CRC's Grand Challenges

Innovation for our wireless world

The radio frequency (RF) spectrum is invisible to us. Despite this, these invisible waves are critical to our daily lives and Canada's prosperity. Whether texting a friend, navigating by GPS, landing in a commercial aircraft or waiting for an ambulance to arrive in response to a 911 call, you are depending on wireless communications that are carried by waves in the RF spectrum.

Who manages the spectrum?

In Canada, the department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada manages the spectrum. Some bands are licensed. Your cellphone carrier, for example, has a license giving them exclusive use of a specific band of the spectrum. Other bands are designated unlicensed, giving anyone with the right equipment access to them. Baby monitors, garage door openers, radio-controlled toys and your home WiFi all use unlicensed spectrum.

The spectrum crunch

Over the next 10 years, the number of devices requiring wireless network connectivity—everything from your refrigerator to self-driving cars—is expected to increase exponentially. Not only will there be more devices connected through the Internet of Things (IofT), but consumers are demanding that their devices deliver more information, more quickly, requiring even more spectrum. But the RF spectrum is a limited resource. A specific band can only carry so much information, and not all bands can be used for commercial mobile communications that are so rapidly expanding.

To avoid a spectrum crisis we need to: better understand how our spectrum is currently being used; find new ways to manage our existing spectrum and; develop innovative technologies that open up new bands of spectrum for commercial mobile communications.

The Communications Research Centre Grand Challenges projects are designed to tackle these fundamental problems facing our wireless future.

Big Data Analytics Centre

By 2021, the International Telecommunications Union predicts that there will be well over 1 billion devices communicating via the RF spectrum. CRC's new Big Data Analytics Centre gives government and researchers, for the first time, the ability to visualize huge spectrum-use data-sets in near real-time. This innovative way of delivering the data gives researchers a state-of-the-art tool to understand how the spectrum is used and where improvements can be made.

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