WiFi vs. Electricity

While WiFi speeds get faster and faster one has to wonder if there will be any competition to WiFi networks in our future. For example WiMAX may eliminate the need for WiFi as we can just access signals from the service provider directly. Another option is ultrawideband a wireless standard which will allow up to 500 mbps of throughput at some point.

Yet another threat to WiFi is using your electrical socket. I am not referring to BPL or broadband over power line where data is transmitted by electric companies but instead allowing your electrical wires to transmit broadband signals and thus potentially eliminating the need for WiFi in homes.

The convenience factor of wireless is certainly something that cannot be matched by using the electrical sockets but with laptops constantly needing to be plugged in after a few hours of use anyway, will it be easier in the future to just stay plugged in?

Now I am not ready to give up WiFi any time soon but there are likely applications for this technology where WiFi just doesn’t reach or where the throughput of WiFi is not good enough or where there is interference or where too many people need to get on a limited amount of wireless frequencies. Then there is the issue of security – some companies just don’t trust wireless networks and wireless solutions are inherently less secure than wired alternatives.

From a security standpoint the issue with WiFi is that people outside your building can listen in and potentially decode your signals. This is less of a problem when you use electrical sockets as an intruder needs to be in your building or somehow tapping into your electrical system.

The latest advances in chips will allow us to explore using power sockets for broadband transmission. Recently in fact Matsushita Electric has come up with a chip allowing for data to be sent and received at 170 mbps. This is blisteringly fast and allows for HDTV to be streamed and lots of other exciting applications. The company makes a variety of appliances and expects to on day integrate the chips into many household items allowing us to turn off the stove from a web browser for example. A more useful example could be turning off your home air conditioner from the office or turning it on for that matter.

Of course many of these things can be done with WiFi as well and perhaps the competition from Matsushita will force companies making WiFi chips to respond with similarly priced chips.

The way I see it, if we are all being forced to be more and more connected, why are our appliances getting a break? If I need to be online 24×7 so will my stove, refrigerator and air conditioner. What I won’t appreciate is getting more e-mail and I just hope my refrigerator never sends me a message telling me to cut back on the junk food or that we need to buy more orange juice to keep me from catching cold in the winter.

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