GSM Novel Uses

Don’t turn off GSM yet!

How Intelligent Machines Could Take Over the GSM Network (based on this paper: Reengineering GSM/GPRS Towards a Dedicated Network for Massive Smart Metering)

GSM networks are being replaced by 3G and later mobile network protocols, leaving the future of the GSM infrastructure in doubt. It’s possible that GSM will be scrapped entirely over the next few years. However, some engineers are recommending that GSM infrastructure be dedicated to connected devices (machine-to-machine, e.g. connected utility meters). The article asserts that it may be possible for an average GSM tower to service more than 10,000 connected devices.

There’s an interesting comparison to be made here between the microprocessor world (e.g. Arduino) and the mobile networks world. The drive in microprocessors has frequently been toward faster, more featureful microprocessors. But there is a competing drive toward smaller devices that are stripped-down to bare essentials. The world needs both. It’s great to have tiny microprocessors that require little power, and it’s also great to have microprocessors that have a built-in general purpose computer and network hardware. Let’s compare:

Stripped down microprocessors and 2G phones share these characteristics:

  • less expensive
  • require less power
  • boot extremely quickly
  • easier to learn
  • smaller and lighter
  • easily built-into custom form factors
  • have fewer features, which means fewer attack vectors

Other novel uses

How Mobile Phone Data Reveals Food Consumption Patterns in Central Africa - researchers found some correlations between the purchase of mobile phone airtime/service and the consumption of more expensive foods

Radio Waves Offer Cheap Gesture Detection on Smartphones - researchers detect nearby hand gestures based on interference in the GSM frequencies (paper: SideSwipe: Detecting In-air Gestures Around Mobile Devices Using Actual GSM Signals)

EmTech: Google’s Internet “Loon” Balloons Will Ring the Globe within a Year - experiment to provide LTE cell service to large areas where cell service is not present or reliable

Hacked Feature Phone Can Block Other People’s Calls - by modifying the baseband firmware, researchers implement a denial of service attack on nearby phones

osmocomBB - an open source baseband project

A cellphone base station in the palm of your hand - tiny base station, with prospective use cases in disaster networking and mobile payments