Connected Car Technology Returns Home With Proud ParentMARCH 10, 2016 Alumnus Nathan Kundtz returns to campus with a car demonstrating breakthrough satellite technology based on Duke metamaterials…
Alumnus Nathan Kundtz returns to campus with a car demonstrating breakthrough satellite technology based on Duke metamaterials research
By Ken Kingery
The future of mobile satellite communications recently rolled through the engineering quad on Duke’s campus. Dubbed the “mTenna,” the flat device is about the size of your hand and can connect with satellites in any direction while on the move, providing internet connections at speeds capable of handling a terabyte of data per month.
For anyone who has ever seen the giant satellite dishes controlled by heavy machinery perched atop large boats, the upside of the sleek new technology is immediately obvious. But besides maritime applications, the mTenna could also provide much faster internet connections to airplane passengers—or passengers in your own back seat.
The latter is how the prototype device made its way to campus—in the roof of a Toyota Highlander, as the so-called “connected car” made its way across the country on a publicity tour. The stop also brought the technology’s inventor back to the place where it all started.
Nathan Kundtz (left) talks with David Smith (right) with George Truskey looking on
Nathan Kundtz, founder and CEO of Kymeta, the company producing the mTenna, developed the technology while completing his doctorate in the laboratory of metamaterials pioneer David Smith, professor and chair of the electrical and computer engineering department at Duke. (Smith is now a strategic advisor to Kymeta.)
Metamaterials are the combination of natural materials in repeating patterns to achieve unnatural properties. They are also what allow the mTenna to obtain signal from any direction without reorienting the device itself and to send and receive data simultaneously.
“What we’re doing isn’t terribly ambitious—we’re just looking to revolutionize wireless communications,” joked Kundtz at the start of his talk. “If you’ve seen the movie “The Martian,” there’s a scene where Matt Damon is hit by a huge satellite dish during a wind storm. Clearly we have a different view of the future.”
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