An article about promising advancements in wireless communication technologies includes a small dose of futurology.
It is an unappreciated task to try to forecast the direction of future technological development. Most of these attempts eventually appear naive, if not foolish. All one needs to do is think back to statements made by British Amstrad founder Alan Sugar shortly after the next Apple presentation, or the words of Digital Equipment Corporation president Ken Olsen from 1977: “Hardly anyone will ever think of installing a computer at home”; Bill Gates, who is credited with saying that “640KB should be enough for everyone”; or even more recent statements made just after the show, “Next Christmas, the iPod will be finished…”
However, we’ll take a chance and list a few current technologies that may serve as the cornerstone of the digital future in a dozen years.
Facebook is investigating the possibility of using infrared transmitters that make use of atmospheric optical link (Free Space Optics) to transmit data from its drones. However, considering its limitations, which include the requirement for extremely precise targeting and reliance on atmospheric conditions, another technology appears more promising.
Li-Fi, which is an acronym for light-fidelity, is a method of data transmission via light. High-frequency flickering is used to encode information, which is then transmitted by LED lamps that have a specialized controller and are undetectable to the human eye. Not only do they shine just as brightly as regular ones, but they also offer Internet access at speeds that are nearly as fast as light. Ten gigabits per second could be reached in optimal circumstances, but this is not the maximum.
Outside the labs, Li-Fi lights have already begun to show up in Estonian offices, and Sisoft has been selling all the necessary equipment for home use of this technology in Mexico since the beginning of this year. Furthermore, an iOS update’s source code contained a reference to Li-Fi. Few would contest this given that Apple has long set the standard for innovation in the mobile electronics market.
Fifth-generation internet access
The increase in connection speeds is the most obvious and direct route for the development of wireless networks. The development of 5G, a new communication standard, started practically immediately after 4G became widely available. Regardless of whose development laid the foundation for it, the new standard promises increased network capacity and connection speeds faster than dedicated cable lines. The question of the frequency range and characteristics of such a network has not yet been definitively settled, and corporate details are kept under wraps. We’re talking about a couple or three gigabits per second per hundreds of thousands of subscribers in the jam-packed conditions of busy urban networks.
It’s difficult to overstate the boost that this will provide to cloud computing, streaming technologies, and personal file storage.
Future users are not the only ones who can see the advantages. The first business to roll out a functional fifth-generation internet network will win. You won’t have to wait long because hundreds of investors are pouring huge financial resources into 5G in an attempt to take the lead. Huawei, MegaFon, and MTS, as well as Ericsson, all took on this challenging project at the same time.
Drones and the internet: Project Loon
Of course, it’s reasonable to argue that the coverage provided by networks from a bygone era still needs a lot of improvement. Furthermore, a recent report from the Internet.org project, founded by Mark Zuckerberg, states that roughly 60% of the global population is essentially unable to view this article. Internet access is still a distant dream in many parts of the world. Expanding the network’s coverage area to the point where it truly becomes a global network is the second major challenge that will be resolved soon. Apart from standard communication towers and satellite repeaters, there exist some truly amazing solutions—the only “but” being that they are created and executed by true industry titans.
Google has been developing Project Loon, a massive plan to send hundreds of 4G LTE and Wi-Fi repeaters into the stratosphere over remote areas of the planet, for more than three years. The transmitters cover a vast area because they are mounted atop high-altitude balloons and allow them to drift for months while being affected by air currents. The closest ground station was previously located roughly 80 kilometers away, but Google experts have now expanded the grouping of balloons’ operational radius to 800 kilometers.
Tests were carried out over New Zealand, California, Australia, Brazil, and South Africa; they were deemed successful even though there were no mishaps. Furthermore, Project Loon’s commercial launch is scheduled to occur in the coming days. The Sri Lankan government completed all the required paperwork in 2015, and the nation will soon have a single wireless network installed throughout it.
Meanwhile, Facebook is developing a plan to introduce massive drones as the Internet provider of the future. Each of these machines has a 43-meter wingspan, and plastic and hydrocarbon fiber help to minimize weight. Solar batteries are intended to be used to guarantee the drones’ autonomy.
Additionally, hackers are considering the possibility of creating network infrastructure that is actually hazy. The crew behind the well-known website The Pirate Bay previously revealed in 2012 that they were thinking of mounting their servers atop unmanned aerial vehicles crossing neutral seas. Even if one wanted to, it would be extremely difficult to take down a website hosted on such a site.
However, there are other options besides these directions as well. Cyber-anarchist enthusiasts are building the fault-tolerant distributed networks of the future, while businesses are investigating new technologies and data transfer protocols. They believe that the Internet will function without wires or governing bodies, and that the conventional client-server architecture is extinct. Hyperboria is a decentralized network that operates on the Cjdns protocol and is encrypted. It is currently the most promising realization of this vision.
Its mesh architecture is the primary and most important distinction from the Internet. In this scenario, client connections have taken the place of servers, and direct communication between routers is established via overlapping Fi-Fi coverage zones. Dispersed across hundreds of cities worldwide, islands of virtual freedom continue to connect with one another via conventional means, forming an overlay network akin to Tor or I2P. With more coverage and new communication technologies, Hyperboria will eventually become a fully independent alternative to the Internet from traditional ISPs, despite its already impressive complexity and number of connections. Try downloading FireChat, a decentralized messenger on Treshbox, if you want to experience mesh communication but lack the time or energy to set up a Hyperboria client (it’s still a difficult process).
Sensor networks and the Internet of Things
After reading this, it’s simple to picture a future wirelessly networked world where Internet of Things and sensor networks are finally realized. Numerous automated gadgets that make life easier will be available. From self-driving cars that respond to emergencies on their own to smart homes that control their own lighting, temperature, and energy use as well as order groceries and brew coffee for you, there are countless sensors strewn all over the place that keep an eye on things like parking regulations, fire safety, and the state of bridges.
Although the first of these devices is already available for purchase, the most important feature—a shared ecosystem—will soon be unveiled. It doesn’t matter if it’s Google’s Brillo OS, a future version of Windows, or something else entirely—the future is coming, and we must prepare for it.
5G, Li-fi, Project Loon, Facebook’s drones, mesh networks, and the Internet of Things are all contributing factors to the eventual blurring of the lines separating the physical and virtual worlds.
Technical, social, and legal issues are among the many pressing issues that come with technology development, so a digital utopia is not likely to be what the future holds. However, the most effective way to address these issues is to give as many people as possible access to contemporary communication technologies, with the hope that by working together, they will not only come up with workable solutions but also improve the quality of reality.