Posted by: GW7AAV | October 31, 2010

Cloud Communication

A lot is being talked about ‘Cloud Computing’ Cloud computing is Internet-based computing, whereby shared resources, software, and information are provided to computers often using the idle time of the others on the network. One of the first implementations of such a system was the SETI@home project where software on home computers was used to examine massive amounts of data generated by the Search for Extra Terrestrial Life’s scanning of the galaxy with radio telescopes all around the world. It should take the Internet to the next stage of evolution empowering every user with computing power beyond anything we know now.

There is some indication that mobile telephones and other devices could soon utilise similar technologies allowing devices between a base tower and a distant station to aid downloads or boost signals. All sorts of devices from public and private WiFi networks to wireless linked laptops and mobile telephones could be part of such a system.

Cloud communication may be the future of both professional and amateur radio too. In computing the system works by utilising unused processor cycles. Mobile telephone networks work by switching the working frequency and base station as a device moves location. I suggest we could replace the current repeater network by a digital network that could seek out the unused frequencies and shift frequencies when another signal was detected within in its range. I propose that a first step might be a new digital mode based on an SDR (software defined radio) transceiver that could examine the activity on a band or bands and choose its clearest operating frequency and also lock on and synchronise to the desired signal wherever it was in the band or bands. One advantage might be an ability to automatically find the best band for the current state of propagation and move higher or lower in frequency so as to maintain the link without disrupting other users already using the band. It would certainly be better than the recent wars of words about whether a particular mode should be allowed to monopolise a frequency already allocated for another use.

One of the reasons I am sceptical of things like D-Star and DAB is I think that standardisation leads us in some cases down a blind alley and there is built in obsolescence in these systems. I think the future of technology is almost beyond our comprehension and we do not want to restrict its development. Those in the amateur community that decry developments such as IRLP linked repeaters as ‘not real radio’ probably will not like what the future is about. It is about the blurring of lines between what is communication and what is entertainment, what is voice and what is data, what is broadcast TV/radio and what is the Internet, and a multitude of other convergences. That means all sorts of convergences are likely within the next few years in out hobby too. If amateur radio is not innovative it is obsolete. To keep our bands the hobby needs to remain relevant in an ever-changing world and to do that we must be innovative so that those who need to know can see we are viable and forward looking. Hopefully there will always be a place for the simpler methods that amateur radio was founded on, but if we bury our heads in the past like some would like us to do then ham radio will be as extinct as the Dodo before too long. 

 Resistance is futile!


  1. Hi,

    Interesting food for thought. Sorry to be pedantic, cloud computing is really a (hyped) reinvention of the mainframe – time sharing. SETI@HOME is distributed computing.

    The argument that amateur radio must innovate to stay alive is false IMHO. Ham radio was overtaken long ago by the commercial sector and has produced very little for decades which could contribute to the professional market.

    This is because of the very effect you talk about. The move to digital technologies is too advanced for the average ham. If anything, ham radio is just jumping up and down shouting “me too, me too!” to anyone who will listen.

    You suggest there is nothing wrong with the simple pleasure of operating analogue radio for the sake of it – albeit implied as a sideline activity. I would argue that we face facts – amateur radio is heritage radio already and that we should be content to be the custodians for what, in the next decade, will be a dying art and technology.

    Wasn’t the Borg defeated?

    Have fun in all you do.

    73 G8JGO

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