Imagine yourself 20 years ago, in 1995, when email was a buzzy new technology that was slowly making inroads on college campuses across the country. What would you have thought then if someone told you you could one day broadcast live video over the internet from a little device roughly the size of a deck of cards? Yet, Meerkat is alive and conquering this year’s SXSW.
One researcher at Brooklyn’s NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering is trying to forecast 2035’s “Meerkat.”
“I try to answer what is possible not only 5 years from today but in 20-30 years,” Elza Erkip, a professor of electrical and computer engineering, told us via email.
The NYU School of Engineering is working to have a prominent spot in that conversation. Early next month it’s hosting the invite-only Brooklyn 5G Summit, a convening of industry leaders and academics like Erkip eyeing the coming needs of future internet users.
Until 4G made mobile bandwidth adequate enough to get decent video out from a phone, applications like Meerkat weren’t feasible, even if entrepreneurs had long dreamed of it. Demand for these kinds of services is only going to grow and the pressure on data networks is getting ever more intense.
It’s like traffic in cities: building more roads creates more demand for roads. Same with data pipes.
Another generation of wireless is needed before long. As was clear at last year’s 5G Summit, everyone in the industry agrees on that. The point of contention is which strategy to pursue.
Erkip is working on two areas, she explained. “My main research emphasis regarding 5G is in millimeter wave. I am also working on massive MIMO.” Millimeter wave is the idea of transmitting wireless signal at very high frequency, in very tight beams. This is where the NYU School of Engineering has been making a lot of news.
MIMO stands for “multiple input, multiple output.” Erkip explained that these arrays of lots and lots of antennaes complement the millimeter wave technology well, because smaller antennae allow larger arrays to take up less space.
Millimeter wave can carry a lot more data than the bandwidth our mobiles run on today. Vastly more. However, it can’t go as far. That’s why part of Erkip’s research is in cooperation among relay points. “In millimeter wave, there is so much bandwidth that you can allocate part of your bandwidth to some other terminal to relay information for you and it becomes a win-win situation,” she wrote.
At the 5G Summit, Erkip will be on a panel of researchers discussing MIMO antennae and millimeter wave technology. The conference takes place April 8-10.