Wireless World Research Forum probes user needs

TORONTO — The wireless industry over the next 12 months will bring to market products combining cellular telephony with WiFi, representing the first implementation of the way overall communications will evolve, a telco executive told a conference on wireless technologies.

Describing the

work of the three-year-old Wireless World Research Forum as a “”bottom-up approach,”” Miguel Pellon, vice-president and director of standards and technology transfer at Motorola Inc. in Chicago and vice-chair of WWRF (Americas), said the organization, which is holding a conference in Toronto from Nov. 3-4, tries to identify a commonly held view about the needs of wireless users.

Instead of building every product and feature in “”one monolithic approach,”” the WWRF (made up of more than 160 members such as France Telecom, IBM, Vodaphone, as well as universities and R&D centres), prefers to create flexible “”building blocks,”” Pellon explained.

He said the forum provides a “”missing piece”” in the wireless industry — which it says is quickly merging with IT, broadcast and consumer electronics — in which service providers, manufacturers and others were unable to meet and plan for future products and strategies.

The WWRF touts fewer chances of investing in risky research as one of the fortunate consequences of forming a group that collaborates on wireless strategies.

Looking back to the sector’s evolution from the second to third generation, Pellon said, the telecommunications industry focused on technology to the detriment of products customers needed to improve their lives, and therefore deserves criticism. “”Some of that philosophy has anchored this group,”” he said.

Mikko A. Uusitalo, manager of research cooperation at Nokia Finland and vice-chair of WWRF (Europe), added that coming together to discuss wireless issues is “”a starting point for standardization, which leads to rules about how systems are supposed to behave.””

The WWRF has six working groups examining various dimensions of wireless technologies. Professor Angela Sasse of University College London in the UK, which chairs the first on human perspective and service concepts, said her work centres on user needs. She said key values of people interacting with technology include consistent behaviour of devices and services, personal control of data, and privacy.

Sasse said the WWRF aims to resolve the trade-off between respecting these values and making the products convenient to use.

The group has looked at reducing complex options and uses of products to the relevant number customers need at a particular time, for example, basing this in part on what users historically have asked for, said Sasse.

It also proposes simplifying use of wireless products by “”broadening the range of interaction styles,”” including speech recognition, so that customers can choose the shortest route to achieving their goals, she explained.

The challenges facing the future of wireless can be divided into several categories: users and groups; devices; services; systems and access networks, said Nokia’s Uusitalo.

Obstacles to wireless services include providing seamless service regardless of the location of the user; supporting innovative applications such as mobile multimedia; and offering efficient and flexible service, he said.

He added problems facing access network revolve around finding transparent, seamless and secure access across any network; connecting a trillion devices including machine-to-machine and sensor networks; and building an all-IP architecture.

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