The technology of roof rails is very much physical – the strength and sturdiness of the guardrails themselves, the mass and weatherproofing of their rubber counterweights that provide extra stability, and so on.
However, installing roof rails on buildings across the EU could have benefits for the digital community too – and, in particular, for the strength and speed of 4G connections.
Since its launch, many users have complained of slow and unreliable 4G connections, and EU researchers are now looking at ways to resolve this.
In particular, the European Commission’s Community Research and Development Information Service (CORDIS) reports the progress made by the ARTIST4G project, which is looking at advanced radio interface technologies for 4G communications.
The team are focusing on relaying signals further without losing strength, and on eliminating interference from other nearby 4G users – imagine, for example, the number of concurrent signals that come from a football stadium as spectators try to tweet images or check scores online.
One way of enhancing signal strength is through the use of relays, which boost signals as they pass through areas where there is no base station transmitter.
While the team are investigating equipping cars with mobile relays, for now many of these devices will be on the roofs of buildings – and will need maintaining.
Like any other rooftop equipment, this is where guardrails become important, helping to ensure that skilled technicians, who might not be used to working at altitude, can safely access the devices when they need maintenance or repair.