A day in the life of spectrum


We don’t see hear or feel them, but the
electro-magnetic waves that surround us make nearly every aspect of modern life possible.
Without those speedy radio waves, your day would be unrecognisable. In fact you wouldn’t
even be able to leave your house. Let’s look at a day in your life of radio spectrum
use. You wake up around 6am to the alarm clock
bringing you news – on the radio. After breakfast, you try to check your emails
on the laptop – but it just won’t connect to the wireless LAN. You dash out the door
past your daughter happily listening to music via a pair of wireless speakers.
You unlock your car and garage doors with two remote keys.
On the Highway, the traffic update warns of a delay ahead – they and the cameras that
detect the traffic are linked back to the control room.
The traffic report on the radio has been fed back to the radio newsroom from the helicopter
you saw overhead. Once past the delay at the construction works,
you may try to make up time. A sudden flash registers in the corner of your eye, and you
know you’ve been caught. Very soon there’ll be a ticket with photo
attached waiting in the mail – thanks to a radar gun reporting back to base on a microwave
link. Back on the road, there’s a ‘bleep bleep’
as you pass through the toll gates. Just then the mobile rings and, not wanting
to risk another ticket, you use the Bluetooth hands-free.
Finally, you’re at work. The swipe card opens the carpark boom gates.
A motion detector keeps your car safe throughout the day.
As you approach the office, motion detector ‘sees’ you and the doors slide smoothly
apart. At your desk, you connect your laptop to the
office’s LAN. You check your emails, and industry alerts – this one is transmitted
from London via satellite. You make a couple of phone calls from a portable
hands-free then it’s the 9am video conference with one of our regional teams. The video
is streamed from Coffs Harbour to Sydney using a variety of fixed links.
At 10.30, you leave the office to fly to Canberra for an important meeting.
But the flight is delayed and you have half an hour to kill, a chance for some quick shopping.
You buy your son a miniaturised helicopter and a new pink mobile phone for your daughter
– this one downloads video too. While handing over your credit card, there’s
a commotion and the radio spectrum helps apprehend a shoplifter.
After you board, the plane is taxiing along the runway – with ground guidance courtesy
of the radio spectrum. Takeoff and in the cockpit, pilot and crew
are busy – air traffic control directs them using radar and GPS establishes the correct
course to Canberra. Air traffic control keeps you away from other
aircraft and automatic direction finding makes sure you stay on course.
Rain in Canberra means an Instrument Landing System brings you down safely. A taxi takes
you to your Canberra office, where it’s meetings, emails, phone calls, emails, phone
calls, meetings until it’s back in the taxi, onto the plane, and takeoff!
By the time you land, it’s been a long day. Though tired, you drive home, not noticing
the traffic lights up ahead turning red. Your reactions aren’t quick enough, but fortunately
your car’s collision avoidance radar steps in and prevents an accident.
You make it home in time for the 7 o’clock news and linked from the TV studio to the
transmitter. Your son is watching FOXTEL upstairs from the Optus satellite overhead.
Your daughter’s lounging out on the veranda again with those mysterious headphones.
You flip open the laptop to check my emails, but again it refuses to connect to the wireless
LAN. Baffled, you turn back to the news where a
reporter is explaining that an Al Qaeda stronghold has been detected and destroyed.
What the news doesn’t say is that behind the scenes a network of surveillance satellites
were listening to the land mobile radios used by the terrorists.
This information was relayed to the strike aircraft in real time and tactical data links
and the target was destroyed within 10 minutes of being detected.
This story is followed by a live-cross to an outside broadcast unit reporting on the
bushfires in north-east Victoria. Your laptop’s wireless connection mysteriously
springs into life and you notice my daughter wandering into the kitchen…and the music
from the veranda has stopped. (2.4 GHz) You use your new-found digital freedom to
go to the Bureau of Meteorology site to check details of tomorrow’s weather.
The colour weather radar confirms that a storm is on its way from the south west. Hail is
predicted so you close the garage door. Back in the house, you close the garage door.
In the kitchen, you microwave last night’s left-overs.
You settle back in front of the TV and wait for the storm to arrive.
This is today. It could be any day. A day in your life is a day in the life of radio
spectrum.

1 thought on “A day in the life of spectrum

  1. a good video for students, though some of the pictures could be updated; e.g. the 90's PDA (Palm) and old laptop or the US remote TV vans.

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