What Can You Do With 50 bits per second

on ramp wireless micronode_x582

Some things go up and some things go down.

Force sizes are definitely going down, as we know only too well.

Demand for sensor coverage is going up, in all theatres the need to have a ubiquitous and persistent network on which to overlay communications and sensor feeds is growing at an alarming rate.

Despite the rapid increases in wireless bandwidth, compression and associated technologies an interesting new development is taking the opposite approach.

Ultra Link Processing concentrates on range and persistence, eschewing high bandwidth for low power usage and the ability to operate for extreme time intervals with a minute amount of power. Bandwidth is tiny, about 50 bits per second, but the power management allows devices to remain in use for 20 years. Onramp Wireless is targeting smart energy grids, with a range of nearly 50 miles and the ability to penetrate underground it is hoped that it will support the transmission of low bandwidth data such as meter readings.

A trial network in San Diego has demonstrated that just 35 base stations can collect data from a 4,000 square mile area.

These are the key system highlights, which set this technology apart:

  • Greater than 40 miles (65 km) line-of-sight range, and up to 10 miles (16 km) to underground locations.
  • RPMA, a unique multiple access method with an order of magnitude capacity improvements, and demodulation of up to a thousand incoming signals, below the noise floor, every frame.
  • Each Access Point supports up to 64,000 endpoints.
  • Access Point aggregate throughput of 120 kbps (10 Mb/day).
  • Each ULP Gateway can support hundreds of Access Points.
  • Ultra-low power consumption, allowing up to 20-year battery life for water meter applications.

From the On-Ramp website

The ULP system provides a greater than 600x coverage advantage and a 25-40x capacity advantage over competing systems, but in many deployment scenarios, the advantage is substantially larger, particularly due to ULP’s ability to be deployed in highly elevated locations. This is not the case for Carrier Sense Multiple Access (CSMA) based systems, such as 802.15.4, 802.11, and 900MHz FHSS networks. CSMA assumes that endpoints in the network have a radio link between each other to detect contention. As coverage increases, the likelihood of that being true decreases, and the multiple access scheme collapses. Additionally, due to the short range of these systems, there typically aren’t enough favorable locations to place gateways, making this approach theoretical at best.

Just thinking out loud, how about the following;

  • Container tracking, no sniggering at the back, please. The tracking of the whereabouts of container-based and subunit loads is a significant challenge and tends to get really difficult once beyond the secure and bandwidth rich rear locations. Combine the ULP with a GPS device and across a large area you could on-demand, interrogate the whereabouts of all equipment, spares packs and other supplies
  • Movement sensors, one of the most significant challenges in the counter IED space is we simply do not have enough people to monitor vulnerable locations, attaching a simple motion sensor to one of these will allow us to flood an area with motion detectors. When a movement is detected it could cue another sensor to either eliminate it as a false positive (farm trucks, animals etc) or task other assets with taking a closer look and no doubt false alarm rejection software could be developed
  • Smart energy grids, every single generator in Afghanistan needs fuel and this fuel has to be driven in at great cost and danger. Using a low bandwidth but long-range and persistent network would allow all generators and meters to be networked together. Remote management of generators operating parameters, making sure generator sizing is appropriate (large generators being run at below optimal output for example) and remote fault diagnosis could reduce energy usage, a valuable financial and operational result
  • CBRN agent detection network, instead of deploying vehicle-based sensing and analysis a network of sensors could be deployed and monitored remotely. A centralised picture of chemical agent plumes and other contaminants could be rapidly analysed and disseminated for early warning purposes
  • Perhaps it might even be used for so-called ‘blue force tracking’ of individuals and vehicles without connectivity to BOWMAN

Anyone think of any others?

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