Putting White Space to Work for Cars


One thing we are learning about the connected car is that the market involves much more than cars. Other systems are using the vehicle as a hub, allowing the car to connect to infrastructure, homes, and buildings. Evolving technologies are being put to use for automobiles, addressing problems such as traffic jams and road safety.

In the U.K., the regulator of communications industries is taking steps to move the connected car forward using white spaces. Ofcom, www.ofcom.org.uk, announced it is working with a network operator and an Internet of Things company on a pilot that would put white spaces to work along U.K. roads.

British Telecom, www.bt.com, and Neul, www.neul.com, will work with the U.K.’s Dept. of Transport to test the use of white spaces to transmit data on traffic congestion and road conditions to vehicles. The project will initially take place along the A14 between the cities of Felixstowe and Cambridge. The goal is to improve the information provided to drivers, leading to less congestion and better safety on the road.

A small network of white space transmitters will send data to the cars, which will contain white space devices that could also broadcast data on their speed and position.

Ofcom says the white spaces in question are the unused spectrum in the frequency band used to broadcast digital TV. It says the “gaps” or white spaces can be used by other applications, but only at certain times. The devices being used would access the white spaces when they are vacant, communicating their location to a database. Ofcom says the amount of white space available in the U.K. varies by location, time of day, and the power level of devices.

White spaces have long been a point of interest for Neul, which back in February announced the release of a TV white space transceiver chip called Iceni. The chip is designed to draw little power and deliver wireless, non-line-of-sight connectivity for M2M and wireless broadband applications.

Ofcom’s trials in the U.K. are meant to help the region use available spectrum most efficiently in the face of growing demand. Steve Unger, Ofcom CTO, says, “Spectrum is the raw material that will underpin the next revolution in wireless communications.”

By using white spaces to help cars communicate with other vehicles and the road, Ofcom and its partners are furthering the idea of the connected car as a focal point of the connected revolution. If the project works as anticipated, perhaps white spaces could also be used to transmit data back to the drivers’ homes, or from health-monitoring devices in vehicles to a hospital.

Ofcom will also be supporting other projects that make use of white spaces, including sensors that can monitor the behavior of cities. But the connected car is an exciting way to provide realtime information when people have need of it.

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