WiMax

WiMax is a new wireless networking protocol that is in development. WiFi, the current standard, can only transmit a couple hundred feet. WiMax will be able to reach up to 10 miles in every direction. Not only does WiMax offer a longer reach, it’s also much faster than current broadband speeds. It has been in the news a lot lately i.e. here, and here.

There has been a lot of talk about broadband companies offering free phone service over the Internet (VoIP), and cellular companies are trying to get customers by offering Internet access. With WiMax, everyone can get in the competition game. Internet access, telephone service, cable TV, music, etc… can all be provided over a wireless connection, and because it’s wireless and uses open standards, no one distributor can lock out the others. With cities offering free wireless connections, we can expect some serious competition to set in. I wouldn’t be surprised if in 2007 (when WiMax is expected to roll out) you’ll be able to get high speed Internet access and unlimited phone usage with all of the bells and whistles for less than $10 per month.

Yesterday I was reading about this new idea called podcasting. Podcasting is like having an audio-blog that automatically downloads to subscriber’s iPods (or similar devices). This is a great use for new technology, and could have a huge impact when most people have mp3 players in their cars. Imagine being able to automatically have your car fill up with just enough programming for your ride to work. Just as the major news organizations are hopping on the blog bandwagon, I think you’ll see the same thing happening here. What does this have to do with WiMax? Well, it’s an example of the kinds of truly new and useful ideas that can be created when new technologies come together.

I think we’re going to see even more amazing things when everyone has cheap or even free wireless broadband connections. It might take an extra year or two to shrink WiMax receivers into something that will fit in a portable phone, but it’s coming. I’m looking forward to “augmented reality” Imagine a virtual reality game layered on top of the real world. Imagine seeing restaurant reviews for the restaurants you drive by.

Here’s a cool little idea I’d love to see realized. A few years from now, everyone will have high-speed-always-on connections on their mobile phones. They’ll also have built in cameras, plenty of storage space, GPS receivers, and be able to connect directly from one phone to another — creating networks on the fly. Now, imagine you could take a picture, record a movie or sound clip, or leave a note and attach it to your current location. Every time someone walked near that location, your message could automatically be delivered to them. If you like the meal you just had, make a note of it. If you witnessed a car accident, take a few pictures for the cops to download when the arrive. Drop in some historical pictures of that old house on Main street. Record some performance art in the park, and let others see what the missed. Looking for another person to play a game of hoops? Just drop a request, and see if anyone in the area picks it up. Heck, you could even schedule games by leaving notes on a virtual message board. Of course, we’d need some good filters and search engines to avoid an information overload, but those will be developed right along with it.

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