Weakness of Millimeter Waves to Rain Turned into an Opportunity to Monitor Local Storms

The Nikkei Weekly had an interesting article on how a problem in developing the next generation of high speed wireless communications, was turned into an opportunity for monitoring the local storms. The article stated that the next generation of high speed wireless involves the use of millimeter waves. These waves can carry 100 times more data than radio waves used by local area networks (LAN). The drawback to using millimeter waves is that they are vulnerable to disruption from rain. In a case of seeing an opportunity out of a problem, Toru Taniguchi , figured the disruption indicated rain and that by calculating backwards one could measure the amount of rainfall in real time. As a result this technique can be used to spot and monitor sudden rainstorms called “guerrilla downpours” in colloquial speech.

A network of millimeter wave stations has been set up to monitor the storm and the path of the storm. The practical implications of this technique means that one can determine which areas may be in danger of mudslides due to the amount of rain and conditions on the ground. This network involves the collaboration of the Tokyo Institute of Technology (Ookayama campus), NEC and Japan Radio Co. This collaborative effort has been going on for 5 years and could be a replacement for using dedicated radar. An advantage of this network over dedicated radar is that it also provides additional information such as image and text. At this point the use of the network as a weather monitoring tool is apparently still in the development stage and has not been implemented nationwide. If this collaborative effort by results in more precise monitoring of the weather, perhaps better and more timely emergency measures can be taken in the event of a “guerrilla downpour” or other weather related challenges.

There is an old saying: one man’s meat is another man’s poison. Another way to say it is: one person’s junk is another person’s treasure. Perhaps the lesson to be learned from all this is that one should look at a situation from different angles. Instead of simply viewing the vulnerability of millimeter waves to rain as a problem to be overcome, Toru Taniguchi saw the disruption caused by rain as an opportunity to monitor the weather. He did not restrict himself to the “box” of high speed wireless communication, but instead went outside the box. Focus and concentration are admirable traits, but those same strengths could give one tunnel vision and blind one to opportunity in other areas. So should keep in mind there is more than one way to view a given situation.


Nikkei Weekly. April 23, 2012. Page 20. “Bane of long-range wireless users boon for storm trackers” by Takashi Kurokawa