The Wireless Gigabit Alliance: IEEE's not-so-secret society

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) started coming out with the 802.11 standards for wireless networking back in 1997. At that time, an organization of manufacturers that eventually became known as the Wi-Fi Alliance organically sprang into existence. Its mission was to certify that devices conformed to the 802.11 standards, a kind of Underwriters Laboratories for wireless.

Lately, the 802.11ac amendment governing very high-throughput 5 GHz networks is getting all sorts of attention from government agencies and manufacturers alike. But rather than hope that the existing Wi-Fi Alliance adapts to handle these new higher speeds or that a new organization will spring up on its own, the IEEE has written an amendment to establish a new organization.

The 802.11ac amendment covers the formation of the Wireless Gigabit Alliance, also known as WiGig. This group of companies is tasked by the IEEE to discover new ways to expand into gigabit-plus wireless communications on the 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, and the as-yet unlicensed 60 GHz bands. And the alliance will be the central source of certification for devices that come out of these ideas.

I for one can’t wait to see what they come up with.

Posted by Greg Crowe on Oct 01, 2012 at 9:39 AM0 comments


Will BYOD-friendly Balance keep BlackBerry in the government fold?

At its BlackBerry Jam Americas 2012 conference in San Jose, Calif., this week, Research In Motion showed off its forthcoming BlackBerry 10 operating system, which the company hopes will help reconnect BlackBerry with the users, such as those in government, who were once so enamored of it.

RIM’s CEO Thorsten Heins said in his keynote speech that the new OS is “all about getting things done.” They’ve even gone so far as to dub the interface “BlackBerry Flow.”

One feature that should be of special interest to government users and IT managers is what they are calling Balance. This tool will allow network administrators to manage and encrypt work-related information on a user’s BlackBerry device while leaving that user’s personal content untouched. Essentially, users get to have two phones in one, with separate apps, information and security settings.

The company also says that the new version of BlackBerry Enterprise Server will be able to do this for all of the devices it manages, regardless of whether it is a BlackBerry or not.

This is definitely a big step for RIM for two reasons. One, the company is freely admitting that “bring your own device” is the new reality, and the only way to stay relevant is to accept that reality. Two, the company is making moves to try to make BlackBerry a real choice for a user’s personal mobile device. Whether the company can leverage this into retaining and possibly increasing its user base remains to be seen. We’ll find out after BlackBerry 10 is released early next year.

At least the new BlackBerry will work with older adapters (cough cough, iPhone 5).

Posted by Greg Crowe on Sep 27, 2012 at 9:39 AM1 comments


My other car is a smart phone

Since its founding, the networking giant Cisco has been one of the major developers of ways to network both government and civilian computers together. But there is one type of computer that even Cisco has neglected, even though this type has been around for over 40 years and whose use continues to grow. I’m talking about the on-board computer in your vehicle.

What Cisco is proposing to do is make your car more like a smart phone -- something that switches seamlessly between wireless networks and 4G. This could allow for firmware updates from anywhere, not to mention uninterrupted data streaming for passengers.

The Cisco Connected Vehicle initiative would network the systems already in a car and connect them to the Internet. Aside from letting the kids browse the Web in the backseat while Dad gets GPS-enabled driving directions, Cisco also is quick to point out the benefits such networking could have for first responders and other emergency crews.

A vehicle arriving first at the scene of an accident, for example, could send video to a control center, giving dispatchers a better idea of what other crews are needed at the scene, the company says. Ambulances could connect with hospitals to arrange care for an incoming patient, and police could send images from a crime scene to more quickly identify suspects. And using wireless IP connections could help them all avoid the communication problems that often occur with radio systems that aren’t interoperable.

Also, since every system in the car would be connected more wirelessly, the folks at Cisco estimate they could eliminate 70 to 80 pounds of cables from the average car. And with gas prices what they are, every little thing to improve mileage is good.

In addition to emergency services, this kind of technology also could have other uses in government, such as for fleet management or for agencies that have a lot of employees in the field. And the military, which is always looking for ways to keep soldiers and commanders connected in the field, could make use of it, too.

Cisco says it has been in contact in every car manufacturer in the world about its connected cars, so there’s a good chance we’ll be seeing them on the roads pretty soon.

Posted by Greg Crowe on Sep 25, 2012 at 9:39 AM3 comments