Two days ago, CNET News.com wrote that United Parcel Service was giving its drivers new handheld devices that connect to a record number of six wireless networks.
The new Delivery Information Acquisition Device (DIAD) can connect drivers with six different wireless networks: infrared, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, satellite-based Global Positioning System (GPS) and two cell networks: CDMA1x and GSM/GPRS.
The battery will be powerful enough to last for a full workday because drivers are not expected to be connected to more than two networks at one time.
CNET News.com has more information in "UPS all wrapped up in wireless."
But how do you keep all these connections alive? Is it possible to easily switch from a service to another? Rafe Needleman looks at this problem and at possible solutions.
When a computer switches networks, everything about the connection can change, from the ISP handling the data to the computer's IP (Internet protocol) address. To maintain a connection through such a transition would be like talking to a friend at your kitchen table who, in mid-sentence, teleports to an office building and calls you on your cell phone. It takes time to reestablish and reset all the conversational protocols.
A Swedish company, ipUnplugged, solves this problem for businesses and wireless operators. Using a small software component installed on the wireless computer, ipUnplugged enables a single security and billing system to handle all users, no matter how they connect to the network.
ipUnplugged also allows real-time roaming among different networks. For example, if a cellular-data user walks into a building with Wi-Fi coverage, the software can redirect the network connection to the faster and cheaper Wi-Fi network, without any interruption in the data flow. Very fancy.
Needleman also describes his experience with police officers in Oakland, California. Using a middleware from Padcom, they were able to automatically switch from their low-speed private radio channels when they're cruising to a faster Wi-Fi connection as soon as they entered their depots.
Sources: Rafe Needleman, Business 2.0, April 17, 2003; Ben Charny, CNET News.com, April 17, 2003
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