CSIRO Medals 2000 – Research achievement – Dr Terry Percival, Mr Graham Daniels and Professor David Skellern
CSIRO’s wireless invention lies at the heart of what is now the most popular way to connect computers without wires. It is used in offices, public buildings, homes and coffee shops – often called ‘WiFi Hotspots’. The invention came out of CSIRO’s pioneering work in radioastronomy.
The networked computer is so basic and so familiar that we take it absolutely for granted. Unfortunately, it means we are all cabledtogether.
Around the world companies have raced to devise wire-lesscommunications systems. But the various commercial systems can send only a trickle of information.
For nearly ten years, a team from CSIRO and Macquarie University have been working to build the world’s first high-performancewireless Local Area Network.
At the time, it was a visionary project. They wanted to increase the amount of information transmitted by more than a factor of 50. It would be needed by developments which were still on the horizon, such as fast laptop computers, and data hungry multi-media applications.
Wireless LANS need to run from a central antenna broadcasting an electromagnetic signal to many indoor computers.
However, the transmitted signals will be reflected off furniture and typical building components and so create a severe multi-path environment where the mobile unit will receive many copies of the message spread out over time.
The team brought fifty years of experience in radio system design, honed through radar and radio astronomy to solve the problem.
They developed and simulated complex signal processing algorithms for overcoming the effects of multipath. These algorithms were then tested using a new radio systems testbed.
This was used to test the system’s performance in a number of “real world” situations, and develop and patent the optimum system design.
Now the challenge was to reduce the size of the whole thing – to fit on a card in a portable computer.
Their sophisticated new chip is licensed to a spin-off company, Radiata Communications which has recently made a commercial arrangement with Cisco Systems to take the technology to the world.
The research is so important and far reaching that their patented technology has been included in the new international standard for high performance Wireless LANs.
It puts Australian research at the forefront in one of the vital parts of the information economy, and demonstrates – once again – that we have the industry and skills to achieve global competitiveness.
Ladies and gentlemen, Dr Terry Percival , Mr Graham Daniels and Professor David Skellern.