As you know, I am very fond of startups, especially those creating fundable technology that will change how the masses interact with technology, while serving an immediate consumer need. In a recent round of research on new networking technologies, I came across an amazing new technology utilitizing home plumbing. Here's what the company had to say for themselves.
March 31, 2009. Waterloo Networks ("We put the IP in pipe") today announced the release of a new home networking technology based on the recently ratified IEEE H20.11 (a.k.a. WetFi) standard for data transmission over home plumbing lines.
Waterline networking is an excellent choice as it allows high bandwidth data transfer over existing infrastructure, and does not suffer from the crowded spectrum issues common to wireless LAN applications or the bandwidth limitations of phone line based networking.
"Water line networking is the most sensible home networking topology we have seen, requiring no new wires and smartly utilizing the existing plumbing infrastructure found in over 90% of American homes, leaving only certain states unable to tap into this technology" stated John Flushing, senior analyst at leading industry analysis firm Driving Results with Industry Prescience, "Recent research has shown that 63.5% of laptop owners conduct business while doing their business, so leveraging their existing plumbing is a logical, cost effective way to provide them on the go, no new wire home networking."
IEEE H20.11 relies on a combination of acoustic and optical properties of water by using ultrasonic vibrations to create radial density variations in the water in the pipe which form a graded index of refraction similar to that in a fiber optic cable. This allows a low cost semiconductor laser to be used transmission of data over long runs of pipe. Essentially the ultrasonic energy creates a standing wave in the water which turns the water into an excellent transmission medium for the optical data. At pipe elbows the acoustic energy is focused in a pattern which causes the turn to act as a prism to reflect the energy. Without this key feature, the laser light would be absorbed at any turn in the pipe.
Earlier attempts at developing H20.11 involved use of the copper pipe as a microwave waveguide that happened to be filled with water but these suffered from a variety of problems: the increasing use of PVC or other pipe, the difficulty in the transition from microwave waveguide to the water filled section, and high microwave absorption of the water which had the unintended water heating side effects.
An interesting feature of this networking technology is that it creates a natural network hub consisting of all the active taps in the network, as each each new network node creates a tap onto the main network backbone. This allows for low cost of startup of a network as no central router or hub is needed to manage the network. Any of the network taps can be connected to either a client computer or to a WAN interface such as a cable or DSL modem.
This obviously has other implications for the network topology, since it is a shared medium, there can be contention for the network, fortunately, standard Ethernet protocols are already able to handle this, and they are being copied into the IEEE Draft specification for H20.11. The physical layer interface is called 100Base-NPT, which is predominantly an American Standard, but is easily adaptable to pipe threads and diameters used in other parts of the world, in most cases the network taps can be software configured for the pipe diameter.
According to Waterloo Networks founder and CEO, Joe Culligan, "While there are a few companies doing early stage equipment for H20.11,Waterloo Networks, such as Eautranet Systems, and AquaNet, we are the only company releasing an access tap with a built in firewall, "sanitized for your protection.""
Currently H20.11 is limited to short range networking, (e.g. SOHO). This is currently due to both the relatively high absorption for the lasers and the use of a shared medium. These problems can be mitigated by advances in the ultrasonics used to create the water path, the more accurate, the higher data rates can be supported. Mizu Networks has announced successful tests of MB speeds in their test lab, their technology relies on active monitoring of the network medium by returning link characteristics in the the ACK for each packet. If the client station uses the same technology, it can reply with the received signal quality and the the transmitter can pre-distort the signal by adjusting both the optical and acoustic signals to compensate. If the remote client does not respond with the appropriate information, the packet is sent at the lower, standard rate.
Another interesting area of development that shows promising results is complex acoustic modulation of the ultrasonics that create the virtual fiber. It is possible by very careful control of the acoustics to create multiple parallel optical streams. This effectively uses higher order acoustic waveguide modes to create multiple optical channels, essentially a waveguide in a waveguide. This currently pending IEEE evaluation, and is being called WetMax. This, in conjunction with a residential gateway device installed at the water service entrance to a building which acts a router to the home and as an interface to a municipal WetMax network. This could enable a third major broadband supplier to consumers: DSL, Cable, WetMax.
HAPPY APRIL FIRST! FROM IDAROSE AND PARTNER IN CRIME NEIL HENDIN