The imagination driving Australia’s ICT future. Contact Details Dr. Roksana Boreli NICTA – Australian Technology Park Laboratory Locked Bag 9013 Alexandria, NSW, 1435 Telephone: +61 2 8374 5507 Facsimile: +61 2 8374 5531 Email: email@example.com, NICTA website: www.nicta.com.au National ICT Australia is funded by NICTA is supported by its members: NICTA is supported by its affiliate the Australian Government’s • The Australian Capital Territory partners: Department • The Australian National University • University of Sydney of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts and the • NSW Department of State and Regional Development • Victorian Government • University of Melbourne Case study: Remote office Australian Research Council through • The University of New South Wales • Queensland Government Backing Australia’s Ability and the • Griffith University ICT Centre of Excellence program. • Queensland University of Technology • The University of Queensland communications system from imagination to impact... National ICT Australia 2 The challenge The NICTA approach The results Commercialisation opportunities 3 Setting up and maintaining communications links for Aware of these challenges, a project team from Test results have shown the new compression PEP The design of the NICTA compression PEP software groups of people working in remote locations can be a NICTA’s Network and Pervasive Computing program delivers savings in bandwidth usage of between makes it easily portable between different hardware tough task. focused on developing ways to improve the efficiency 30 and 40 per cent. This is achieved because the platforms. While it has been demonstrated to work A lack of technical support and the need for equipment of remote area communications links. Working with a compression algorithm knows exactly what type of link efficiently in the 7-PrO, it will perform equally well in a that is portable puts immediate constraints on design range of existing codecs (data conversion tools) and the traffic is using and the PEP can monitor how much range of other devices. and function. Then there are the additional challenges networking protocols, they sought to create a method compression is being used. This makes prospects for its commercialisation par- imposed by wireless communications links and a of dealing with network latency and compression in a The technology has been shown to work with as ticularly strong. Indeed, the 7-PrO is the first project to requirement to handle multiple voice and data single step. little as 100 kilobit-per-second data links, making it successfully pass through the rigorous NICTA assess- streams concurrently. Starting with the end product in mind – an instant particularly applicable in situations where bandwidth ment process designed to establish the viability of Existing remote communications offerings are office – the team strove to extend the capabilities of resources are constrained. developments. A number of satellite communications designed for single users. Portable and reliable, they existing Performance Enhancing Proxies (PEP). PEPs As a next step, the NICTA team has successfully service providers have already expressed interest in can provide voice and data facilities from virtually are responsible for taking traffic from conventional embedded the compression PEP software into a licensing the technology. anywhere on the planet. land-based networks and adding the extra protocols small computing device dubbed the Portable Remote End users are likely to include mining and exploration needed to allow that traffic to be transmitted over Office (7-PrO). companies, emergency response teams and organi- However they have not been designed to provide satellite links. services to more than one user at a time. Although Using off-the-shelf hardware components and a Linux sations looking to quickly establish office facilities in satellite modems continue to drop in both size and Until now, technologists have uses PEPs in this way, operating system, the researchers have designed the regional and remote areas. price, there has been no corresponding improvement and dealt with the need for data compression as a device specifically to be used by people with limited in other equipment needed for this task. Creating a separate, subsequent step. While this works, it adds technical knowledge working in remote locations. shared infrastructure still requires technical skill and a complexity to the system and does not allow it to work as efficiently as it might. The 7-PrO can handle four concurrent voice calls using range of hardware components. IP telephony. It can also connect to a corporate net- Bandwidth costs are also a consideration, as satellite The NICTA research team has developed a new type of work using a pre-configured virtual private network link. links are typically up to 10 times the cost per PEP which can also deal with compression. By using complex algorithms, the software is able to adjust for The box, which is battery powered and easily connects megabyte of ground-based links. Existing technologies to a satellite modem, also supports Wi-Fi, allowing do not adequately address the dual problem of coping communications link delays and add compression in a single step. wireless handsets and notebook computers to be with the long delays inherent in satellite links and the used. Its in-built PBX even lets users make ‘local’ calls need for data compression to reduce the amount of The team has also studied standard voice codecs between handsets. bandwidth required. and found methods of improving their efficiency, reducing transmission overheads while maintaining The device also contains a print server and the option voice quality. of adding network attached storage resources. As its name suggests, it is a fully fledged instant office. The NICTA team has also developed a second product, the 7-ip server, which is installed at the ground station end of the satellite link. This box converts the satel- lite link protocols back to those compatible with public networks (such as the PSTN) and decompresses both voice and data transmissions. The imagination driving Australia’s ICT future.