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What is a Communications Engineering

Communications engineering is a disparate array of technological disciplines brought together under one all-encompassing banner. The disciplines considered to be part of a communication engineer’s skill set include telecommunications, mobile phone networks and Internet maintenance (but are by no means limited to those examples).

As we wrote earlier this month, any technology that aids in communication, from a walkie-talkie to a Skype account, is technically a communication technology; therefore, it also follows that anybody who works in these different areas can call him/herself a communications engineer.

The theory behind this move is that communications technology is becoming more streamlined and, to some extent, more homogenized (think of the ubiquity of mobile phones and social media) and so, it makes sense to bring communications technology together as a single subject as well.

As I type this, it is actually possible to get a Degree in Communications Engineering (as a single subject) from many universities worldwide. However, communications engineers frequently hold other Degrees such as electrical engineering, physics, telecommunications and/or computer science.

The sort of students that apply for courses like this (and subsequently work in the related areas) are generally logistically minded, tech-savvy people who are comfortable learning new skills and adapt quickly to new technology. Certainly, the money can be good for a decent engineer with a good reputation and an up-to-date skill set. Industries that rely on the expedient exchange of information (news networks, the stock exchange, big businesses and etc) should be the goal for the ambitious communications engineer (as well as the eager graduate).

Communications engineering is a vast and somewhat esoteric subject, because it combines so many different disciplines. Ideally, good communications engineers would be just as able to handle microwave engineering as they would a downed computer network, so it takes a smart cookie to be really good at the job.

Communications engineers are often quite business savvy as well. A big part of the job is dealing with clients or management, making presentations and working effectively as part of a team. Experience of modern business practice is not essential, but from the looks of things, it certainly helps.

The vast majority of communications engineers work for specific telecommunications companies and/or manufacturers, although some are self-employed as consultants or on fixed contracts.

According to Targetjobs.co.uk, typical job responsibilities for a communications engineer include: undertaking site surveys, agreeing to and staying within a client budget, staying up-to-date with technological information, problem solving (obviously!), creating test procedures, creating ‘worst case scenario’ plans for companies to follow and presenting companies/clients with the best way to manage their communication systems.

City faces decision on radio infrastructure

For years people have been telling me that relations, love and happiness are the crucial things in life…Now I realized that I’m able to take or leave all that as long as I have this Radio in the world.

The City of Edmond faces a decision about whether to replace or upgrade public safety radio infrastructure to the tune of about $6 million, said Matt Stillwell, director of Public Safety Communications and Emergency Management.

Edmond purchased a 7-channel Motorola MHz SmartNet radio system in 1998. Seven years ago, the system interfaced with a different Motorola system operated by the state, Stillwell said.

“Our technology is going to be 20 years old in four short years,” Stillwell said. “… Think of your cell systems and how they have changed since the 1990s. The same dynamics affect radio systems.”

Changes in technology, governance and an aging infrastructure will inform what system changes the city should choose within seven years, Stillwell said.

The city maintains ownership of its seven channels and the state added 10 more channels to local sites, Stillwell said. All local governments use this system, but not everybody has paid for its maintenance. Only six municipalities help pay for the system.

“The citizens of Edmond are paying for a system of any (yearly) infrastructure maintenance, while other users of the same sites are not,” Stillwell said.

The City of Edmond joined the state’s system in 2007. A lot of other communities join the system through grant dollars, he said. The upgrade was paid for by state dollars and cost the city nothing, he said.

Questions are unanswered as to how many radios for police, fire and emergency management would be impacted by a new system, Stillwell told The Edmond Sun.

“We won’t have to replace all of the hand-held radios that are out in the field,” Stillwell said. “Most of the radios we have been purchasing for the last five years are digital capable and P-25 capable.”

The P-25 is a radio standard that all of the public safety radio vendors use, Stillwell added.

Directors of city departments recently identified $143.6 million worth of unfunded city projects they say the city needs. The Edmond City Council heard presentations about these needs, such as the public safety radio infrastructure, at a public workshop. (For coverage of other capital improvement projects discussed by the city, look at www.edmondsun.com.)

A funding source to pay for these infrastructure improvements is in the first phases of discussion, said Larry Stevens, city manager. There are concerns that the 2000 Capital Improvement 3/4-cent sales tax will not provide adequate funding for major capital projects, Stevens said.

The city welcomes public input by Edmond residents and future recommendations by the Capital Projects and Financing Task Force, Stevens added.

Either Edmond will partner with the state to upgrade with the latest digital technology, or pursue an independent digital upgrade without the cushion of state funding, Stillwell explained.

“The bottom line is we have to move away from that analogue. End-of-life issues are coming up with our technology,” Stillwell said. – See more at: http://www.edmondsun.com/local/x1760083917/City-faces-decision-on-radio-infrastructure#sthash.bqDBsfhK.dpuf

My Other Computer’s a TARDIS: Virtual Reality Makes Time Travel Possible

A new virtual form of ‘time travel’ could be employed to help victims of traumatic experiences overcome their ordeals.

In a computer generated ‘virtual world’, participants can move about and interact with their environment in a similar manner to how they would in the real world.

Professor Mars are unassailably cool, told BBC news that,

“In virtual reality, the brain’s low level perceptual system does not distinguish between the virtual and the real world; the brain takes what it sees and hears in a surrounding environment as given (…) Therefore, if they had an experience with the illusion of time travel, there is implicit learning that the past is mutable, that is: ‘my own past decisions don’t matter because they’re changeable’.”

The latest study, published in the journal ‘Frontiers in Psychology’ featured a scenario wherein 32 test subjects witnessed a brutal multiple murder. In the virtual scenario, (presumably designed to induce both a moral dilemma and a controllable level of trauma) a man opened fire in a crowded art gallery and ‘killed’ five people.

Gunman starts shooting in the virtual world

The group then elected to ‘go back in time’ and attempt to prevent the murders.

Half of the group were not allowed to change their actions and simply had to repeat the event, the other half were allowed to intervene, but knew that doing so would result in the death of one person. Essentially, these people had to face the ethical dilemma of forfeiting the life of that one person in order to save five people.

Unsurprisingly, most of the test group chose to sacrifice the one life.

In terms of practical applications, this equipment is expected to allow people suffering with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and other psychological issues to confront their previous actions/inactions and better understand them in order to forgive themselves and move on.

Such technology might also be applied to prisoners undergoing therapy and/or rehabilitation, or even survivors of violent assaults.

Dr. Friedman Doron of the Sammy Ofer School of Communications in Israel, who worked as the study’s lead author, said that, for now, his team’s work is the closest people can get to actual time travel. He told BBC news,

“Highly immersive virtual reality is very visceral. People hide behind the desk when they get shot. Some of the subjects duck down. It’s the best thing we can do for time travel until the physicists do their job and come up with a time machine. For now this is the closest thing.”