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White House Boosts Internet of Things with Wireless Research Program

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The White House is getting serious about the internet of things.

A new $400 million federal research program aims to deploy city-scale testing platforms for advanced wireless connections that could help the United States achieve what seems like a far-off, futuristic vision for an ubiquitous network of devices and sensors. 

The White House announcement signals encouragement of the public internet of things. The concept of that vast connected network has garnered significant congressional attention this year; in the spring, the Senate passed a resolution that calls for a national strategy for the internet of things, primarily as a means to boost the economy but also for government use. 

The multiyear research program will be led by the National Science Foundation.

The announcement came shortly after the Federal Communications Commission voted to make certain frequencies of spectrum available for licensed and unlicensed use, which could “enable faster speeds, quicker response times ... and increased capacity,” a White House blog post said. Those networks could support applications both for consumers and for smart cities. 

The FCC vote noted the new bands could be used for "machine-to-machine communications" and various internet of things applications such as "wearables, fitness and healthcare devices, autonomous driving cars, and home and office automation.”

Over the next decade, a more advanced wireless network could allow mobile phones and tablets to "download full length HD movies in less than 5 seconds," according to the White House. That same network could let first responders and doctors "get live, real-time video and sensor data from police vehicles, ambulances and drones, along with patient vitals and medical records—all before the patient arrives at the hospital door.”

The White House also announced a $4.7 million collaboration between NSF and the Academy of Finland to examine new protocols and systems that would support "highly dependable wireless communication systems and networks" for the internet of things. 

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