Connections +
Feature

The art of moving information

Technical change over the last 2,000 years is comparable to the amount of changes seen in the ITS industry during the last two decades.


May 1, 2008  


Print this page

Let others praise ancient times; I am glad I was born in these.

Reflecting on ‘information transport’ methods of 2,000 years ago, one can only imagine the obstacles. As much as technology has changed our lives we are continually dealing with challenges associated with transporting information.

Ancient wireless communication was limited to the distance sound could be carried without distortion so that the person speaking (source), could be understood by the person receiving the sound (destination).

Written information (data) moved on the networks of highways the Romans constructed across the lands they occupied.

The importance of putting voice messages in written form without being corrupted or lost required the implementation of security measures including imposing extreme and barbaric penalties on those who attempted to jeopardize this transmission of data.

Today, convergence still deals with moving information from source to destination. Interestingly, the source and destinations are no longer constrained to people. People are still included, but now source and destinations can involve electronics to electronics and people to electronics.

ITS technologies related to building automation, security and entertainment are congesting traditional voice and data highways (networks) we constructed over the last two decades.

Electromagnetic interference (EMI) and radio frequency interference (RFI) negatively impact the transmission of desired signals.

When comparing to the previous IPv4, with the new IPv6 security protocol, we have hundreds of billions of IP addressable devices available.

Centralized computing companies such as Google have created the need for super information highways (networks) that could not have been imagined only a few years ago. These highways extend straight to users’ devices within homes and businesses.

Huge centralized computers are both a source and destination for unimaginable traffic every hour of the day.

For example, if you search for “Google” on its search engine you will be offered 2.16 million results in just tenths of a second.

Imagine the amount of data from that single search that could potentially travel on networks around the world in milliseconds. Also, consider the cooling it takes to deal with the heat generated from that amount of centralized computing power.

A recent BICSI conference presentation referenced the size and scale of such centralized computing centres in terms of multiple football size stadium structures.

Ironically, the pendulum has swung for service providers who, not long ago, wondered where all the applications and content would come from as they tried to justify costs associated with building high capacity networks.

These owners are now seeing this increased traffic and are considering traffic “shaping” as a way to control and prevent a few users of huge amounts of traffic from impacting an average daily user’s ability to send and receive data.

Today, the designers and installers of ITS networks must consider EMI; RFI; building materials; heating; cooling; pathways; grounding and bonding; protocols such as frequency hopping spread spectrum, VoIP, PoE, security, redundancy, reliability; and much more.

ITS professionals today are challenged when competing for business. Detailed sources of technical information now allow them to improve their productivity and profitability as they provide four, five, or six nines of reliability on the networks they construct.

Technical change over the last 2,000 years is in some ways comparable to the amount of changes we have seen in the ITS industry during the last two decades. Who would ever have thought 20 years ago that 100Gb/s at any frequency would be transmitted on copper or fiber, let alone within 20 years?

In closing I would like to leave you with a quote from Ovid, a Roman poet who lived from 43 B. C.-17 A. D.: “Let others praise ancient times; I am glad I was born in these.” As technology changes, so too will our industry. Let us not be left looking back at what could have been, but of what needs to be done today, for tomorrow.

Richard Smith is the Canadian Region Director of BICSI and the manager of Aliant Cabling Solutions in Moncton, N. B. He can be reached at rsmith@bicsi.org.