Scientists at a conference being held this week in Portsmouth are discussing the lack of interoperability between wireless devices.

The talks center around “Tower of Babel” technology, which is software known as SDR that allows one device to pick up and understand different radio waves, including 3G and Wi-Fi.

“SDR is what one could call a Tower of Babel-type technology, in that wireless devices that previously understood only one or a few languages, or standards, will suddenly be able to talk to each other freely regardless of frequency or conflicting protocols”, explained Dr David Ndzi from the University of Portsmouth to the BBC.

EADS Astrium is presenting its research to the delegates this week. The space firm is about to launch its first piece of kit to the military.

Even though the software is expected to be used by the military and eventually emergency services, Francis Kinsella, an engineer from EADS Astrium, explains the consumer-level application: “If you were to go on a hill-walking trip, you might have a walkie-talkie to talk to friends who are not far away, a mobile in case of emergency, GPS, a Bluetooth connection, and even a laptop or PDA with wireless LAN".

“Every single one of these things is a radio, and they are all slightly different. But in the future, with Software Defined Radio, all you need is one thing that can do the job of all of these devices.”



The development of this sort of technology has been held back by the speed at which converters can turn the analogue waves into a digital format, and the power of computers but both of those have seen advances in recent years.

The engineers are already thinking of the next step, which is “cognitive radio”, where the device is able to search for unused bandwidth.