Society Insights December 2017 - The Internet Of Space, G.Fast And The Smart Street

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This month we are looking at some of the different topics our Local Networks have been discussing. Topics include the Internet of space and how can the interlinking of satellites and mega-constellations benefit us? Also G.fast, are we on the verge of getting some of the fastest upload and download speeds? And back down at ground level, how is The Smart Street Project planning on improving our streets to keep up with the latest advancements and trends when it comes to power? Read this blog post to find out!

 
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The Internet of Space (IoS)
Sussex Local Network
 
The development of the Internet of Things (IoT), which enabled devices to ‘talk’ to each other, has led to some exciting technological advances here on planet Earth. Now something similar is happening in space, with satellites linking to create a ‘Space Wide Web’.
 
Thanks to a growing reduction in the cost of satellites and the rockets needed to send them into orbit, the latest satellites being launched are increasingly for commercial, rather than governmental, purposes. Many organisations are looking towards developing inter-satellite links, where satellites pass commands and information between each other, and also to terminals on the planet below. This will be known as the ‘Internet of Space’.
 
“Massive constellations of satellites – so called mega-constellations – are planned that will provide 5G streamed data to handheld user terminals,” highlights Dr Stuart Eves, Lead Mission Concepts Engineer at Surrey Satellite Technology. “Everybody on the planet will soon be able to exploit the capabilities of the next generation of inter-connected satellites.
 
Eves believes this Internet of Space will affect us all in a variety of positive ways.
 
“Near-real-time data of the whole planet will become available globally, providing rapid disaster response, environmental monitoring, weather forecasting, communications, and navigation services, all of which can be delivered immediately to mobile devices,” he explains.
 
He also highlights that this is just the beginning, and that possibilities are expanding all the time.
 
“As satellites get smaller and cheaper, they’re now coming within the budget not only of companies but of individuals,” he notes. “Small satellites working in clusters can provide novel capabilities that large single satellites simply cannot deliver,” he continues. “For example, multiple telescopes using inter-satellite control links could be used to image planets around other stars. We might not have the technology for interstellar travel just yet, but we might soon be able to identify some really interesting potential destinations!”
 
 
From Modems to G. Fast – Evolution in First and Last Mile Access
Merseyside and West Cheshire Local Network

 
Internet access is now very much the fourth utility. Our demand for connectivity is growing and it seems that our thirst for ever faster interconnection speeds shows no sign of slowing. Therefore speeding up our connections continues to be a focus for telecommunications companies, and G.Fast is the latest way of doing this via conventional telephone lines. 
 
The latest evolution in broadband technology, G.Fast is already being rolled out across the UK, and users can expect some of the fastest upload and download speeds currently available.
 
“Technology is moving relatively quickly in this sector - not as fast as within the mobile sector, but speeding up. We’ve had V.90 Modem in 1998, ADSL in 1999, FTTC in 2010, DOCSIS 3.1 in 2016 and now, in 2017, there’s G.Fast,” says Professor Nigel Linge, from the University of Salford.

“Engineers are trying to squeeze more and more out of our existing networks without having to face the ultimate possibility of replacing all of the cabling to our homes with fibre direct to the premises. Figures vary widely but digging up everyone's street, driveway or lawn to lay new fibre is costly and if innovative ways can be found to avoid this then they will be,” says Professor Linge.

“This is where G.Fast fits in. Considering the legacy copper telephone network and the speeds which are now being attained, then this is a phenomenal testament to the engineers who developed new techniques and technology,” he says proudly.
 
 
The Smart Street Project
Wales North Local Network

 
As low carbon technologies such as electric vehicles, photovoltaic cells and heat pumps continue to become more mainstream, engineers are looking at ways to manage the changes they will have on our low voltage (LV) networks.
 
The Smart Street project is one example of the work underway, which involves retrofitting a number of devices, such as circuit breakers and switches, onto existing power networks in order to operate them remotely and also provide improved visibility of how they’re functioning.
 
“By utilising the Smart Street methodology we will not only be able to run our LV network in a more efficient manner by reconfiguring to meet changing conditions throughout the day, we will also be able to facilitate a quicker connection of low carbon technologies without the need for costly reinforcement works,” highlights Ben Ingham, Innovation Project Manager, Electricity North West.
 
“The savings from this can be passed onto the consumer in the form of reduced distribution charges from suppliers,” he adds.
 
But there are also further benefits. The devices installed as part of the Smart Street project will give engineers an unparalleled view of their networks, allowing them to detect faults faster and in some cases before they become permanent. This could lead to customers facing fewer power outages.
 
“Unlike traditional fuses, these devices will also automatically restore supply in the event of a transient fault, which make up 25 per cent of our LV interruptions,” Ingham notes.
 
You can find out more about the project at their website
 
If you are interested in these type of subjects then you should attend your IET Local Network's events. They are usually free to attend and you don't have to be a member of the IET - these talks are open to anyone with an interest in engineering and technology and how they will impact all our lives in the future. To find your Local Network please use our interactive map.

 
Posted by Shaun Muncer on Dec 6, 2017 9:55 AM Europe/London

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The IET benefits from having around 100 Local Networks around the world, run by volunteers, that aim to inform and inspire non-engineers to perhaps take an interest or potentially choose it as a future career.

IET Local Networks highlight future challenges for society and look at the engineering and technology solutions to solve them. Or to put it another way they are looking at how engineering and technology will effect real people’s lives in the future.

This makes IET Local Networks not just an important part of the engineering community but also wider society. And what's more, the 1500 events around the world they organise every year are mostly free to attend for anyone - not just members of the organisation.

The Society blog attempts to summarise some of the key challenges identified by Local Networks at their events that society will face in the future such as energy supply, transportation, water and food resources and waste management (to name just a few).

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