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Sunday, May 16, 2004New wireless technologies will soon reconfigure the Web using radio spectrum that doesn't cost a dime. In Britain, BT has installed a series of radio towers that beam signals across the countryside to small antennas on the sides of customers' homes. The system is about as fast as traditional broadband but much cheaper to set up. Why? BT is using less-expensive equipment and a free, unlicensed part of the radio spectrum, avoiding billions of dollars in fees. If the test in Campsie goes well, BT may roll out the service to consumers across Britain by next year. "This will revolutionize society, just as mobile telephony revolutionized society in the 1980s."Wi-Fi is just the first step, though. Hard on its heels are four equally innovative technologies -- WiMax, Mobile-Fi, ZigBee, and Ultrawideband -- that will push wireless networking into every facet of life, from cars and homes to office buildings and factories. These technologies have attracted $4.5 billion in venture investments over the past five years, according to estimates from San Francisco-based investment bank Rutberg & Co. Products based on them will start hitting the market this year and become widely available in 2005. As they do, they will expand the reach of the Internet for miles and create a mesh of Web technologies that will provide connections anywhere, anytime.These technologies will usher in a new era for the wireless Web. They'll work with each other and with traditional telephone networks to let people and machines communicate like never before. People in what have been isolated towns, be it in Ireland or Idaho, will find themselves with blazingly fast Net connections. Zooming down the highway, you'll be able to use a laptop or PDA to check the weather or the traffic a few miles ahead. Back at home, couch potatoes will be able to dish up movies from their PC and transfer them to the flat screen in the living room -- without any wires at all. And tiny wireless sensors will control the lights in skyscrapers, monitor utility meters in suburban neighborhoods, even track toxicity levels in wastewater. This will give rise to the Internet of Things, networks of smart machines that communicate with each other.
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