Under pressure: tackling railway connectivity in 2016 (downloadable guide)

Railway connectivityWireless connectivity on trains is set to become a key area of focus for the wireless industry over the coming years. On-board connectivity remains a significant technical challenge; providing connectivity to people within a fast-moving object that often encounters mobile blackspots is inherently difficult. However, pressure is rising from governments and passengers to improve the current levels of wireless service available on trains.

Currently, enhanced on-board wireless solutions face two major barriers. The first is how to enable cellular connectivity. The second is how to secure sufficient capacity for on-train usage and the necessary backhaul where on-train Wi-Fi is installed. While the technologies are available today to solve these challenges, the business case for moving connectivity along remains largely elusive.

rail-connectivityNow though we are seeing some interesting moves in the market that may help to break the commercial deadlock we have seen in recent years. In particular governments around the world are now attempting to ease some of the pressure by investing in connectivity for trains. The UK government is investing £50m to ensure passengers benefit from free Wi-Fi by 2017. The state government of Victoria, Australia, has committed $40m to tackle mobile coverage blackspots across the region’s Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo, Seymour and Traralgon lines.

Although these developments are welcome, ultimately the ‘right’ solution needs to work for train operators, mobile network operators and rail passengers alike. All industry stakeholders now need to work together to produce business cases that can benefit every party involved.

At this time of shifting market dynamics Real Wireless has put together a short guide assessing the current situation with regards to wireless on trains along with our independent expert recommendations for ensuring connectivity remains on track.

Solving the Wi-Fi challenge on trains

4479165212_390daa988d_oIt’s been just over a year since the government announced its ambitious target to have free Wi-Fi on trains by 2017. While the intention is obviously a good one (who doesn’t want connectivity on trains?) there are still significant barriers in place that are hindering the country’s changes of getting anywhere close to that target.

I was recently at an event called Going Underground a couple of weeks ago discussing the ins and outs of connectivity on trains. What’s clear from that event is that there are technical challenges with on-board Wi-Fi that won’t go away. Wi-Fi’s access technology “Carrier Sense Multiple Access – Collision Avoidance” (CSMA-CA) is not designed for high-density environments, such as busy commuter trains in rush hour with high capacity demand caused by a large number of concurrent users. In other words, when everyone on a train is trying to use on-board Wi-Fi at the same time to stream live sport or the latest Game of Thrones episode, we drive Wi-Fi into its limitations.

The technical limitation in such a high usage scenario lies in the way the Wi-Fi access points and devices interact with each other. To avoid data collisions, devices “sense” the Wi-Fi channel — listening to see if another device is transmitting data. Once a device sees that the channel is busy, it backs off to avoid collision of data, and a counter starts to count down before the device checks again to see if the air interface (the channel) is available. So, when too many users try to transmit data, devices start to go through a downward spiral of repeatedly backing off and trying again, thereby reducing the AP efficiency by 50% or even much more depending on the number of users trying to access it — resulting in less capacity per access point for more concurrent users.

Peak hour trains on busy commuter routes in particular take a triple whammy when it comes to on-board Wi-Fi:

  1. The sheer number of people trying to access a single access point overloads the system
  2. The sheer amount of bodies in one train can attenuate the signal between the access point and devices, rendering it poor (meaning low efficiency) to useless
  3. Peak trains tend to be full of commuters whose data needs tend to be far greater than non-commuters, which, again, overloads the system

Small cells, in particular femtocells, might be a better solution than Wi-Fi because they are more efficient when handling a high number of concurrent users and high traffic — but that still doesn’t solve the the backhaul challenge. Performance is always limited to whatever the backhaul can achieve, which is typically 4G. Hence, if there’s no mobile coverage, the whole on-board connectivity system — whether it’s Wi-Fi or femtocell based — is useless. Connectivity systems could use satellite backhaul for rural locations, but that in itself is a very expensive option. Alternatively, connectivity systems can use on-board repeaters, which don’t need backhaul and bring the signal outside the train to the users inside. On-board repeaters, though, still rely on reasonable outside coverage.

However, none of these technical challenges are insurmountable, with the exception of the inherent Wi-Fi technology challenges.

We do believe that the main barrier to enhancing on-board connectivity is the business model. We also believe that the requirement for trains should be on-board connectivity and capacity, independent of specific technology (such as Wi-Fi). At the moment, mobile network operators don’t have a revenue incentive to cover railway tracks or install on-board equipment because in a world of fixed and all-you-can-eat data packages, the average revenue per user (ARPU) doesn’t increase with incremental coverage and capacity on trains.

Therefore, the business case is the biggest bottleneck at the moment to improving on-board connectivity. If the government truly wants to provide Wi-Fi on 90% of journeys by 2018, it will have to manufacture a business case through regulation in order to kick things along.

Our own research a few years ago found that a clear business case could exist if the industry looks beyond Wi-Fi to mobile connectivity as a whole. We also found that on-board equipment deployment is cheaper than improving outdoor coverage to such a level that users inside the train could be served from outside. A business case would therefore have to clearly list the benefits to multiple parties, including advertisers (amongst many others), who would be able to clearly see the opportunity for ad revenue based on the length of passenger journeys, and rail companies, who could use the connectivity to improve day-to-day operations to become more efficient.

Future of the mobile industry: network operators must increase capacity without irritating customers with higher prices and data caps

At the end of October, Real Wireless hosted a breakfast meeting with Bloomberg to discuss what the future holds for the mobile industry.

Around 40 Bloomberg subscribers from across a number of sectors, including financial institutions, telecom vendors, analysts and operators attended the event. The morning’s talk featured a presentation from Real Wireless’s director of technology, Professor Simon Saunders, who provided a compelling overview of what the future shape of the mobile industry will be — and what the implications of this are for operators.

The challenge at hand
In particular, the presentation highlighted how MNOs now face the dual challenge of delivering major capacity increases and improving their earnings while avoiding customer churn through price increases and data caps. This challenge is set against a backdrop of increased competitive pressures from disruptive new-style players — like Uber and Netflix — that are adopting completely new technology and business models to attract customers away from established competitors.

Growth in mobile demand over the next 15 years is a given, even if the exact rate of growth varies widely between forecasts. Ambitious predictions state that mobile demand will grow to 30 times present levels by 2030, while conservative estimates place growth at 23 times. Whatever the exact rise, meeting demand will depend on many factors — particularly how efficiently mobile operators can supply capacity.

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But as growth continues to increase exponentially, revenues remain largely static, squeezing operator margins and in turn impacting capital available for investment.

Facing up to the task
To address these challenges, Simon outlined several potential options available to operators who wish to maintain current standards of mobile connectivity while keeping pace with demand.

One option available is for operators to try and reduce demand themselves by increasing prices and capping data volumes, which would almost certainly prove unpopular with consumers. Operators could also charge differentially according to need through daily or hourly ‘pay-as-you-use’ fees, or attempt to compress data to ease capacity strains.

The ideal option though would be to reduce the cost of delivery while increasing quality. This approach would involve operators combining different spectrum bands, technology (for example enhanced modulation and coding, carrier aggregation and antennae techniques) and topology (for example small and macro cells) in certain ways and to varying degrees to meet the varying levels and patterns of demand.

The importance of small cells
Small cells in particular could play a vital role in the future of the mobile industry. By offloading subscribers from macro cells in busy areas, they can offer a better throughput and quality of experience at a significantly lower cost than macro cells. Operators will find they are able to keep their tariff prices low, whilst touting the benefits of their enhanced service to subscribers.

Past Real Wireless projects have demonstrated how the benefits of small cells align with market drivers and, when rolled out intelligently by operators, can deliver a positive return on investment. Capacity-driven projects in urban areas can yield benefits of up to $48.6m, with a total cost of ownership of $29.8m and a return on investment of 136%. Coverage-driven projects, meanwhile, can save operators who lack low-frequency spectrum between $2.8m–$7.2m while achieving equivalent coverage as expensive macro cells.

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Automated Wi-Fi systems for better QoE
Operators can also save money and reduce mobile capacity strains by taking advantage of automated Wi-Fi. Our calculations across 10 global cities show that operators could be $17.9 billion better off in a mixture of cost savings and additional revenues by using automated systems to enhance Wi-Fi quality of experience. This approach enables operators to offer seamless hand off to Wi-Fi and back on to the network given certain signal strength, capacity and optimisation metrics. However, the operation support system (OSS) and the business support system (BSS) must be set up to manage the traffic across the different networks.

For example, a mobile operator in New York that has 25% mobile market share could save $71m. Using those savings, the operator can reinvest in expanding capacity without having to increase prices for consumers. It’s a win-win situation.

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There’s no doubt that MNOs have some stern challenges ahead — and it’s all being driven by insatiable consumer demand. Operators need to act now if they’re to make life easier for themselves in the next few years and avoid a public backlash on price increases.

Public Wi-Fi presents a great opportunity for Virgin

Last month, Virgin announced a major expansion of its Wi-Fi hotspot network, with the investment intended to challenge BT’s dominance of the Wi-Fi space. In this blog post, Real Wireless Expert Ade Ajibulu looks at how Virgin could be taking advantage of the latest Wi-Fi technologies to offer a game-changing service.

With BT boasting more than five million hotspots, most of them via home routers, Virgin has some catching up to do. Cost is certainly a key part of the decision, with network capacity only getting more expensive at the same time as mobile data use goes through the roof.Public WiFi

This move could however be a complete game-changer, opening up new revenue streams taking multi-play offers to the next level, disrupting the plans of the traditional MNOs and maintaining customer loyalty in the face of competition from disruptive players such as Sky and TalkTalk.

The key is in taking advantage of cloud-based Wi-Fi cellular integration tools coming to the market, which promise to deliver cellular-like quality of experience on hybrid networks and which, unlike bespoke software solutions, scale with the size of the Wi-Fi network.

Video services are an integral part of the offering, and any expanded Wi-Fi network will need to deliver the same quality of experience and reliability as the cellular network.

For this to work, the network requires performance optimisation and automated fault recovery techniques, plus seamless handover and full integration between cellular and Wi-Fi. This means that subscribers can experience the same content and services over any device, regardless of location and on the move, and that it is immaterial whether a user is on the cellular or Wi-Fi hotspot network.

Up until now this has been technically difficult and expensive.

However, with emerging technologies such as Hotspot2.0/Passpoint, this is set to change. These can support seamless handover along with a new generation of cloud based services, providing a full range of cellular and Wi-Fi integration and performance management techniques.XCellAir is one of a number of companies currently providing such a service.

It would reduce reliance on the EE network, without having to acquire spectrum or having to acquire all the mobile network engineering expertise to operate carrier grade networks. It would also bring significant revenue opportunities at a time when a number of issues are being thrown up by BT’s proposed acquisition of EE.

In order to make the most of the proposed move, now is the time for Virgin to be considering these services.

Technology and retail: how wireless is key to bricks-and-mortar shopping

3174937547_838753c182_oThe media love a good “the high street is dying — online shopping is the future” story. Compelling headlines that talk about the death of one industry in favour of another make for an entertaining read, and who wants the truth to stand in the way of a good headline?

The reality is that bricks-and-mortar shops are not disappearing. On the contrary, retailers and property owners are taking actions to encourage people to use the “real” experience of shopping to complement the online experience. However, the retail stores of today are significantly different to those in the past in how they attract and retain customers. Although each shop will have its own unique strategy for attraction and retention, the key trend of 2015 points to improving the customer experience and we at Real Wireless see technology playing a crucial role in achieving this.

For stores with big budgets, the technology can often be headline grabbing and quirky, and can potentially offer consumers experiences they don’t typically see every day. Harrods, for example, installed augmented reality window displays for its Tissot watch range.

But, of course, most stores are unlikely to want to invest in technology like that, certainly not at the early stage of any technology initiative. However, the premise of using tech to improve the customer experience remains important to every store. So, most retailers are focusing on how to capitalise on a piece of technology that almost every consumer has in their pocket nowadays — the smartphone — in a way that enhances the experience and ultimately improves business performance.

As consumers become more accustomed to using smartphone technology, they increasingly expect retailers to replace loyalty cards with a digital app, provide personalised discounts based on the consumer’s own preferences, interact with consumers through social media, accept contactless payment, let consumers themselves scan items to speed up the checkout process, and roll out countless other enhancements. At the same time the customer may want to do online comparisons and get an opinion from their friends through social media before making the purchase, so the customers need to be able to get online.

The key to capitalising on smartphones lies in wireless connectivity — not just Wi-Fi, but 3G and 4G too. If a retailer fails to meet today’s consumer’s connectivity needs, they risk losing out on sales. But by addressing those needs, retailers can enhance the customer experience, driving brand loyalty and, ultimately, improving sales.

To help retailers get the most out of good connectivity, Real Wireless has published a report detailing the importance of wireless for the retail industry, the business case for generating a return on technology investment, and how to overcome the challenges that any rollout will face.

The report, entitled Wireless and the omni-channel time bomb, is available free of charge from today.

Wireless technology and commercial property: why should property developers care?

CommIn 2015, mobile users — including both you and I — expect to be able to use our mobile devices and laptops wherever we are.

More than this though, we expect to receive the same level of service, functionality and, increasingly, data speeds, regardless of the environment we are in.

This has big implications for property developers and others that provide commercial property. While most people have been aware of how important mobile connectivity has been within their buildings for business tenants, in the past this has typically been basic voice and SMS access.

In the past developers and building owners typically found that there is adequate coverage and service for these technologies inside their buildings with minimal additional effort; the external mobile network could penetrate their building and serve their tenants to a sufficient level.

However, as mobile data connectivity (and the expectations of users of these services to receive good data speeds) has spread, the need for dedicated infrastructure inside a building to meet these needs has also grown.

It’s also no longer sufficient to rely upon Wi-Fi alone to provide data connectivity, with residents expecting 3G and 4G devices to work inside a building as well as they do outside.

Mobile operators, meanwhile, are becoming increasingly reticent to fund the rollout of this infrastructure for all but the very largest of their corporate customers.

It is therefore increasingly expected that the building owner themselves will invest in the infrastructure required to provide mobile services to people inside the building.

We’ve therefore created a guide that helps outline the wireless need — and business case for installation — that modern commercial property developers face. It outlines how wireless can improve current business models and practices, helping to both attract and retain tenants through enhanced connectivity.

After all, it would seem completely illogical to construct a commercial building that did not include a water or electricity supply, as no business would become a tenant. As mobile adoption amongst consumers and businesses becomes so universal, it’s time wireless connectivity was treated the same.

The guide ‘Wireless technology and commercial property’ is available free of charge.

MNOs need a change of culture rather than technology

3235380837_933c1c96dc_bOf the many issues that operators are currently seeking to address, one of the main ones they face is resolving problems relating to capacity — but some might argue the solution to this already exists, hiding in plain sight.

Offloading some of the mobile traffic to Wi-Fi networks has been a key strategy of some mobile operators in recent years. Wi-Fi accounted for an enormous 75%–90% of all mobile data consumed in leading LTE markets. The reasons for this are threefold. First, it’s frequently made available free at the point of use for users; secondly, support for the technology is included as standard in almost every mobile device on the market today; and thirdly the operators do not have to pay for the unlicensed spectrum used by Wi-Fi.

Although some operators deploy their own dedicated Wi-Fi networks, they are still not comfortable with sending voice over Wi-Fi. Carrier-grade Wi-Fi has been something the industry has discussed at great length, but as of yet has failed to turn into a reality on a large scale. This is because the best-effort Wi-Fi networks are not controlled from the carrier’s core network and the Wi-Fi access points (APs) often do not support any form of traffic management or prioritisation. As a result, the operators are unable to monitor or address performance issues such as congestion, as it would in the wireless or wireline access network. This means the provider cannot guarantee QoS (quality of service) and control things such as speed, latency, connectivity and prioritisation.

Despite what operators might believe about mobile users, they’re in fact quite used to the fact that when something is free it’s often not as good as the paid alternative. This is the same with Wi-Fi and mobile networks, and they need to adjust their thinking to suit this.

For example, I am a heavy Skype user and, especially when I travel to Africa, I always make sure I find a hotel that offers Wi-Fi. Sometimes there is a severe delay, and I have to live with frequent call drops — but this is a free service, I’m hardly going to complain about it.

Millions of other Skype users may also experience the same issues when using the service on free Wi-Fi networks, but again also accept that they get what they pay for and love the experience all the same.

Perhaps operators need to therefore acknowledge and accept this fact: users are happy to accept a lower QoS when using free Wi-Fi.

Now, I’m not advocating operators suddenly shift their entire business model to focus on freely available Wi-Fi networks. The industry knows all too well that when you augment a technology to do something it was not designed to do, it can become incredibly inefficient in the long term. This is why LTE networks were designed from the ground up to be fit for purpose.

Instead, operators could educate their users regarding the implications of using VoWi-Fi. Choice is crucial — let the user choose between quality, price and convenience. They will be much happier with the outcome and this gives operators more room to focus on improving the QoS of their own networks, as well as tackling capacity issues.

Operators could think outside of the box and take hold of this opportunity, rather than continuing to struggle until new technology appears to fix their issues. Otherwise they risk losing out to a new breed of MVNO, like Google.

Users are (somewhat) intelligent and, although their expectations are rising, they are already familiar with the limitations of technology like free Wi-Fi.

Nobody would use Skype in their hotel room if this wasn’t the case.

Auctions and preparation for WRC ’15 key topics at European Spectrum Management Conference 2015

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Real Wireless attended the 10th annual European Spectrum Management Conference last week in Brussels, which is a key event on the spectrum management calendar. The well-attended conference covers the most relevant topics in spectrum management with representation from across the industry including regulators, vendors, operators and industry associations. The conference is worthwhile to gain a sector status update from a broad cross sector of the industry. The two-day event is divided into a number of sessions in which a particular relevant topic is discussed by a panel of industry representatives that varied depending on the discussion.

Day 1

In the first sessions, the panel discussed the future of the 700 MHz band and considered the development of a blueprint for the benefit of users and consumers in Europe. Keynote speeches about the impact of this on spectrum policy at the European Commission, RSPG and BEREC was highlighted. Talks from both the broadcast industry and mobile industry presented their respective cases for using the band, which demonstrated how key stakeholders would be affected by the transition. It was clear in some countries such as Italy, which is a heavy user of the 700 MHz band for DTT viewers and broadcasters, will be affected. In contrast other countries such as the Netherlands would not be so affected and could benefit from a swift move to mobile services.

A session on offloading discussed how Wi-Fi and small cells have helped and will continue to help to ease congestion on macro networks, which now includes LTE-LAA. The session provided an overview of how different methods including satellite can contribute to easing network congestion. However, there was no mention of the difference in costs for these solutions, which would have helped demonstrate which solutions would likely offer the most cost-effective solution.

The second half of the afternoon included breakout sessions on auctions and spectrum awards best practice — which I was allocated — and backhaul. These sessions were interactive and lively particularly the spectrum auction session given that the German multi band spectrum auction was going on in parallel.

Day 2

The second day commenced with a session on WRC ’15 common ground, areas of disagreement and likely outcomes. Presentations from Africa, Europe and China provided a broad overview of the impact each of the key agenda items would have on these regions. Notably there was common agreement and support for 700 MHz allocation for mobile services and some disagreement between sectors in relation to coexistence with mobile and satellite in C-Band amongst others.

The second session on delivering a world-leading mobile ecosystem in Europe was interesting because it covered current issues facing the mobile industry today — namely how mobile operators can overcome declining revenues from subscribers and limited funding for network investment at a time when Europe plans to lead in 5G. There were comparisons with the model used in the US and Canada in which auction proceeds and revenues are still increasing.

The third session discussed innovative technologies and policies to improve spectrum efficiency, which included presentations from regulators, operators and advisors. It covered the different innovative methods currently used for licensing and releasing spectrum. For example in Sweden they no longer apportion spectrum via exclusive licensing, instead focusing on better management and sharing. In the US the FCC described its approach to sharing the 3.5 GHz spectrum for low-power access. Other talks mentioned the challenges and complexities of sharing for PPDR and the satellite/fixed links in the C-Band.

The final session addressed the changing face of spectrum management between 2005 and 2025. A panel responded to statements and questions about where spectrum management we will be in 10 years’ time. This session required audience participation by voting against a set of predetermined questions. The key questions sought to address the issues include the largest influencers in spectrum management and what methodologies will be in place to continue the development of spectrum management. Overall it was felt that in 10 years. the European Commission would have the largest influence and that we would be in a similar position to where we are now but with some changes in approach.

Real Wireless’s view of the conference

Overall the event provided useful interaction with spectrum management colleagues within Europe and beyond. The topics and material were interesting with lively debates and reactions from industry demonstrating that spectrum management is fundamental to the continuous evolution and success of wireless technologies. We look forward to participating in at the 11th annual spectrum management conference and providing support and advice to the sector.

Will we really have Wi-Fi on trains by 2017?

Prime Minister David Cameron announced today that all trains in the UK should have free WiFi from 2017, partly helped by £50M of government funding.

At Prime Minister’s Questions he said the plans would cover services operated by TSGN, Southeastern, Chiltern and Arriva Trains Wales. (It isn’t clear if it is only those will get the funding, or if it is only those that have the expectation of free service?)

1Di8seNRo6bK8c9xq5Cw_Italia FerrisBut another facet is that is likely this will be a prerequisite of tender submissions: TOCs will have to offer Wi-Fi as part of the criteria for in the next round of franchise submissions – and will need to compete on the level of service they offer.

It is clear the operators see the benefits: Wi-Fi is a great way to make train travel more productive and hence more attractive than driving.

A spokesman for the Rail Delivery Group, which represents Network Rail and train operators, said: “It is good news that even more rail passengers will be able to benefit from Wi-Fi on their train. Rail plays a crucial role in keeping people connected to friends, family and jobs and the wider rollout of Wi-Fi on the rail network will mean people can make even better use of their time on the train.”

But saying people should do it is the easy bit: actually making this work is extremely challenging, and this is an area where Real Wireless has done a lot of work.

Trains are an extremely challenging environment for on-board connectivity, whether via Wi-Fi or small cells. For a start, there are very strict safety standards, which complicates installations. But most challenging is the issue of backhaul: trains move fast, though difficult terrain (tunnels, cuttings) and often through remote areas. To get that connection to work reliably is not trivial, and might need specialist links or dedicated spectrum.

That makes it critical that there is appropriately designed trackside network, on-train equipment and spectrum.

We have worked on these issues for a number of clients, and have some in-depth expertise in this area.

An example, which is in public domain, was done with Mott MacDonald for the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB), that considered both Spectrum and Technology: “Supporting the Rail Industry’s Wireless Communications”.

We analysed spectrum (the characteristics of different frequency bands, the status of regulatory policy) and technology (capabilities that would be suitable to both operational and passenger services, and both Wi-Fi and LTE).

We have done a number of other projects on train communications and how to make them work, reliably and cost-effectively.

A few things to consider:

  • It may seem surprising, but one of our findings was that it is not actually as expensive as often thought to install mobile equipment on all the carriages of all the trains in the country – if it’s done in a coordinated fashion.
  • What’s more, that the cost is massively outweighed by savings in necessary trackside infrastructure, given the right use of technology and spectrum. But too many people are not doing that right.
  • There are significant benefits from operational use: looking only at passenger use omits many of the opportunities for telemetry, maintenance and other in-house savings.
  • If you are looking at WiF-i, you should consider cellular service at the same time. Including a small cell to improve cellular connectivity is a small incremental cost but has a major benefit for passengers in serving all devices with both voice and data services.
  • People need to anticipate the future and plan ahead. These solutions need to be robust with the right technology, capacity and QoS to support the number of travellers using the service – especially as passenger numbers rise by 2017.

For some more details please contact us, or see our white paper “The business opportunities for wireless in transport” explains how network operators can invest in infrastructure to support better connectivity and new business opportunities on trains and other modes.

 

 

A measurement device in your pocket

The recent news item that a US university had used mobiles to track the movement of thousands of individuals generated a lot of interest in the press. The study, reported in Nature, took anonymised data from a cellular operator as to the movements of their users and concluded from this that humans are creatures of habit, travelling the same routes to the same locations most of the time. This may not come as a great surprise to anyone who commutes to work each day and might not seem to be a significant advance for science but it does potentially give some indication of what more may be to come.

 

Nokia Eco-sensor concept

A Nokia Eco-Sensor Concept Phone (more)

 

Gathering data of most sorts – for example on the air quality throughout a country – can be very expensive. But costs can be much reduced, and the volume of data massively increased, by harnessing the daily movements of millions of mobile phones carried everywhere by most of us as part of our daily travels. The mobile is unique in being a device that either knows its own location, or which the network can locate, and which can input, process and transmit data. With our example of air quality measurements we could imagine clipping a small sensor onto the bottom of the mobile phones of volunteers. This might periodically sample the air quality and then the mobile might send a short data message back to the network. The network would then add the cell location to the message and pass this onto the agency conducting the trial. For very little cost, detailed information which was frequently being updated could be generated.

 

The list of possibilities is likely to be extensive. Ofcom is using around 50 mobile phones with Wi-Fi capabilities to test the Wi-Fi data rates available throughout London. Phones with microphones could test noise levels, deduce what TV programme their owner was watching to derive audience research data and much more. Phones docked in cars with vibration sensors could send back information on road quality and traffic speeds could be estimated from their position. The position of entrants out on a course for a cycling or running event could be tracked by the organisers to help them run the event smoothly. It seems likely that many specialists would like measurements of some sort in their specific areas of interest and many hobbies would benefit from more information.

 

This sort of application might raise privacy concerns and in some cases might require additional hardware or software to be added to the phone. But many users might be willing to agree to help if they thought that the information would benefit them – perhaps by leading to a better environment. In the near future you might leave your phone on for more reasons that just to receive incoming calls.