If you've ever messed around with a radio dial, you know that there's a lot of frequencies broadcasting nothing but static -- generally left there intentionally as a buffer zone between used frequencies to prevent cross interference. The same is true for television -- and, as television and radio channels make the move over to digital, the number of unused frequencies is rising.
These vacant frequencies are referred to as TV White Space -- and it turns out TVWS has a lot of wireless potential, allowing signals to travel farther and more easily between obstacles than the more mainstream Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.
Together with Google and UK communications regulator Ofcom, the Zoological Society of London has launched a pilot to trial the use of TVWS. An adorable pilot.
Cameras and TVWS radios are currently installed at the meerkat, oriental short-clawed otter and Galapagos tortoise enclosures at the London Zoo, streaming the animals live over YouTube, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in real-time.
"The trial aims to show how TVWS can be used to provide wireless connectivity over a large area and in non-line-of-sight scenarios," ZSL wrote. "This exciting technology has huge potential to deliver fast internet to ZSL's remote conservation sites and help monitor wildlife globally."
The trial will test the devices while Google's spectrum database is used to identify available TVWS to make sure there is no interference with licensed spectrum holders. The end goal for the zoo is to integrate the technology into its Instant Wild remote surveillance system to support its field conservation projects.
"The three cameras placed in animal enclosures are spread across the zoo and mostly obstructed by trees and buildings so would have traditionally required a wired internet connection. However TVWS signals are able to penetrate foliage and buildings to establish a fast data connection capable of streaming high quality video to YouTube," ZSL wrote.
"ZSL is particularly excited about this technology as TVWS has the potential to provide long distance connectivity to remote conservation sites which often have limited cellular reception and connection options."
Ofcom has launched a number of white space pilots. The Oxford Flood Network, a citizen-built flood detection network based in Oxford, the UK, is also trialling TVWS to send real-time data on water levels, while the University of Strathclyde in Scotland is exploring how to enhance local internet coverage and enable "smart city" functionality, and ferries in the Orkey Islands and Pentland Firth will be using white space to receive internet connectivity for the first time. A map of all the trials can be seen here.
Meanwhile, check out the YouTube streams below for some meerkat, otter and tortoise adorableness.