacturers, financial services firms, utilities, and healthcare will see the strongest growth in 2010.”

All the same, Forrester counsels caution. A return of the recession could really drive down tech investment, says Bartels, and while vendors should plan for a good 2010 they shouldn’t get carried away.