Academics and students work in a highly focused environment that Dr. ONeal Smitherman, the vice president of information technology, describes as a place for "exploring new technology into current culture." This exploration encompasses personal media, the use of short message service (SMS), animation, streaming video, Internet access and wireless communication technologies. The OWRM has received grants from organizations such as the Lilly Endowment ($20M) and the Department of Education ($850,000) to further its work.
A key question the OWRM is pursuing is How do you prepare for what doesnt yet exist? For example, researchers wondered what might happen if home wireless bandwidth could improve to 30Mb per second. (Note that typical home service today has a maximum of about 3Mb per second.) They were actually able to achieve 50 Mb per second, which can provide for not just faster service and access to the Internet, but faster and better products, as well as a richer media experience for the end user.
The entrepreneurial section of the OWRM operation is the only training center in the U.S. for a propagation mapping software, Cellular Experts. Cellular Experts software can ride on top of a GIS so that propagation patterns can be seen against actual geography. This also lets operators see the impedances to propagation, such as buildings, roads, bridges, etc. Beyond the visible impedance of a structure, the software can account for the building materials that comprise the structures and adjust the propagation pattern to reflect the nature of those materials. For example, brick may impact UHF signals differently than concrete or wood. The result is a more accurate projection of the propagation pattern.
Another benefit of this software is that greater accuracy of the propagation model means less time spent in field verification. This entrepreneurial arm of the OWRM has won several contracts to generate these models, to date worth close to $750,000.
The OWRM has accomplished an impressive "merger" of resources to look at the future of communication, and has also brought those resources to bear on the real world of wireless applications. In fact, Ball State will be recognized by CIO Magazine as a 2006 CIO 100 award recipient, for the DMP project and the OWRM.