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April 13, 2010

Cognitive connectivity and the future – Design by Community

2. Inside-storyHELSINKI, Finland – As this week’s topic for Design by Community is all about connectivity, we decided to ask one of Nokia’s experts in the field for their valuable insight. So we tracked down a fella called Mikko Uusitalo, a Principal Researcher at Nokia Research Center in Helsinki, and someone with a great inside view on all things connectivity related when it comes to devices. Click through to read our full interview.

Connectivity continues to improve in mobile devices, but how do you envisage connectivity options evolving in the future?


Mikko: In addition to connecting us to other people, in future we will increasingly be able to connect to objects and things in both the real and virtual worlds. The Wireless World Research Forum (WWRF) suggests there will be 7 billion people being served by 7 trillion wireless devices by 2017. Simply put, everyone on the planet could be served by wireless devices, and to make that possible, the wireless devices need to be affordable and easily operable.

In the future, communication between machines will grow faster than communication between humans. Sensors and RFID tags will be added to more and more devices so that they communicate wirelessly. Part of their role is to provide context sensitivity. Sensors will be embedded in, e.g., vehicles, transport systems, weather systems and building infrastructure (furniture and lights for context sensitivity, doors and windows for security). With a tag and a sensor in a packet of food, it would be easy to trace the origin and history of the food with your handset. This would improve food safety.

We can expect sensors and tags to begin to inhabit every object. All devices will be part of the mobile internet seamlessly connected via Internet Protocol enabling interworking and interoperability between heterogeneous networks with enhanced security and user privacy.

What are the biggest challenges when it comes to improving connectivity in mobile devices?

Mikko: The amount of data traffic is increasing at dizzying speed – it is already passing voice traffic. Yet there is limited amount of spectrum, i.e., roads for this traffic. New approaches to connectivity are needed to answer the increasing demand while keeping costs and energy consumption low.

What is the most exciting development in the connectivity space for mobile devices of the future?

Mikko: Definitely cognitive connectivity provided by cognitive radio! A cognitive radio system can be defined as a radio system that has the capability to obtain knowledge from, and become aware of both its internal and external environment (the radio environment, the service environment, and the user preferences/behavior). A cognitive radio system dynamically and autonomously adjusts its behavior and operating parameters to best serve the specific needs of the user within the current environment. Cognitive radio would significantly increase the efficiency on how spectrum is used. And the technologies needed for cognitive radio could also open up possibilities for completely new services.

How far are we away from the truly smart radio – one that automatically switches to Wi-Fi when you get home, that’ll keep Wi-Fi off when it doesn’t need to be on?

Mikko: This is already possible – even though I would not call it truly smart yet – future cognitive connectivity will be a lot smarter. For example the Nokia N900 can already be set to always connect to Wi-Fi when available. So it automatically switches to Wi-Fi at home when approaching home. And you don’t need to switch it off, as the energy consumption in the unused mode is so small.

Let us know what you think in the comments section below. Plus, stay tuned for our video vox pop of Mikko to find out what he thinks makes a great concept device and to find out what his dream Nokia would be – going live this Thursday.