Bell Labs' George Rittenhouse On The Future of Wireless Applications - InformationWeek

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Software // Enterprise Applications
09:24 AM

Bell Labs' George Rittenhouse On The Future of Wireless Applications

Q&A with wireless research executive offers a peek at what we can expect from next-generation wireless apps.

To explore the future of wireless applications, InformationWeek recently discussed the subject with George Rittenhouse, VP of wireless research at Bell Labs. Rittenhouse has extensive experience with radio-frequency front-end radio architecture and cellular system engineering. He's worked on many initiatives at Bell Labs, including wireless IP networks and fourth-generation wireless networks. What follows is a summary of Rittenhouse's remarks:

InformationWeek: What new types of applications do you see arising as a result of high-speed next-generation applications?

Rittenhouse: A few things are likely to occur further out. The service providers are rolling out higher speeds now, and we see ourselves at the very beginning of the social consequences of ubiquitous access to data. Imagine yourself 15 to 20 years ago when you just started using a cell phone. Most people kept them powered off until they needed to call someone. They called someone very quickly and then powered off to keep their minutes down.

But then something happened: a social transformation took place. Up until that point, people would ask, "Why do I need a wireless connection?" But a social transformation occurred when people could be reached anywhere and at anytime. You were no longer calling the home or the office. You were calling an individual, and when people expected an individual to pick up the phone, a social transformation occurred. The cell phone transformation is booming and the success of wireless communication is clear.

We are at the same point now with data as we were with the first cell phones. What are the current applications utilizing wireless access to data? Web surfing and downloading video clips. That's the same types of things that I can do at my desk. Why would I ever need that access in a plane or in my car when I can do that in my office or at home? The data transformation hasn't taken place. It's still very use-specific. It'll turn the connection off until I want to do something on the Web. This is instead of the Web getting a hold of me any time I need it.

This is going to change. In five to 10 years, a transformation will occur as the maturity of the types of data and wireless applications improves. And as more people always leave their cell phone on today, they'll always be connected to the Web. Instead of an individual contacting the Web, the Web will decide that it needs to contact the individual when something important to them occurs. This could be anything that the individual decides is important for them to know, such as a change at work, breaking news, or the weather of the city they're traveling to.

We call this IP immersion. You will be immersed in the network. Just as cell phones immerse you in the telecommunications network, ubiquitous wireless access to data will immerse you in the IP network. And that's when the social transformation will occur. This data will be used in ways that we are not even capable of comprehending now. It's going to create a connectedness that starts to draw all of these other applications. Once we have this, you can begin to imagine some of the interesting things that will happen. One app that we are likely to see is that people like to connect to have information at their convenience, so you may want a news clip or a video, but you want it at the time that it's convenient for you, so you want to time-shift the video; you say you want it now, and it streams to you.

InformationWeek: Will the video be streamed to your phone and PDA? Will the network know that you're home and automatically stream it to your television?

Rittenhouse: That kind of exchange blurs the line as to whether you are on wireless or a wired line. It won't matter where you are, because these things are just video streams to the world. You will want the best and the brightest you can have no matter where you are, and you'll want it seamlessly and when it's convenient for you. And you'll have agents in the network that will know what types of video clips and information that is important to you. These profiles will be based on information you give the agents, and what the agents and the network learn about you over time. So your personal agent will flag information about something that may have occurred or has become available and it will send it to wherever you want it: your cell phone, TV, or computer. This is the kind of interactiveness that will occur in the next five to 10 years.

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