WPAN (wireless personal area network)

A WPAN (wireless personal area network) is a personal area network - a network for interconnecting devices centered around an individual person's workspace - in which the connections are wireless.

A WPAN (wireless personal area network) is a personal area network - a network for interconnecting devices centered around an individual person's workspace - in which the connections are wireless. Typically, a wireless personal area network uses some technology that permits communication within about 10 meters - in other words, a very short range. One such technology is Bluetooth, which was used as the basis for a new standard, IEEE 802.15.

A WPAN could serve to interconnect all the ordinary computing and communicating devices that many people have on their desk or carry with them today - or it could serve a more specialized purpose such as allowing the surgeon and other team members to communicate during an operation.

A key concept in WPAN technology is known as plugging in. In the ideal scenario, when any two WPAN-equipped devices come into close proximity (within several meters of each other) or within a few kilometers of a central server, they can communicate as if connected by a cable. Another important feature is the ability of each device to lock out other devices selectively, preventing needless interference or unauthorized access to information.

The technology for WPANs is in its infancy and is undergoing rapid development. Proposed operating frequencies are around 2.4 GHz in digital modes. The objective is to facilitate seamless operation among home or business devices and systems. Every device in a WPAN will be able to plug in to any other device in the same WPAN, provided they are within physical range of one another. In addition, WPANs worldwide will be interconnected. Thus, for example, an archeologist on site in Greece might use a PDA to directly access databases at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, and to transmit findings to that database.

This was first published in September 2005

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