Observers should have a mode, where they detect block updates up to 8 blocks in distance, if there is a clear line of sight. "Clear line of sight" means, air or transparent blocks (glass, leaves, water, etc). If there is a solid block, say at distance 5, the detection distance ends at this block, including it.
The farther away an update was detected, the weaker is the emitted signal.
It should not make redstone torches or other elements obsolete, therefore I'd suggest a speed penalty for the "distance" mode of 3 or 4 ticks.
* wireless signals
* easy signal transportation in all directions
* measure distances
* simplify some farms (i.e. sugarcane)
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