back to article FCC tosses aside rules, treats Google to a happy ending following request for handy tech

Three and a half years after debuting Project Soli radar-based gesture input system, Google has received an exemption from the Federal Communication Commission that will allow the ad biz to run the system at higher power levels than regulations currently allow. Project Soli sensors consist of hardware capable of tracking hand …

  1. Garymrrsn

    I wonder?

    Will Google get their own pillow or will they have to share one with Verizon?

  2. Mark 85 Silver badge

    Typical Google...

    I'd be willing to bet that they follow their past history, this "product" will be killed in about 2 years.

    The weird part of this is that it's approved for use on airplanes.... fly by gesture?

    1. Wellyboot Silver badge

      Re: Typical Google...

      >>>FCC...suggested the tech is safe for operation on airplanes<<<

      I'd suggest we wait for the FAA to give an answer based on actual testing for that one.

    2. Jeffrey Nonken Silver badge

      Re: Typical Google...

      "The weird part of this is that it's approved for use on airplanes.... fly by gesture?"

      As I understand it, pilots are now regularly using tablets for navigation and airport charts, possibly other paperwork. We have even begun providing mounts and USB power for them in our simulators.

      However, I believe the primary concern is passenger use interfering with airplane radios, especially instrument navigation. This has been controversial for quite some time. Where have you been?

  3. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "The FCC in its waiver notice brushed aside concerns.."

    Well that makes me feel just fine. Because I totally trust the professionalism and care the current FCC takes with all things that concern protecting the consumer.

    And if you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you. Great location, hardly used, unbeatable price. Call today !

  4. Duncan Macdonald Silver badge

    So what ?

    The power level is tiny - +10dBm peak transmitter power is 0.01watt (10 milliwatts) - 2.4GHz WiFi allows 10 times the power 0.1 watts (100 milliwatts), 5GHz WiFi allows up 4 watts (4000 milliwatts) and 802.11ad (depending on use) allows 10 watts or more (at the same frequencies as the Soli equipment).

    This seems to be a reasonable technical increase - the frequency band is so high (around 60GHz) that equipment not designed to operate at those frequencies is unlikely to be affected - this is unlike WiFi where much electronic equipment has components that can operate at the 2.4GHz frequency.

    1. Cuddles Silver badge

      Re: So what ?

      "The power level is tiny - +10dBm peak transmitter power is 0.01watt (10 milliwatts) - 2.4GHz WiFi allows 10 times the power 0.1 watts (100 milliwatts), 5GHz WiFi allows up 4 watts (4000 milliwatts) and 802.11ad (depending on use) allows 10 watts or more (at the same frequencies as the Soli equipment)."

      I guess the question is how much power is needed to interfere with a signal, as opposed to simply drowning it out? Scatter a few of these sensors in an area and they can easily be putting out 1% or more of the maximum allowed power for a router. Is that irrelevant, or is it actually enough to cause potential issues? Perhaps more importantly, the maximum power isn't generally where you want to operate all the time, so even if all these things do is force routers in the area to crank up their power output a bit to compensate that's a potential issue, if only due to increased power consumption.

      "This seems to be a reasonable technical increase"

      Which brings up the other important question others have already mentioned - if it really is not a problem at all and is all perfectly reasonable from a technical standpoint, why keep the old rules in place for everyone else? Presumably the existing figures were calculated somehow based on some assumptions. If those assumptions and/or calculations are no longer valid, the rules as a whole need updating. If they are still valid, why don't they apply to Google? Maybe it's all perfectly above board, but it's always going to look suspicious when a hilariously incompetent and corrupt body gives individual approval to the biggest* briber lobbyist in the US.

      * They were second in 2017. Final figures for 2018 aren't around yet, but Google were on course to be number one based on data from a few months ago.

  5. jacksmith210060

    This article is written like there is something nefarious. This a reasonable increase and in the scheme of things is pretty minor.

    Is it now the only thing that engages people is articles written in some negative light? How about the benefits this technology could offer?

    1. ExampleOne

      This article is written like there is something nefarious. This a reasonable increase and in the scheme of things is pretty minor.

      So update the rules to allow it for everyone and not just give Google a special case?

      My concern with a Google specific waiver is not the technical implications, but the commercial ones: They are effectively granting Google a monopoly in the space as anyone else wanting to compete needs to have a waiver now.

      1. Fatman Silver badge

        RE: Commercial monopoly

        Considering that amount of cheaply1 produced tat flowing out of the Far East, is it a bad idea to allow only higher power levels for products that are certified to comply with the regs?

        Cut too many corners, and that waiver can be revoked.

        1 As in poorly engineered or manufactured. Current security of IoT tat is a prime example of this shove it out the door quickly and cheaply mentality.

    2. David 164 Bronze badge

      You do realise the author of this article would be sacked by theregister if they wrote a positive article about Google. Basically all Google has really done is get FCC permission for devices that are already legal in Europe, I'm guessing devices are already legal in many other jurisdictions as well.

  6. Chris Evans

    Confused!

    This is an area I know nothing about but I can't see how you can have a negative output unless it is a comparison?

    If it is a comparison, what to?

    "...peak transmitter conducted output power of +10 dBm, rather than -10 dBm..."

    I had a brief look at the (Section 15.255(c)(3)) link but it goes way over the top of my head.

    1. Pangasinan Philippines

      Re: Confused!

      0dBm is 1 milliwatt

      anything less than zero is below 1 milliwatt and anything of positive value is above 1 milliwatt on a logarithmic scale.

      1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

        Re: Confused!

        The dB is a relative measure, specifically of power = 10 log10(P1/P2) but if you define P2 to be something fixed then it is an absolute measure. dBW has P2 = 1W, dBm has P2 = 1mW, etc, so:

        0dBW = +30dBm = 1.0W = 1000mW

        -10dBW = +20dBm = 1.0e-1 W = 100mW

        -20dBW = +10dBm = 1.0e-2 W = 10mW

        -30dBW = 0dBm = 1.0e-3 W = 1mW

        -40dBW = -10dBm = 1.0e-4 W = 0.1mW

        etc...

        1. Chris Evans

          Re: Confused!

          Thanks for the info lads. All is now clear.

  7. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    We rarely see such precisely-accurate lowercase and uppercase...

    El Reg wrote, "...+10 dBm, rather than -10 dBm (Section 15.255(c)(3)), peak....+13 dBm, rather than +10 dBm, and +13 dBm/MHz power spectral density. ...WiGig devices and Soli sensors....57-64 GHz band. A Netgear Nighthawk X10 R9000 802.11ad access point, ..."

    Perfection in case. Even the minus isn't a hyphen, and the pluses are recognized as usefully-informative. A joy to behold.

    Appears to be transcribed from God, like Mozart's music.

    Thank you.

  8. TheRealRoland
    Unhappy

    "Those nerds with their radio telescopes. Bah! As if you can make radio waves visible! Ha!"

    "Step aside, this is for the greater good (of me and my friends!)"

  9. Mike Lewis

    This will not end well

    A loud clatter of gunk music flooded through the Heart of Gold cabin as Zaphod searched the sub-etha radio wave bands for news of himself. The machine was rather difficult to operate. For years radios had been operated by means of pressing buttons and turning dials; then as the technology became more sophisticated the controls were made touch-sensitive--you merely had to brush the panels with your fingers; now all you had to do was wave your hand in the general direction of the components and hope. It saved a lot of muscular expenditure, of course, but meant that you had to sit infuriatingly still if you wanted to keep listening to the same program.

    From "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" by Douglas Adams.

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