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Wireless future - the mobile tech cluster in Oslo

Norway’s challenging topography of vast mountainous ranges and remote Arctic territories has pushed the drive for new and advanced communication technologies to keep its scattered population connected. The country launched the world’s first automatic mobile net NMT 450 in 1981 and invented today’s global GSM-standard. The current hype is Wireless Future, an Oslo-based cluster of more than 200 companies, institutions and organisations that are pushing the envelope when it comes to the new wireless world.

Wireless Future (www.wfnet.no) is an industry network programme founded in 2004 by Norwegian telecom Telenor, research institute SINTEF, and Abelia, the ICT branch of the Norwegian employers’ organisation NHO. It is one of 22 Arena regional programmes funded by the Norwegian Research Council, the Industrial Development Corporation of Norway (SIVA) and Innovation Norway.

The network brings many parts of the industry together in the hopes of creating a leading position internationally for Norway in wireless technology. These include developers of wireless technology and services in sectors such as healthcare, oil and gas, construction, transport and mobile media, in addition to security as a horizontal function in all mobile services.

Wireless Future currently runs eight projects. One of the most exciting ones was a recently conducted oil and gas project led by Statoil that looked at security solutions and tracking and video technology, according to Peter Thornér, Wireless Future project leader. Statoil demonstrated a great potential by using wireless technology, together with Telenor, Tandberg, Identec Solutions and ABB on the methanol plant at Tjeldbergodden. Wireless technology can increase security and save an oil operator 5-10% in maintenance and operation costs.

Statoil used wireless technology at the Tjeldbergodden industrial complex in western Norway to look at security solutions and video technology. © Heine Schjøberg/

The research involved a platform manager using a gaming interface to see an oil platform in 3D and monitoring people with a radio frequency tracking device. If an emergency situation arose, the manger switched it on and knew where everyone was at the time. Using two-way video technology, the manager could instruct the person closest to the accident how to turn off a valve or give first aid.

“One of the biggest problems at the Texas City refinery accident was that you had no idea were people were,” said Thornér. “You can increase security by using wireless technology.”

Future SIM: Making Dumb Phones Smart
Another Wireless Future project with promise is Future SIM, led by Devoteam Telecom with partners University of Agder in southern Norway and Applica. The recently concluded project looked at the technical possibilities of the processing power of SIM cards and how technically complex applications it was possible to put on the SIM card instead of on the handset.

In the future, SIM cards will have large amounts of memory, giving them similar performance to a small computer. Currently there is about 8 gb of capacity on a SIM card and the technology is there to get as much as 32 gb from some suppliers. In the future, this will reach 100 gb, according to Thornér.

“It puts a lot of functionality on SIM cards that makes it as powerful as any high-end business phone,” said Thornér. “It makes dumb telephones smart.”

Radio access via near field communication (NFC) may be included on the SIM card and enable NFC on any phone. NFC technology facilitates short-range communications over a distance a few centimetres between electronic devices via a contactless connection. This may open up for new possibilities like using a phone as a credit card or a ticket in a simple way, or as an ID card for access to buildings.

One possibility studied was home care services. The Future SIM study examined using mobile phones as an entry and exit device for visiting nurses. A radio frequency ID at the door automatically registered when they came and left patients’ houses after they swiped their mobile phone over the device. That opens up for relieving nurses of administrative work from having to write down their hours.

“It was mainly about gaining knowledge about how to use the SIM as a host rather than the phone itself,” said Tor Henning Post at Devoteam Telecom, project manager for Future SIM. “You don’t need applications in the handset. You can have it in the SIM card.”

Statoil used wireless technology at the Tjeldbergodden industrial complex in western Norway to look at security solutions and video technology. © Heine Schjøberg/

FutureSIM: The Phone as your Wallet
Telenor is conducting its own research within FutureSIM. The company will test the first contactless mobile phone payment solution together with DnB NOR, Norway’s largest bank, starting this autumn. The testing in Oslo will use a Near Field Communication enabled mobile phone capable of making contactless payments, together with a new type of SIM card from Giesecke & Devrient for secure storage of the payment programme.

The test is a first of its kind in the Nordic region and takes place in cooperation with MasterCard Worldwide, the Bank’s Central Clearing House (BBS), EDB and Teller in the café at the Telenor Expo Fornebu trade centre. Telenor has been cooperating with DnB with MasterCard Worldwide to facilitate contactless payments with mobile phones using MasterCard PayPass TM technology since September 2007.

Lars Ingvard Hoff, head of the FutureSIM initiative in Telenor Research & Innovation, believes much of what we have in our wallets will gradually be incorporated into SIM cards.

“For example, you may have payment cards, tickets and keys in your mobile phone,” said Hoff. “This is the first step on the way to reach this vision. The project demonstrates that cooperation with companies in other industries enables us to offer our customers new, innovative services.”

Telenor is also working on making the mobile phone a means of payment for public transport. In Tromsø, Telenor Research & Innovation and local bus company Cominor successfully carried out a test last year using mobile phones to pay for bus fares. Commuters swipe their phones near a reader that scans the card. An electronic smartcard keeps track of travellers’ prepaid travels.

“In a possible continuation of this work, the mobile phone may be used to prepay users’ travel products,” said Erlend Pedersen, a Telenor research scientist. “Then we will have a set-up whereby cash payment on buses is history. The NFC telephone may also be used to download timetable information and other useful information for the traveller.”

Going international
Wireless Future’s next project will be to put all the service providers together with payment providers, so as to create a world for payment outside Norway.
Wireless Future is also executing an internationalisation project for content enablers.

Norway has about 50 providers of enabling technology in mobile phone service content, three of which made the Red Herring 100 Europe 2009 list: Adactus, bMenu and Rubber Duck Media Lab. These represent among the top 100 private technology-based companies in Europe, Middle East, and Africa.

Rubber Duck was started in 2004 as a spin-off of the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation NRK. It was one of the first companies in Europe to launch commercial off-deck mobile TV and mobile radio services. It is part of the stock listed group Aspiro, which is the Scandinavian market leader within mobile services.

Software company Adactus offers solutions for delivery and presentation of adapted multimedia for mobile terminals. Its products make it possible for content owners and distributors to offer live video and video-on-demand in a controlled and optimized environment. It teamed up with DBT Global last year to offer mobile phone users for the first time to be able to view movie trailers at the Cannes Film Festival.

The company bMenu has a web navigation technology that makes it easier and faster to surf the Internet on a computer or cell phone. The Norwegian government recently chose bMenu to make its website, www.regjeringen.no, available on mobile phones. BMenu’s technology will speed up surfing since data traffic is reduced by up to 80% since the content is stripped and pictures compressed.

Staying connected: In 2008, half of Norway’s population used their mobile phones to send photographs or videos, 22% were browsing the Internet, and 12% reading e-mails using their mobile phones, according to Statistics Norway.  © Telenor

Mobile Monday
So far more than 200 Norwegian businesses have joined the Wireless Future initiative. There are currently 70-80 companies active in Wireless Future projects. The rest are participants on a general basis through workshops such as MobileMonday.

MobileMonday Norway (www.mobilemonday.no) was started one year ago as a “meeting point for nerds and professionals” in the mobile industry. The network is a part of the global MobileMonday networking group founded in Finland in 2000. Wireless Future is in the board of Mobile Monday Norway, and operates Mobile Monday in Norway together with the Norwegian founders.

MobileMonday Norway is a regular event open to all when companies present technologies, new markets and applications. The meetings usually take place in Oslo, but there are plans for future meetings in Trondheim, Bergen.

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