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07
May
2014

Military Tech WiFi Innovation: Cognitive Radio

by Bill

cognitive radioIt’s no secret that much of today’s technology that we are dependent upon, and has revolutionized our modern lives was developed by and for the military. From global positioning satellites (GPS) which were originally designed to guide intercontinental ballistic missiles during the cold war, now utilized in a myriad of ways by every smartphone; to the internet itself, devised during the same period as ARPANET to provide a packet-switching network among several US Defense Department facilities, the military finds technological solutions to problems of strategic importance, and the private sector unleashes those solutions for the benefit of the consumer-driven economy.

Concerned with radio frequency jamming of its aircraft within hostile territory, the US Air Force is investing $2.7 million in developing what is called “Cognitive Radio,” an idea that has been around for a while, but has never been developed beyond the conceptual stages as it runs up against FCC’s antiquated broadcast spectrum rules that date back to the day when all transmissions were analog.

The FCCs frequency spectrum rules date from a different era when there was a need to provide space between broadcast channels lest there be bleed-through and interference with other signals, and as a result there is a great deal of available “white space” that is unnecessary in this digital age. Cognitive Radio, like the name would imply, is smart radio, via its software, able to analyze the conditions under which it’s operating and adjusting on the fly to communicate with networks using whatever frequencies and networking protocols are clearest, giving access to the entire spectrum for every device to use intelligently, without interfering with other transmissions.

No longer constrained to a narrow band of frequencies as WiFi is today, the developers are projecting a 10-fold increase in transmission speed over wireless networks. While cognitive radio has regulatory hurdles to surmount, it’s not presently allowed under FCC rules, with the Air Force developing it into a working, presumably robust system for combat deployment, it’s only a matter of time before it reaches civilian hands; in fact a working prototype cognitive radio system was submitted to the FCC for approval by Microsoft as “Super WiFi” back in 2007.

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