Dawning of the cognitive era?24 November 2009
UK/EUR: Ofcom and an EC working group are both exploring the possibility of cognitive wireless devices, writes David Davies. The as-yet-unproven concept behind cognitive devices is that they would be able to seek out unoccupied interleaved spectrum (‘white spaces’) to transmit and receive wireless signals.
As previously hinted in both PSN-e and PSNE, cognitive devices are expected to usher in a new era of potentially lucrative mobile broadband and remote home control applications. For PMSE (programming-making and special events) users, however, they could spell another serious headache at a time when they stand to lose much of their existing spectrum access.
While there is a general acceptance that commercial implementation of cognitive devices is at least several years away, moves to explore their potential are gathering pace. The Radio Spectrum Policy Group (RSPG) of the European Commission is currently consulting for a report on cognitive technologies, while UK communications regulator Ofcom has issued a similarly-themed discussion document.
Mooting the possibility of a ‘geolocation database’ containing live information about the frequencies that are free to use in any given location, Ofcom suggests that it would allow potential future cognitive devices to operate without the need for individual licences if there is "strong evidence" to show that there will be no interference to neighbouring TV signals and wireless microphones.
Ofcom’s head of research and development, Professor William Webb, claimed that the possible new generation of devices holds the potential to enable a "vast range of new and innovative applications", but acknowledged that the technology "remains largely unproven" at present.
"The purpose of this discussion document is to further the thinking that is taking place around the world on geolocation and speed the development of possible solutions," he added.
Alan March – Sennheiser UK business development specialist and a prime mover behind the BEIRG Pro User Group on the spectrum issue – is troubled by the implications for PMSE users. "We have already had to deal with the might of the mobile companies in the 800 MHz debate, but this opens up another front in which we could find ourselves up against the Dells, Microsofts and Googles of the world," he tells PSN-e. "There is a huge pollution potential here, and it worries me that these devices – which are as yet unproven – could be allowed to stamp all over the interleaved spectrum on an unlicensed basis."
The PMSE community is currently channelling its energies into a new campaign, Save Our Sound UK, to seek comprehensive funding for the replacement of wireless systems set to be rendered obsolete by spectrum reallocation. For more on the campaign, click on the third link below and/or see PSN-e’s coverage here.