As we mentioned in our earlier coverage of LINK, Bell Labs is expecting that the near future will bring a lot of growth in cellular devices, like smart appliances and sensors. Part of its solution to this flood of new devices is to give them their own chunk of the spectrum to keep them from getting in the way of user-driven devices, like phones and tablets. But that’s only part of the solution; phone and tablet traffic is going to climb as well.
The solution there is simply to create more cells so that there are fewer devices talking to a single base tower. But adding more access points isn’t a simple matter. Each point requires power and a network connection, and constructing large towers can be a headache of siting permits and contracts. To address these problems, a research effort at Bell Labs called “Blue Cell” is attempting to simplify cellular access points by getting rid of the wires.
As solar panel prices have plunged, getting rid of the power cord has gotten a lot easier. Of course, siting a large solar panel can be just as much trouble as siting a cell phone tower, so one of the major goals of the research was to reduce the energy requirements of a cellular access point. Examining the existing hardware, engineers found that the biggest energy draw was the digital signal processor, which converts the cellular signal into something that can be sent over network cables.
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