Radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags and tag readers make use of proximity and have automated ad hoc setup for transferring small amounts of information. The key features of the RFID tag are a fixed unique identifier and necessary proximity of tags to a tag reader. However, some kinds of RFID tags exist that cycle through a predefined list of identifiers. Also some manufacturers have developed RFID tags that are compatible with WiFi networks to extend location tracking to a whole WiFi network, avoiding the need for an extra tracking network. The cheapest variety of RFID tags are called passive, although 'reactive' would be a better term, because they draw their power to transmit from the radio signal of the tag reader. They are commonly used for tracking the movement of objects, typically at distances of up to a few metres, but potentially up to 200 metres with 'active' or 'semi-active' tags i.e. with their own power source. RFID tags are also widely used to control and monitor access through door and gate entry systems and to 'tag' animals and occasionally people. They are increasingly being used in asset tracking and security applications. The ability to add a unique identifier to objects that can be tracked is very useful and should lead to further innovations, especially in combination with other technologies.
The Daily RFID Company has introduced its DL920 - a passive RFID tag reader with a range of up to 15m that averages less than 10ms for 64 bits from a single tag. Trimble claims it has an RFID reader able to read tags moving at up to 200kph. Murata Manufacturing have announced they are "going to launch mass production" of what they claim is the world's smallest (3.2x3.2x0.7mm) HF band (13.56MHz) RFID tag. They say it needs no external antenna and say it has "extremely high resistance to environmental conditions (high temperature, high humidity)". Our thanks to Virtual-Strategy Magazine for highlighting this.
Like RFID tags and readers, near field communication (NFC) is a short range wireless technology for transferring small amounts of information. However, NFC only operates at a range of up to 20 centimetres, but typically much less. As with RFID it differs from other wireless networks like WiFi and is useful party because it makes use of proximity and automated ad hoc communication setup. NFC is about to see widespread use in the UK in contactless payment systems with many new digital wallet companies keen to take a share of that market. An important feature of NFC technology is its very low power requirements that enable it to be always on at. The key advantage of NFC is the culturally universal simplicity of intentionally making things proximate to initiate some kind of action. It will become a starting point for many services.
Orange is providing NFC SIM cards to retrofit NFC functionality into mobile phones that do not have it and has announced participation in a mobile digital wallet scheme for contactless payments up to £20. Cisco use NFC in their Lynksys EA6500 router to simplify connecting wireless devices to it. Samsung TecTiles are NFC stickers that can be programmed to initiate a series of actions on NFC enabled devices that gets close to the stickers.
There are several versions of Bluetooth with different characteristics, but it is intended for transfer of moderate amounts of information at up to 100 metres. The most recent version 4 of Bluetooth specifies three protocols: Classic Bluetooth - i.e. the previous Bluetooth protocol, Bluetooth high speed - based on WiFi, and Bluetooth Smart a.k.a. Bluetooth low energy - which has low power consumption and fast connection setup. The Beam feature of the Android operating system from version 4.1 pairs NFC with Bluetooth to provide short range point-to-point data transfer, thereby increasing the likelihood of more Bluetooth use in the near future. Bluetooth beacons are able to establish the position of Bluetooth enabled devices, providing new uses for Bluetooth in indoor real time positioning systems. The new low power version of Bluetooth (Bluetooth Smart) should mean that it is left running more of the time and so becomes useful for location services using Bluetooth. Bluetooth beacons also have potential to push information to proximate 'potential' customers for marketing, although this is unlikely to be popular with those receiving them. Real time location services are already extremely important, so establishing and tracking indoor location where GPS does not work well could easily become very important for Bluetooth. However, other technologies with different characteristics (e.g. WiFi, ZigBee, DASH7) are bound to be strong competitors for real time location services, especially when they too are embedded in mobile personal devices like smartphones and tablets.
Interaxon Inc. is developing a 'brainwave-controlled-interface' called Muse that connects to smartphones via Bluetooth. A range of apps are planned for "productivity, creativity, and fun". Interaxon are using crowd-funding to bring the product to market.
Apigy Inc. has a battery powered door lock called Lockitron that connects using WiFi. It can unlock when it detects recognised phones equipped with Bluetooth and send a notification that the phone was seen.
Wi-Fi Direct was developed by the Wi-Fi Alliance to enable ad hoc communication between paired WiFi enabled devices using either the 2.4GHz or 5Ghz bands. It makes use of WPA2 implementation of the 802.11i amendment, and the Wi-Fi Alliance's own Wi-Fi Multimedia (WMM) interoperability certification - which provides 'quality of service' features and was based on the based on the IEEE 802.11e amendment. The Wi-Fi Alliance say of WiFi Direct: "The specification underlying the Wi-Fi Direct certification program was developed within the Wi-Fi Alliance by member companies. It operates on 802.11 devices but is not linked to any specific IEEE 802.11 amendment." Nonetheless, Wi-Fi Direct is obviously substantially based on standards developed by the IEEE.
Simplicity of transferring information quickly with minimum effort is its key advantage over other data transports that will see new ways of commercialising it being developed. WiFi Direct is advantaged by the deep and broad standardisation work done by the Wi-Fi Alliance and the ubiquity of WiFi enabled equipment. WiFi Direct is increasingly supported in new WiFi enabled gadgets, and support in the Android operating system from version 4 will be significant in increasing its take-up. Samsung have paired WiFi Direct as the transport with NFC to initiate communication for fast simple transfer of information such as pictures and audio files between proximate smartphones. It was brought to market first in their Galaxy S3 phones in a feature they call 'S Beam' - based on the Android beaming initiative that originally only used NFC.
When there are few products that have gained a particular certification the Wi-Fi Alliance can help find them. Their Certified Products webpage enables finding products that have gained the various Wi-Fi Alliance certifications.
Fast Roaming and WiFi Passpoint
Passpoint is a relatively new program developed by the Wi-Fi Alliance based on the earlier Hotspot 2.0 initiative. It enables moving devices to seamlessly handover wireless data transfer between wireless network infrastructure, behaviour already defined in the fast roaming standard. Passpoint also allows equpment to move between networks, even those owned by different service providers. Seamless handover is especially important where uninterrupted service is critical, for example in telephone conversations over WiFi networks. Passpoint certified products should be available in the fourth quarter of 2012 and fast roaming products from Cisco at least already exist. Seamless mobile broadband access is a very important step for WiFi, essentialy it provides a wireless broadband alternative to nascent LTE and 4G mobile services. Mobile internet service providers now plan to use WiFi Passpoint to provide an extra route to manage increasing volumes of data used by mobile computing devices like smart phones and tablets. BT already has a WiFi network in place for this purpose that is a good strategic fit with its wired network infrastructure.
An Aruba Networks press release notes that the combination of their Aruba 3600 Mobility Controller and AP-105 Access Point has been certified for interoperability with by the Wi-Fi Alliance's 'Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Passpoint Program'.
Voice and multimedia
The recent Wi-Fi Alliance 'Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Voice-Enterprise' program is concerned with enterprise-grade support for voice applications over WiFi networks. It specifies voice quality, mobility, power saving and security and is based on the 'Wi-Fi Voice-Personal' certification program. It also uses previous work on the Wi-Fi Multimedia (WMM), WMM-Power Save, and WMM-Admission Control certification programs for quality of service, along with security provided by Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 (WPA2) Enterprise.
WiGig and WiFi Miracast
Miracast is a certification program for products that satisfies the Wi-Fi Alliance 'WiFi Display Specification' to provide wireless point to point audio and video content transport. Connections are established using WiFi Direct - so no WiFi network infrastructure is required. As it is based on Wi-Fi Direct, Miracast uses 802.11 technology but it is not standardised in any specific IEEE 802.11 amendment. Broadly Miracast uses a 2.4GHz Wi-Fi Direct connection to arrange a 5GHz Wi-Fi Direct connection. The IEEE 802.11ad 60GHz standard is a higher throughput shorter range alternative promoted by the Wireless Gigabit Alliance via its WiGi brand. The Wireless Gigabit Alliance defined three important protocols: WiGig Display Extension (WDE), the WiGig Serial Extension (WSE) and WiGig Bus Extension (WBE). The Wireless Gigabit Alliance became part of the Wi-Fi Alliance in March 2013.
The Wi-Fi Alliance launched the Miracast certification programme on 19 September 2012 listing 10 products that were "designated Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Miracast". Those products formed part of the 'test suite' for the certification program. Among the first certified consumer products were the Samsung Galaxy S III and LG Optimus G smartphones.
Hi-speed standardised wireless device interconnects defined by WiGig and others - such as Intel's WiDi which is broadly compatible with Miracast - will be very popular and eventually supplant wired interconnects in many scenarios. The Wireless Gigabit Alliance are concerned with promoting multi-gigabit-speed wireless communications at around 60GHz among equipment conforming to the IEEE 802.11ad standard.
The WirelessHD alternative promoted by the WirelessHD consortium also operates at around 60GHz. It has a broad following among equipment manufacturers, supports low power devices such as phones and tablets, also provides general data transport, offers transfer rates of up to 28Gbps, and support for 3D and 4K content. As radiation at this frequency has a short range, WirelessHD uses beam forming to extend its range up to about 10m.
Wireless Home Digital Interface (WHDI) is another wireless interconnect standard. It is promoted by the WHDI Special Interest Group which counts a number of equipment manufacturers as members. It uses frequencies around 5GHz so it has a lower maximum transfer rate of around 3Gbps (enough for 1080p content) but a longer range at around 30m than the 60GHz based standards.
ZigBee based wireless networks are designed with different characteristics to WiFi. They are particularly suitable for so called machine-to-machine (M2M) applications. Consequently ZigBee will be important in the powerful 'internet of things' that promises big changes to many aspects of life, and therefore business, through the hugely important 'second economy'. There are an increasing number of ZigBee based products so the name will pass into common parlance along with WiFi as its inclusion in products becomes a marketing feature. It is important for the progressive business to take advantage of the new opportunities that ZigBee creates. Recently a French company called TazTag released the first phone with both NFC and ZigBee capability. The ZigBee Alliance has two specifications and a number of standards covering a range of fields such as building automation, retail services, and healthcare.
ISA100.11a, WirelessHART, and MiWi are wireless networking technologies with similar uses to ZigBee. All three and ZigBee are based on the IEEE 802.15.4 standard. Z-Wave is a broadly similar technology but is completely proprietary to the American public corporation Sigma-Designs. X10 also produce a proprietary wireless technology focusing on home automation. Insteon produce home automation products that blend mesh networks using AC power lines and low data rate RF wireless operating at 902 to 924MHz. Insteon say that most Insteon compatible products are also X10 compatible - there are other manufacturers of Insteon compatible products in the 'INSTEON Alliance'.
The IEEE 802.11ah task group is developing standards that have similar objectives to Zigbee using sub-gigahertz frequencies. The 802.11 working group predicts it will approve these standards in January of 2016. Nonetheless, Antcor announced their 802.11ah IP availability on 19 Feb 2014 for use by chip developers. They claim it "employs a flexible architecture allowing a clear path to upgradability as the standard evolves". Meanwhile Zigbee products and standards are available and continue to develop.
A certain tension exists between the need to devise wireless networks that are specialised for particular scenarios, and the desire to consolidate them for simplified management or for transparent interoperability. Consequently it is important for those bodies that manage the various kinds of wireless networks to work on differentiating them from each other and on simplifying interoperability and unified control. A wireless network is as the name implies any kind of computing network that is not connected by wires. Most commonly electromagnetic radiation, particularly at radio frequency, is used to transfer data, but it is possible using other means - such as magnetic fields.
Bidgely are developing software to analyse data from ZigBee enabled smart meters. They require no additional hardware beyond ZigBee enabled routers and meters. Both are expected to eventually become commonplace along with ZigBee enabled home appliances. Bidgley analyses patterns in the data to discover useful information in real-time. One of the promises of this kind of monitoring and control is to automatically optimise efficient use of energy.
Green peak have produced the first controller chips for the RF4CE market. ZigBee RF4CE is a specification for radio frequency based remote controls using the ZigBee Remote Control standard. The specification was created by the ZigBee Alliance and the RF4CE (Radio Frequency for Consumer Electronics) Consortium. RF based remote control has different characteristics from IR based remote control and has advantages in some scenarios. In particular line of sight is not required and ZigBee RF4CE is not proprietary to a vendor.
The Wi-SUN Alliance is an industry association that promotes a Smart Utility Networking standard based on a subset of the IEEE 802.15.4 e/g standard. It is concerned with wireless monitoring and control of utilities and has compliance certification programs for products. However, it appears to have no relationship with the ZigBee Alliance. Wi-SUN recently announced that it has developed an interoperability test suite and related regional regulatory requirements.
DASH7 technology is based on the ISO/IEC 18000-7 open standard. It works at a lower frequency than even the lowest frequency used by ZigBee so it is particularly useful to communicate through materials that strongly attenuate radio frequency signals. Despite using a lower frequency than ZigBee its low data rate may still be higher than that of the lowest frequency ZigBee. Like ZigBee it is well suited to roles such as wireless sensor networks and tracking moving objects. DASH7 equipment can operate without a formal network structure, providing a dynamic mesh network with device to device communications. Conveniently DASH7 can use the same frequency worldwide and supports AES 128-bit public key encryption and IPv6. That universality of frequency use is important for equipment that travels and to reduce regional homologation costs. DASH7 is overseen by the DASH7 Alliance.
On 2013-09-25 the DASH7 Alliance announced the public release of the first version of its protocol - which was ratified by its members in July 2013. It provides a framework for application development, interoperability, and security for DASH7-enabled transactions. The DASH7 Alliance are hoping that DASH7 becomes significant in the growing M2M market through the proliferation of wireless sensors.
RuBee (IEEE 1902.1 and 1902.2 standards) modulates the magnetic component of its carrier wave at around 131kHz. This relatively low frequency means it has low bandwidth, but it also has low power requirements and is not readily impeded by materials. RuBee uses a peer to peer based active protocol like ZigBee and DASH7 and so is unlike RFID which is a reactive protocol in which tags react to transmissions from a reader. RuBee uses 128 byte packets a few of which are exchanged a second and has restricted power that gives it a short range of up to about five metres. The energy used by a RuBee base station is only about 40-50nw and being so low is intrinsically safe to life. That low energy requirement means RuBee asset tags typically have a battery life of 5 to 15 years. These unique characteristics make it useful for tagging assets and tracking movement, particular in environments which would attenuate higher frequency carriers such as one containing steel and water. There are commercial implementations of RuBee, that tend to be aimed at the military. RuBee is standardised by IEEE 1902.1 and 1902.2.
The EnOcean Alliance promotes self-powered wireless monitoring and control systems. Energy is collected from a number of environmental opportunities, such as heat, light, motion, and electromagnetic energy. This technology is primarily aimed at equipment embedded in buildings, such as switches, sensors, and controllers.
Cognitive radio is an example of wideband digital radio with dynamic spectrum management. It attempts to make the best use of the available spectrum by detecting areas of it that are unused and rapidly switching to use them. Rapid switching is important because spectrum may be used intermittently. Acceptance of this kind of equipment depends on it demonstrating that it will not interfere with frequency assigned services and so gaining approval from regulatory authorities. This is a complex solution to a lack of available radio frequency spectrum that will take some time to perfect. Nonetheless, as wireless spectrum comes under increasing pressure solutions like this will gain market share. An American company called Radio Technology Systems has an interesting example of this kind of technology.
The Radio Spectrum Policy Group, in a wide ranging Report on Collective Use of Spectrum and other spectrum sharing approaches, among other things endorses 'dynamic' approaches to spectrum sharing by Collective Use of Spectrum and Cognitive Technologies. It concludes that "a great part of spectrum is already shared between different applications, and at the moment there is no identified need for more dedicated spectrum...but there is a need to progress further on appropriate regulatory mechanisms in regard to sharing of spectrum and to foster more efficient use of it". The group propose a new spectrum licensing regime called 'Licensed Shared Access'. The European Commission supports the efficiencies of spectrum use that the report identifies, and is now seeking support from the European Parliament and European Council to advance European regulation.
White-Fi, also known as Super Wifi, is a Wi-Fi like technology operating in unused TV spectrum i.e. TV white space. Cognitive radio techniques enable White-Fi to avoid spectrum actively being used for TV and so prevent interference. White-Fi frequencies are much lower than Wi-Fi, so their radio waves propagate much further. This could become an effective 'backhaul' technology to supplement wired networks, especially where wires are expensive or otherwise problematic to deploy. The IEEE 802.11af task group is developing the standard. The 802.11 working group is expecting to approve the first version in 2014. Radio Electronics have a concise summary of White-Fi. In the UK two TV channels 36 (608MHz) and 51 (698MHz) are being actioned. Google and Microsoft have shown interest according to the telegraph. The daily wireless gives a more technical explanation and also mentions the US situation. The Wireless Innovation Alliance is a broad-based politically active American organisation that is concerned with efficient use of wireless spectrum to foster innovation in America and so America's global competitiveness.
Indoor location services
Indoor location services using active infrastructure
Indoor location services will become increasingly important to consumers, retailers, advertisers, and other businesses with large covered spaces, such as production environments and venues - especially those which are configurable. Naturally indoor location services require a wireless networks element and 'real time' location information is the ideal. The 'In-Location Alliance' has recently been launched by a number of companies to address this need. Most solutions use active 'wireless beacons' with known locations interacting with active moving wireless devices. The main disadvantage of this active wireless approach is the expense of installing and maintaining the active 'wireless beacons'.
Indoor location services using ambient magnetic fields
A company called Indoor Atlas use the non-uniform nature of ambient magnetic fields for its indoor real time location services, rather than use active 'wireless beacons' interacting with active moving wireless devices. All modern buildings contain metal and other infrastructural features that result in varying ambient magnetic fields. Once a building floor plan is mapped to those magnetic field perturbations, recognising the latter allows a location to be established. A key advantage of this scheme is that no technology needs to be deployed to the site being mapped and it uses sensors already build into mobile phones. Indoor Atlas claims an accuracy of 0.2m to 2m. Its key advantage derived from using ambient magnetic field perturbations is also its biggest weakness where those fields change.
Wireless personal area networks
The wireless personal area network (WPAN) exists as interconnected gadgets we carry, such as headsets, video cameras, pulse monitors, smart watches, pedometers, thermometers, and movement sensors. Soon we will be able to buy devices that display information in front of us using projection onto surfaces such as glasses and retinas. The IEEE 802.15 working group is developing WPAN standards.
A medical body area network (MBAN), which can use standards being developed by the IEEE 802.15.6 task group, can interact with a WPAN. A MBAN is principally a network of sensors, and so is a kind of body sensor network (BSN). Fujitsu have announced they have been working on MBAN technology using the IEEE 802.15.6 standards. The Swiss laboratory EPFL has developed a small under the skin implant that can report about a number of bodily conditions. MBANs and WPANs are gradually becoming mediators between us and the world. The existence of the Quantified Self movement demonstrates that there is a consumer base ready for this kind of technology. Smart businesses will use their wireless networks to interact with their employ WPANs and MBANs to help them improve how they work.
People increasingly have their own personal wireless network. So far this has been enabled by Bluetooth, WiFi, and NFC. 6LoWPAN is the name for a group working on the vision of wireless personal area networks that will take part in the 'wireless embedded internet' that is the wireless enabled aspect of the 'internet of things'. Specifically 6LoWPAN is working on a low-rate wireless personal area network (LR-WPAN) using IPv6 packets. WPANs will interact with other wireless networks to bring new opportunities to enterprising businesses. WPANs are just at the beginning of their development but will quickly become commonplace. The fastest early growth in use will probably be for communication, medical, and sports applications with personal environment, mood, and cognition following. The WPAN will eventually become an extension of our senses and enrich our contact with everything else to become enormously important on a personal and productivity level. The 6lowpan working group of the Internet Engineering Task Force has requirements that should promote ubiquity - such as small size, low power consumption, and low cost. It says the IEEE 802.15.4 and IEEE 1451.5 standards, along with some of the standards generated by the ISA100 committee have potential in meeting their objectives. The ISA100 Wireless Compliance Institute is an operational group within Automation Standards Compliance Institute (ASCI) incorporated by the International Society of Automation (ISA) to provide certification, conformance, and compliance assessment activities in the automation arena.
Freescale Semiconductor Inc have announced an IPv6-Based Metropolitan Area Network Development Kit that is expected to begin shipping before December 2012. Freescale collaborated with Nivis on the kit which allows robust mesh wireless networks to be built and integrated with other hardware. It is compliant with multiple communication standards including 6LoWPAN. The kit is intended to contribute toward 'The Internet of Things'. Our thanks to Cloud Interoperability Magazine for highlighting this.
Standards and regulation for wireless networks
On 29 March 2012 the IEEE 802.11-2012 standard was published and is promoted under the WiFi brand by the Wi-Fi Alliance, so it is generally known as the WiFi standard. 802.11ac is an important draft amendment to that standard. Despite that draft status some products are already being sold that claim some sort of conformance to it. One of the main reasons 802.11ac is important is because of the extra data that it can handle. It will however require new wireless network hardware to be installed, and to get the best from that many wired networks will also need to be upgraded. While it is reasonable (with certain caveats) for consumer grade WiFi equipment to be sold as conforming to the draft 802.11ac amendment, it may not be wise for it to be used in costly wireless network deployments - such as for businesses. Although changes to the draft amendment are likely to be insubstantial, it could be an expensive problem to resolve if future equipment did interoperate with wireless networks based on equipment using the draft amendment. Currently the 802.11 working group predict that 802.11ac will be approved in November of 2013 and that an updated IEEE 802.11 standard will be approved in November 2014.
Cisco have addressed the problem of businesses delaying deployment of new wireless network equipment in anticipation of forthcoming IEEE 802.11ac compatible access points by offering access points with field-upgradability to the finalised standard. The Cisco Aironet 3600 series access points can accept an IEEE 802.11ac compatible module.
Marvel have announced their Avastar 88W8864, a 802.11ac 4x4 chipset. Quantenna were first to announce a 802.11ac 4x4 chipset, their QAC2300. Four spatial streams enables a theoretical maximum bandwitdth of 3.47Gbps (i.e. 4x 866.7Mbps) assuming 160MHz wide channels, 256-QAM encoding, and a 400ns Guard Interval. The Quantenna chipset claims a maximum bandwidth of 1.7Gbps (4x 433Mbps), because it is limited to 80MHz wide channels. The Marvell chipset claims a maximum bandwidth of 1.3Gbps.
The IEEE 802.11aa-2012 amendment to the IEEE 802.11-2012 standard enhances the audio/video streaming experience. It also improves connection reliability and performance when channel capacity is reached and when WLANs overlap on a channel. New Quality of Service features affect the flow of network management information and data traffic. They include a group-addressed transmission service, a stream classification service, management of overlapping networks, and support for the IEEE 802.1Q Stream Reservation Protocol.
The IEEE 802.11 working group has created their High Efficiency WLAN (HEW) Study Group to consider the efficiency and performance of WLANs. They will consider situations such as high densities of access points and stations. The HEW will have a broad based membership from business and academia that will define the scope of a future 802.11 amendment.
The IEEE 802.11ak General Link (GLK) Task Group has been created to work on a possible amendment for the IEEE 802.11 standard. It aims to "to provide protocols, procedures, and managed objects that enhance the ability of IEEE 802.11 media to provide internal connections as transit links within IEEE 802.1Q bridged networks". This inevitably means compatibility with aspects of the IEEE 802.3 Ethernet standard.
The IEEE 802.11aq Pre Association Discovery Task Group has been created to develop an amendment for the IEEE 802.11 standard that enables delivery of pre-association Service Discovery information by IEEE 802.11 stations. Their scheme intends to allow advertising and discovery of services on a 802.11 WLAN prior to a station associating with it. The group hopes to "avoid yet another service description scheme" by reusing other standards. The service discovery scheme will operate below levels provided by schemes such as Universal Plug and Play and Bonjour.
The USB Implementers Forum has announced development of its Media Agnostic USB specification (MA USB) here in a "tech bulletin". The Wi-Fi Alliance announced it here because MA USB uses the WiGig Serial Extension specification which the Wi-Fi Alliance inherited it when it subsumed the Wireless Gigabit Alliance.
There are obvious advantages in combining a developed high speed wireless technology with the well-established USB protocol. The USB specification continues to develop with the latest version 3.1 (superspeed+) projected for availability in 2014. It doubles transfer speeds to 10 Gbps – more than fast enough to make full use of the current WiGig peak transfer of 7 Gbps noted here.
Consumer content standards
The UPnP Forum, which controls the UPnP standard for interoperability of consumer class equipment (version 1.1 architecture defined here) has announced that it is expanding the capabilities of that standard in their UPnP+ initiative. These capabilities include connectivity to equipment using ZigBee, Z-Wave, and Bluetooth wireless networks. UPnP+ will have implications for the Digital Living Network Alliance which defines interoperability guidelines for sharing of digital content between consumer equipment using UPnP.
Among other things this UPnP+ announcement demonstrates the importance of the trends for more mobile connected computing and the 'Internet of Things'. The UPnP+ initiative addresses IPv6, cloud services, access to UPnP equipment and services from web browsers, improved support for low-power and mobile devices, grouping or pairing of similar equipment and services, and bridging to non-UPnP networks.
Ofcom and 5G
The Telegraph reports that Ofcom is preparing for another spectrum auction to follow the 2013 800MHz spectrum auction. It is expected to force broadcasters to relinquish 700MHz spectrum which it will resell for mobile broadband use.
Ofcom on spectrum sharing
Ofcom has published a consultation on spectrum sharing for mobile and wireless data services. This consultation will end on 2013-11-09. Ofcom's aim is to better understand how spectrum sharing will impact existing and new spectrum use. Its ultimate expectation is that this understanding will help it enable innovation.
Ofcom on 'TV white spaces'
Ofcom has published a consultation on use of spectrum currently allocated to TV broadcasting for more general wireless digital data transmission. This consultation will end on 2013-11-15 after a pilot test of technology. Ofcom's aim is to make more efficient use of this realtively underutilised spectrum.
Recently the Zigbee Alliance introduced their 'Zigbee IP' specification designed to enable Zigbee mesh networks to use IPv6 addressing along with additional control, security, and programmability options. IPv6 is important for the so called 'Internet of Things' which will require a radical increase in the number of internet addresses for the vast number of devices expected to be Internet connected.
Evolution of associated data networks for business
Improvements in data networks of one kind, and changes in their usage patterns, may affect other kinds of data network for business.
Wireless networks influence on wired networks
The increasing capacity and use of wireless networks to carry data, particularly image based data, means the common 1Gbps wired network is unlikely to be able to carry that data in the near future. An upgrade to a 10Gbps network is an important step that many businesses that have not yet made the change must consider soon.
The IEEE recently announced a new working group to develop a 1Tbps Ethernet standard - called 802.3 - by 2015. The Ethernet Working Group postulated that "If the current trend continues, then this translates to an increase in traffic of a factor of 10 by 2015 compared to 2010 and by a factor of 100 by 2020".
Wireless power transmitters are becoming cheap enough to make chargers attractive for consumers, while wireless power receivers are becoming small and cheap enough to be embedded in mobile phones such as the Samsung Galaxy S3 and the HTC PJ53100, avoiding the need for add-on receiver enabled hardware like phone cases. Inevitably new business uses for this technology will emerge as its cost falls with increasing consumer adoption.
While some research and patents exist around obtaining energy wirelessly at a distance using the rectenna, no standards or commercial products have yet been released, but they probably will be.
A company called Ossia has its own approach. Their Cota wireless charging system has proprietary senders and receivers that depend on focusing energy from many transmitters in the sender onto the receiver. Apparently having more transmitters makes their system more efficient. So they aim to have tens of thousands of tiny transmitters in their power sender.
Wireless Power Consortium
Integrated Device Technology recently announced their IDTP9030 and IDTP9020 power transmitter and receiver integrated circuits that transmit up to 7.5W by induction, but are also Wireless Power Consortium Qi compliant - a standard supported by manufacturers including LG Electronics, HTC, Panasonic, Phillips, and Sanyo. The Alliance for Wireless Power has an alternative standard that is supported by Qualcomm and Samsung among others. Wireless power transmitters are becoming cheap enough to make chargers attractive for consumers, while wireless power receivers are becoming small and cheap enough to be embedded in mobile phones such as the Samsung Galaxy S3 and the HTC PJ53100, avoiding the need to use additional hardware. In April 2012 the Wireless Power Consortium announced an upgrade to its standard to include backward compatible magnetic resonance charging, extending the charging range from 5mm to 40mm.
Alliance for Wireless Power
The Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP) is supported by Qualcomm and Samsung among others, and has an alternative standard to the Wireless Power Consortium. Rezence is their trade marked brand name for their wireless power transfer technology.
Power Matters Alliance
The Power Matters Alliance (PMA) say they "seek to establish the guidelines and standardize an infrastructure for the future of wireless power". They go on to say their objective is "to reinvent and redefine the everyday user experience with power by migrating to a safe, smart, and environmentally sound model of wireless charging." Along with a number of industrial heavyweights it says it is working on standards associated with the IEEE Industry Connections program.
Aligning themselves IEEE will add some credibility to their system, which should be worrying its competitors, especially the Wireless Power Consortium with its Qi standard that has gained some market share already. In the short term this unhelpfully fragments the wireless power market.
Wireless Charging Technology
Intel and Integrated Device Technology have teamed up to develop chipsets for another wireless power initiative called Wireless Charging Technology by Intel. It has an interesting energy sharing feature between compatible devices, as well as the normal charging station approach taken by the other standards. Like the later revision of the Qi standard Wireless Charging Technology uses magnetic resonance technology for charging.
Intel's energy sharing idea seems useful so it would not be surprising to see the idea retrofitted to the other standards.
The Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP) and the Power Matters Alliance (PMA) have signed an agreement to ensure that their standards will work together. Their agreement concerns common certification and coexistence rather than interoperability, which would require the backing of the Wireless Power Consortium.
These are some of the developments that have potential to influence wireless networks.
Researchers at North Carolina State University have created software they call WiFox that raises the bandwidth priority allocated to an access point over a channel as the length of the queue of data waiting to be transferred to stations over that channel increases. They claim this increasingly improves overall data throughput over a single channel for increasing numbers of connected stations. WiFox essentially ensures access point channel use in high-population environments by overriding station use of the channel.
High gain high frequency antennas
The Institute of Microelectronics in Singapore says it has developed a silicon based antenna measuring only 1.6mm by 1.2mm with a gain of 5.68dBi at 135GHz that should be amenable to mass production. They claim this antenna can support wireless transfer speeds of up to 20Gbps.
Spatial separation of information
An American company called IDair has developed a fingerprint reader that works at 2 metres and is working on readers with longer ranges. Fingerprint information can be combined with other at-a-distance readable information such as face, iris, retina, and gait recognition to automate recognition of a people. A number of gaming systems are also using human movement as control information. Eye tracking is about to be commercialised to add another control interface. Obviously these are all based on image recognition, which is an example of spatially separated information using light as a carrier. Gait, movement recognition, and eye tracking combine spatially separated information with temporally separated information. Combinations of spatially and temporally modulated information increase the potential to transmit very large amounts of information rather than just relying on shortening switching time. This has already been used to a limited extent by the most recent WiFi standards that allow spatial separation to be used to differentiate between communication endpoints. Although this kind of wireless network has already produced some interesting products it is still very much in its infancy and should produce some surprising and potent products.
The Li-Fi Consortium is a non-profit organization promoting the use of light as a data carrier i.e. optical wireless communication (OWC). High data densities are easier to achieve with light than radio waves, so low cost high throughput is easier too. Also there is a broad spectrum of unlicensed frequencies to choose from. Light as a data carrier is also useful in electromagnetically sensitive areas, it can be energy efficient, can be made highly directional, and can be easy to contain in well defined areas. It is even possible to modulate light used for normal illumination purposes. Standards need to be developed before OWC attains significant use.
There is obviously big potential for LiFi as it extends the capabilities of existing technology which is ubiquitous. It could be useful in the concept of Myrmidon APs. A company called pureLiFi is attempting commercialise Li-Fi. They are a spin-out from research into visible light communication at the University of Edinburgh.
Extremely short pulse laser light has been developed and is capable of carrying large amounts of information. A characteristic of light is of course that it does not penetrate solid objects, but is reflected. Reflection can be used to reach around obstacles. In an interesting recent development different arrival times of short laser light pulses reflected from surfaces were used to calculate the position of multiple surfaces and so to build up a spatial representation of them - so they can be used to image an interior. Using this technique it is even possible to build up an image of hidden surfaces if reflected light can get there and back to sensors - i.e. see around corners. Although no consumer or business class products are using this technology yet, we should expect to see some interesting uses of it in a wireless local area network (WLAN) and indeed other applications.
DragonWave Inc has announced modulation modes of up to 2048 QAM on its Horizon packet microwave products. Quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM) is a scheme for encoding information in carrier waves. 2048 QAM is a high encoding rate that increases transfer rates at the expense of sensitivity to interference. Dragonwave claim to be "the first packet microwave supplier to offer 2048 QAM radios". Their Horizon range of products provide backhaul solutions for service providers, government agencies, and enterprises. They could for example be used to bridge a corporate network between buildings. Our thanks to the daily wireless for highlighting this.
Orbital Angular Momentum is a technique for increasing the density of information transmitted at a given frequency. Experiments have shown that it can be used in practice. It is likely that engineers will be able to make commercially viable products using Orbital Angular Momentum and so make more use of our available spectrum.