Chapter 1. Mobile and Wireless Technologies
Today, the instantaneous communications capabilities of networks are quickly replacing the process of printing and delivering correspondence. The rise of the Internet has turned computers from data processing devices to real-time communications devices. E-mail, instant messaging, and web browsing are becoming the most popular applications. Mobile computing is driving the need to be connected even further. Users are rapidly adopting wireless LAN (WLAN) technologies because they expect real-time communications whenever and wherever they turn their computer on. Computers themselves are evolving into several new classes of devices, from smartphones and personal digital assistants (PDAs) to embedded navigation systems, all of which rely on real-time data communications.
Mobile data communications are not just about getting your e-mail and surfing the web. Many of the applications are more specific to individual industry. One of the best examples is a connected ambulance. Moving from an ambulance that has only voice radios to one that has real-time high-speed voice, video, and data significantly improves the level of care that can be offered to a patient. Now the on-scene paramedics can have access to medical records and hospital staff. The hospital can be ready when the patient arrives because all the data can be transmitted en route.
Mobility and wireless technology are not synonymous, but they do go hand in hand, especially for computing devices. Without wireless technology, mobile communications would be difficult. Carrying cables and plugging in at every location is inconvenient and does not allow connectivity while in motion. Wireless technology allows computing devices to stay connected while in motion, but only recently has this technology been able to meet the needs of the mass market. Cost has decreased, and speed and reliability have increased to the point where it is commonplace to see wireless technology integrated into computing devices rather than offered as a third-party add-on. Limitations to the technology still exist, though; for example, it is common for throughput to decrease as range and coverage area increase. This means that no single wireless technology is universally applicable. Just as in the wired world, LAN, Metro Area Network (MAN), and Wide Area Network (WAN) technologies are available, but unlike the wired world, each device connects directly to each network. Still, "mobile" devices are rapidly flooding the marketplace, but what makes a computing device mobile? A handle? Batteries? Wireless communications links?