Alcatel-Lucent’s LTE based connected car concept

CES 2011: Teenage life is about to get a whole lot harder

One of the oft passed by booths at CES was held down by Alcatel-Lucent, a purveyor of equipment sold primarily to telecom companies and cable providers.  They were however showing off a conceptual technology that demonstrates some interesting ways to utilize all that sweet, sweet bandwidth provided by new “4G” phone technologies, specifically LTE.

A-L’s vision is to create hardware solutions that enable car manufacturers and cable companies to provide “value-added” features such as video streaming and car snooping.  The demo booth at CES was showing a configuration where a cable box hooked to a TV was displaying a special channel that let you see where your car was located via GPS, how fast it was going, whether or not any warning lights were currently illuminated and some additional details regarding the problem registered.  The system could, in theory, tell you any information you wanted to know about the happenings inside (and outside) the car: whether or not your teen is speeding based on the current speed limit of the road they are on, what radio station/CD/MP3 they are listening too, a vehicle mounted camera could show you what is happening inside the cabin of your vehicle, or an outside view.  The possibilities to rain on your teenager’s parade are virtually endless.

Besides the creepy snooping capabilities of their system, they demonstrated the ability to purchase a movie over your digital cable box at home, pause it, and resume watching it on a monitor in the car.  In fact up to 4 simultaneous HD streams could be sent to separate monitors in the car simultaneously.  If cable providers offer a hosted DVR system where video is not stored locally, your recorded shows could then be viewed in your vehicle as well.

In a lab setting we were told that about 50 megabits per second was a realistic amount of bandwidth to expect out of new cell technologies, however in the real world usage, this author’s “4G” phone has never been able to achieve even 6Mbps downstream.  Granted “4G” is still being deployed and coverage is spotty, but the technology has a theoretical maximum bandwidth capacity well over 100Mbps.  If you’re wondering why “4G” keeps getting wrapped in quotes, it’s because what is being shoved down our throats by marketing folks as “4G” should in fact be called something like 3.9G according to one A-L representative.  WiMax, and its soon-to-be-more-popular counterpart LTE are merely additions to the existing protocols.  Equipment has been updated, software has been tweaked, but the underlying technology is fundamentally the same.

These products and services are not available to purchase just yet.   As Alcatel-Lucent is just the provider of the back-end equipment to pull off such a feat, their presence at CES was meant to drum up interest and support for such features in future cell tower, cable box, and vehicle deployments.  Now all that remains is to perfect the beer dispensing, self-driving car so that we can sit back and watch all that video while driving.S|A

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