Friday, February 28, 2014

You Saw It Here First (Probably)

Remember this name: pCell.

It's a replacement technology for our current cell-based phone and data service, though it works through the current LTE networks. From a comment written by the founder of the company:

pCell is indeed a much bigger deal than anyone has yet touched on. The "tubes to transistors" analogy is not just marketing speak: Compared to cellular, pCell is far more reliable, enables much smaller and lower power device and can be continually extended in density. Tubes had physical constraints that limited their reliability and scalability. Transistors did not. Cellular (and other interference avoidance protocols like Wi-Fi and cognitive radio) have a physical constraints that limit their reliability and scalability. pCell does not (as far as we know). Cellular has stalled in scalability. There is an entire era of innovation in front of us with pCell.
What does this mean? pCell would allow for much smaller devices because their batteries could be significantly smaller. That also means the batteries use fewer  materials, which are therefore cheaper and better for the planet.

The cell system could completely change because of this. The pCell antennas are very small and don't require line-of-sight, unlike current cell towers. Many more connections and amounts of data can be carried within the same bandwidth. So cities like New York and San Francisco -- where it can be impossible to get good coverage because too many people are using the bandwidth -- would have no problems.

pCell is the technology; Artemis is the company.

pCell would also make it much easier to extend the technology to rural areas because the cost is much lower, closing one part of the digital divide worldwide.

The one negative thing I had to say about pCell was a plaintive wish that people like this would apply themselves to technologies that could help solve climate change. The digital divide is important, but not compared to climate change. (Although you could make the argument that closing the digital divide may extend human potential broadly enough to find a solution to the larger problem.)

Well, it may be that pCell also has applications that are more directly related to energy use. A techie named Imran Akbar, a vice president at Motorola, has posted his thoughts on pCell's possible use as a wireless energy distribution system.

What could that mean? The first thing I thought about was the aging, vulnerable grid. About the huge amounts of energy lost in transmission through physical media. About all the power lines that fall from trees in the winter. And a pCell-based system would be more distributed, meaning power sources could be more distributed as well (which works better with renewable energy sources).

But it also could mean interstate highways studded with wireless power transmitters, with electric vehicles driving without the need for heavy, expensive batteries (that are made from rare earth metals). Therefore less carbon, of course.

Where will it go? It sounds like this innovaiton is going somewhere, and won't just be one of the tech blips you never hear about again. (Of course, it sounds like a tremendous threat to established corporate interests like Comcast and Time Warner. Let's see what happens.)


Here's a video of Perlman demoing pCell at Columbia University (Feb. 19, 2014).

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