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Wireless communication is the transfer of information between two or more points that are not connected by an electrical conductor.
The most common wireless technologies use electromagnetic wireless telecommunications, such as radio. With radio waves distances can be short, such as a few metres for television remote control, or as far as thousands or even millions of kilometres for deep-space radio communications. It encompasses various types of fixed, mobile, and portable applications, including two-way radios, cellular telephones, personal digital assistants (PDAs), and wireless networking. Other examples of applications of radio wireless technology include GPS units, garage door openers, wireless computer mice, keyboards and headsets, headphones, radio receivers, satellite television, broadcast television and cordless telephones.
Less common methods of achieving wireless communications include the use of light, sound, magnetic, or electric fields.
Wireless operations permit services, such as long-range communications, that are impossible or impractical to implement with the use of wires. The term is commonly used in the telecommunications industry to refer to telecommunications systems (e.g. radio transmitters and receivers, remote controls etc.) which use some form of energy (e.g. radio waves, acoustic energy, etc.) to transfer information without the use of wires. Information is transferred in this manner over both short and long distances.
Common examples of wireless equipment include:
Wireless networking (e.g., the various types of unlicensed 2.4 GHz WiFi devices) is used to meet many needs. Perhaps the most common use is to connect laptop users who travel from location to location. Another common use is for mobile networks that connect via satellite. A wireless transmission method is a logical choice to network a LAN segment that must frequently change locations. The following situations justify the use of wireless technology:
Wireless communications can be via:
The term "wireless" should not be confused with the term "cordless", which is generally used to refer to powered electrical or electronic devices that are able to operate from a portable power source (e.g., a battery pack) without any cable or cord to limit the mobility of the cordless device through a connection to the mains power supply.
Some cordless devices, such as cordless telephones, are also wireless in the sense that information is transferred from the cordless telephone to the telephone's base unit via some type of wireless communications link. This has caused some disparity in the usage of the term "cordless", for example in Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications.
The world's first wireless telephone conversation occurred in 1880, when Alexander Graham Bell and Charles Sumner Tainter invented and patented the photophone, a telephone that conducted audio conversations wirelessly over modulated light beams (which are narrow projections of electromagnetic waves). In that distant era, when utilities did not yet exist to provide electricity and lasers had not even been imagined in science fiction, there were no practical applications for their invention, which was highly limited by the availability of both sunlight and good weather. Similar to free space optical communication, the photophone also required a clear line of sight between its transmitter and its receiver. It would be several decades before the photophone's principles found their first practical applications in military communications and later in fiber-optic communications.
David E. Hughes transmitted radio signals over a few hundred yards by means of a clockwork keyed transmitter in 1879. As this was before Maxwell's work was understood, Hughes' contemporaries dismissed his achievement as mere "Induction". In 1885, Thomas Edison used a vibrator magnet for induction transmission. In 1888, Edison deployed a system of signaling on the Lehigh Valley Railroad. In 1891, Edison obtained the wireless patent for this method using inductance (U.S. Patent 465,971).
In 1888, Heinrich Hertz demonstrated the existence of electromagnetic waves, the underlying basis of most wireless technology. The theory of electromagnetic waves was predicted from the research of James Clerk Maxwell and Michael Faraday. Hertz demonstrated that electromagnetic waves traveled through space in straight lines, could be transmitted, and could be received by an experimental apparatus. Hertz did not follow up on the experiments. Jagadish Chandra Bose around this time developed an early wireless detection device and helped increase the knowledge of millimeter-length electromagnetic waves. Practical applications of wireless radio communication and radio remote control technology were implemented by later inventors, such as Nikola Tesla.
The term "wireless" came into public use to refer to a radio receiver or transceiver (a dual purpose receiver and transmitter device), establishing its usage in the field of wireless telegraphy early on; now the term is used to describe modern wireless connections such as in cellular networks and wireless broadband Internet. It is also used in a general sense to refer to any type of operation that is implemented without the use of wires, such as "wireless remote control" or "wireless energy transfer", regardless of the specific technology (e.g. radio, infrared, ultrasonic) used. Guglielmo Marconi and Karl Ferdinand Braun were awarded the 1909 Nobel Prize for Physics for their contribution to wireless telegraphy.
Light, colors, AM and FM radio, and electronic devices make use of the electromagnetic spectrum. The frequencies of the radio spectrum that are available for use for communication are treated as a public resource and are regulated by national organizations such as the Federal Communications Commission in the USA, or Ofcom in the United Kingdom. This determines which frequency ranges can be used for what purpose and by whom. In the absence of such control or alternative arrangements such as a privatized electromagnetic spectrum, chaos might result if, for example, airlines didn't have specific frequencies to work under and an amateur radio operator were interfering with the pilot's ability to land an aircraft. Wireless communication spans the spectrum from 9 kHz to 300 GHz.
One of the best-known examples of wireless technology is the mobile phone, also known as a cellular phone, with more than 4.6 billion mobile cellular subscriptions worldwide as of the end of 2010. These wireless phones use radio waves to enable their users to make phone calls from many locations worldwide. They can be used within range of the mobile telephone site used to house the equipment required to transmit and receive the radio signals from these instruments.
Wireless data communications are an essential component of mobile computing. The various available technologies differ in local availability, coverage range and performance, and in some circumstances, users must be able to employ multiple connection types and switch between them. To simplify the experience for the user, connection manager software can be used, or a mobile VPN deployed to handle the multiple connections as a secure, single virtual network. Supporting technologies include:
Wireless energy transfer is a process whereby electrical energy is transmitted from a power source to an electrical load that does not have a built-in power source, without the use of interconnecting wires.
Answering the call of customers frustrated with cord clutter, many[who?] manufacturers of computer peripherals turned to wireless technology to satisfy their consumer base. Originally these units used bulky, highly limited transceivers to mediate between a computer and a keyboard and mouse; however, more recent generations have used small, high-quality devices, some even incorporating Bluetooth. These systems have become so ubiquitous that some users have begun complaining about a lack of wired peripherals.[who?] Wireless devices tend to have a slightly slower response time than their wired counterparts; however, the gap is decreasing.
Concerns about the security of wireless keyboards arose at the end of 2007, when it was revealed that Microsoft's implementation of encryption in some of its 27 MHz models was highly insecure.
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