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Wireless whiz weighs in on pervasive computing, muni Wi-Fi, RFID and 802.11n

Director of Rutgers wireless lab excited about cognitive radio, frustrated by too many buzzwords

By , Network World
February 04, 2008 12:07 AM ET
Dipankar Raychaudhuri, director of Rutgers' Wireless Information Network Laboratory

Network World - Dipankar "Ray" Raychaudhuri, a professor at Rutgers University and director of its Wireless Information Network Laboratory, describes himself as an "average" wireless user. His knowledge about wireless, however, is anything but average, which explains his involvement in such efforts as the National Science Foundation’s GENI project. Raychaudhuri recently talked with Network World executive news editor Bob Brown on topics ranging from municipal Wi-Fi's challenges to the overhyping of RFID (for more on WINLAB, read our companion story.

Where is wireless heading?

Wireless technology is becoming a lot more heterogeneous in that there are a lot of standards that are beginning to coexist and each is finding its sweet spot. For a while it looked like there was only cellular, then Wi-Fi came into the mix, then other technologies like WiMAX began to look viable. [Read Network World's guide to next-generation wireless here.] We're entering a period where multi-radios are going to be the norm. Enterprises are mostly using Wi-Fi now internally, but even there, there are so many standard evolutions and a couple of revolutionary new things in the next few years which should change many of these things. Broadly, our thinking is that we need to deal with a much more complex wireless world where you have different, physical-layer wireless-radio standards and a variety of networking modes including multi-hop and ad hoc types of intelligence that aren't used very much today.

This gets into your work on pervasive wireless [in which different wireless technologies interact automatically]?

The vision I've outlined is still a long-term road map that doesn't happen in a year or two, but we've seen a lot of progress in a couple of areas. The pervasive computing, of course, is not so much an enterprise application yet, but there are a lot of vertical industries where pervasive computing is coming in different ways. In supply chain management and RFID, it is maturing quite rapidly. We think that will make it possible to do more advanced inventory control. For example, one of our guys is working with the jewelry industry, where the classic, passive RFID doesn't work that well but they want to do things, like know when an object has been removed and have a continuous reporting of presence that comes out of active RFID devices.

Some people are really down on RFID these days. You're not?

It got hyped too much, and like most things in our industry, it takes a couple of cycles of hype and gloom. Things are improving and I'm seeing the trend that now at least for high-value applications -- like this jewelry one where you have a relatively high loss rate -- they have quite an incentive to use new technology like this. The other area where we're seeing a lot of traction is in the vehicular industry with companies like GM and Toyota looking for wireless to hook into their systems for things like automobile safety and collision avoidance and some car-to-car convenience applications, such as sharing media and getting navigational updates.

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