Remote office communications system

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					                                                                                                                     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
    NICTA website:

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.

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Description: Remote office communications system