A void for 0

By Vibha Varshney
Published: Sunday 15 February 2009

-- 1-0 binary data transmission may change for the better--enter the age of the gap

SENDING information through wireless systems like the WiFi and the cellular networks means losing energy for every bit of information that is transmitted. The communicating devices are generally portable, powered by small batteries that need to be recharged regularly. This can be expensive and time consuming, reducing the device's efficiency. Take wireless sensors, for example, used for constant smoke or fire detection, environment monitoring and emergency warning.

Koushik Sinha, lead research scientist with a Bangalore-based American multinational called Honeywell Technology Solutions Lab (htsl), has devised an energy efficient communication technology that uses silence to transmit data. In the world of wireless communication, data sent by a transmitter is converted into a binary language consisting of 0 and 1. The silent symbol technology allows the transmitter to stop transmitting when it reads 0. The receiver is programmed to understand that the absence of a signal denotes 0. Hence energy is conserved while transmitting parts of the message. At the same time the complete message is sent. In other words, information is communicated even when a signal is not transmitted.

"The technology of utilizing silence to convey information is a paradigm shift from the way information is transmitted in today's communication systems," said Sinha. By using a method of data compression known as compression with null symbol (cns) method, Sinha plans to make the technology work even better. Compression halves the time needed for transmission and the silent symbol communication technology saves 33 to 50 per cent energy both at the transmitter and at the receiver.

Devising t his technology requires certain modifications in the lowest layers of communication protocol stacks. A protocol stack is a collection of software, stacked one above the other. The stack defines how the information is transmitted and received.

Although htsl develops technology for automation and control solutions, aerospace and transportation services, Sinha's research would be beneficial in setting up wireless-based development projects in rural areas where availability of electricity is unpredictable making it difficult to recharge batteries. It could be used in healthcare monitoring devices to transmit data like a patient's blood pressure, body temperature and blood sugar level.

Another application is in agriculture where yields could be improved through continuous monitoring of climate, rainfall, soil nutrient conditions and pest infestation without worrying about recharging the devices frequently. While sensors with batteries for these kind of networks would work for around 100 days without cns, it would work for 135-140 days with cns.

Subscribe to Daily Newsletter :

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.