A new intelligent wireless protocol for public transportation networks is being developed by researchers at the University of New South Wales, Australia. When deployed, the new protocol will allow passengers on busses and trains cheaper and less power-hungry WiFi connections. The new protocol is called OCEAN (On-board Communication Entertainment and Information), and it will be embedded in chips placed on board buses and trains. In effect, the vehicle itself will then become a communication network with the on-board mobile router acting as a gateway between the passengers and the global Internet or passengers in other buses or trains. Researchers working on the project said that their idea is not unlike Cisco's general-purpose 3200 Series Wireless and Mobile Router, which can also be embedded in vehicles. Cisco's router, however, does not have the intelligence which is integral to the OCEAN project.
The service delivers tens of Mbps when relaying data between buses near each other. When there are no buses close, the mobile router connects through cellular services, such as Vodafone or Telstra's 3G services offering a minimum of 384 Kbps. The technology needs to address several potential pitfalls. Any error or outage in the wireless link, for example, will immediately affect a large number of users. Link outages may be frequent and long because trains and busses often go through tunnels. Traffic from large numbers of users may overwhelm the wireless link. These problems notwithstanding, the day of on-board communication networks is here.
For more on the new public transport protocol:
- see Dahna McConnachie's Macworld report