The smart home market has had a bit of a difficult time gaining traction. A while back, I penned a missive as to why I believe this has been the case. If you are interested, go here.
There are a number of reasons why this is the case, as I discussed in that missive, including interoperability, cost, complexity, wireless platforms, and others. However, a general malaise of the platform is the current, low-tech implementation of Wi-Fi. Not the technology itself, that has some great new features, but its ability to scale.
Wi-Fi networks are small cell. And, while they can propagate several hundred feet, the real trick is to have good signal strength throughout the desired coverage area. That has been a major issue with Wi-Fi networks – signal strength throughout the cell to maintain decent data rates (and eliminate dead zones).
Attempts to address that have come in the form of adding wired or wireless access points or routers. That can work well but often requires a complicated setup. In addition, there are issues with Wi-Fi performance if not all the equipment is of the same standards. However, none of this works well with the smart home market.
Wi-Fi mesh networks have been moving to the center of the radar screen, of late. Using Wi-Fi mesh technology, to simplify smart home systems, is being seen as a new opportunity that may give the sluggish market some oomph!
Why mesh networks might work is because, unlike traditional range extending schemes, mesh technology is smart. It is based on the IEEE Standard 802.11s-2011 mesh networking amendment, on top of the IEEE 802.11 specifications document.
For example, it allows the connected devices to do dynamic handover, among nodes, based on signal strength. In addition, it is capable of allowing connections from legacy station devices. This leads to some interesting possibilities. For example, one is a radar-like ability to map the interior of the home. Smart mesh networks can then localize functions. If one is in the kitchen and wants to turn on the lights, smart networks know the location of the voice command, and can send the command to the location where the voice is located.
With motion sensors, such networks can also support gesture and voice user interfaces (UIs). Both UIs are integrated into their operating system. Such localized capability extends to room components (video, audio) doors, windows/window coverings; virtually any object within a room.
Vendors are seeing the opportunity here and developing unobtrusive, small, aesthetically pleasing nodes that can be placed anywhere around the house. If the controlled item has the corresponding interface (such as walled-in motors for doors and windows, sensors, and radios in electronics) much of the environment can be, autonomously, controlled. This works for both programmed modes and common action modes (such as closing a window when it begins to rain).
One the most intriguing elements of smart home Wi-Fi mesh networks is their ability to function autonomously. Functions such as self-organizing, self-optimizing, and self-healing are built in.
Going forward, such mesh networks have the potential to become, relatively, sophisticated. By integrating AI, interaction is taken to the next level. Security, for example, can become biometric, not just fingerprints, but retina, voice, and even the more sophisticated ones such as veinous mapping.
In addition, tracking, data analysis and prediction, such as what the Amazon, Google and other devices currently do, is on the horizon, but with much more sophisticated algorithms.
Combining AI and RF has far-reaching implications in next-generation Wi-Fi mesh networks. Device convergence with QoS metrics for latency-sensitive clients (medical devices, for example) can be accomplished. Overall, couple this with 5G, and the smart home might just get some legs.
Executive Editor/Applied Wireless Technology
His 20-plus years of editorial experience includes being the Editorial Director of Wireless Design and Development and Fiber Optic Technology, the Editor of RF Design, the Technical Editor of Communications Magazine, Cellular Business, Global Communications and a Contributing Technical Editor to Mobile Radio Technology, Satellite Communications, as well as computer-related periodicals such as Windows NT. His technical writing practice client list includes RF Industries, GLOBALFOUNDRIES, Agilent Technologies, Advanced Linear Devices, Ceitec, SA, and others. Before becoming exclusive to publishing, he was a computer consultant and regularly taught courses and seminars in applications software, hardware technology, operating systems, and electronics. Ernest’s client list has included Lucent Technologies, Jones Intercable, Qwest, City and County of Denver, TCI, Sandia National Labs, Goldman Sachs, and other businesses. His credentials include a BS, Electronic Engineering Technology; A.A.S, Electronic Digital Technology. He has held a Colorado Post-Secondary/Adult teaching credential, member of IBM’s Software Developers Assistance Program and Independent Vendor League, a Microsoft Solutions Provider Partner, and a life member of the IEEE. He has been certified as an IBM Certified OS2 consultant and trainer; WordPerfect Corporation Developer/Consultant and Lotus Development Corporation Developer/Consultant. He was also a first-class FCC technician in the early days of radio. Ernest Worthman may be contacted at: email@example.com.
Today, I am writing you about advances in “MU-MIMO.” No, this isn’t a new sushi dish that some talented sushi chef created recently. Multi-User-Multiple-in Multiple-out (try saying that fast three times) is a development that promises to put Wi-Fi on the fast track to solve the Wi-Fi issues that happen when networks get loaded up with users.
It has been around for a several years (it was added to the 802.11ac spec in 2013 but is finally catching some wind, mainly due to advances in router chipsets allowing routers to handle up to four MIMO streams (we are talking enterprise-class, 802.11ac routers for now).
Most of us are aware that Wi-Fi’s biggest bane is loading. Since the standard Wi-Fi router configuration is a serial sequencer, it can only handle one device at a time – very quickly, mind you, but it is a single task process. Even with MIMO that is true. With few users, that process is fairly transparent and speeds remain acceptable. But once it gets a lot of users, the bandwidth per user gets narrower and narrower, eventually showing up as the dreaded slow Internet. This is the Single-User MIMO (SU-MIMO) spec of 802.11ac.
So MU-MIMO alleviates that bottleneck, to some degree. It isn’t a cure-all, since it can only handle four streams maximum, but that is a 400 percent increase (theoretically). But in reality, most real-world tests show between 80 percent and 200 percent improvement in Mbps data throughput – generally sufficient to keep decent speeds in all but the most extreme loading cases. This will play well for denser, multiple-user, Wi-Fi networks. And that is not just for the commercial market. By 2020,the average home will have as many as 20, or more, Wi-Fi connected devices, according to ABI and Machine Research.
What makes MU-MIMO exciting is that it can increase performance appreciably without any modifications or changes to the basic bandwidth structure. However, the functionality is quite different.
SU-MIMO can support up to four spatial streams, scalable up to 16 dimensions. However, its biggest drawback is that it requires multiple antennas at both ends. It also places the burden of the signal processing on the client.
MU-MIMO makes the router the intelligent component. The intelligence and processing burden now takes place in the router. Signal processing is also now done in the router.
MU-MIMO also implements beamforming. That is a huge game changer because it directs transmission to the specific antenna determined by intelligent algorithms. Simultaneously, it nulls other antennas. It also has advanced signaling in the packets, which identify the MU group, the modulation used and the client’s address.
This is a nice uptick for much of the aging Wi-Fi infrastructure. As Wi-Fi use continues to expand, it will also become more congested. Incremental improvements such as MU-MIMO help to keep up with the pace. Something as simple as replacing a router is a fast and easy fix as we wait for gigabit Wi-Fi.
By Ernest Worthman…
The idea that a SIM card is the intelligence in a cellular infrastructure was a stroke of genius. It makes changing out devices, roaming across networks and access control a truly beautiful thing. So, it makes sense that this model is being adapted to carrier Wi-Fi hotspots.
Iteration 2.0 of the Wi-Fi hotspot technology is being rolled out with promising results. They are able to use the cellular SIM cards to authenticate and logon, providing a seamless experience similar to the experience in a roaming cellular network.
Reports are starting to come in about carriers who have implemented this technology seeing amazing increases in statistic. At least one Tier 1 mobile carrier has seen its monthly Wi-Fi sessions explode.
This carrier reports an increase of nearly 20 times the number of monthly Wi-Fi sessions in the first two years, according to RCR News, and more than 10 times the number of Wi-Fi users per month in three years. The hotspot authentication process relies on the device’s own SIM card for authentication rather than having to log in, making the transition seamless.
What is interesting about this is that many of the devices that successfully roam do not, natively, support SIM Wi-Fi authentication. It appears that this carrier has come up with a success formula that works with seemingly incompatible hardware.
It stands to reason that users will flock to systems that allow Wi-Fi roaming. It means they will have a much better customer experience, which will, in turn, increase usage and perhaps offer the carrier some opportunity to generate revenue. With seamless Wi-Fi roaming, there is belief that users will accept some sort of advertising across the network to be able to stay connected while roaming. This has not been tried yet but the concept is on the table.
The anonymous carrier has seen a 10-fold increase in sessions – 500,000 to 5 million in the first year. The second year that doubled to 10 million. When its third year has been analyzed at the end of this month, it expects the number to double again, to 20 million sessions per month.
If these numbers are indeed true, and there is no real reason to doubt them, the predictions that carrier Wi-Fi SIM authenticated session will have an annual growth rate of 1,000 percent or more as other carriers adopt the model. And, according to Torbjorn Ward, Aptilo Networks’ CEO, in a statement. “We are seeing more and more carriers leveraging mobile data offloading with SIM authentication to generate revenue. Seamless Wi-Fi offloading combined with a carrier-class Wi-Fi service is becoming the gold standard for mobile operators worldwide.
From: 8:00 am – To: 4:00 pm
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Marriott Atlanta Buckhead
The conference will take place at the Marriott Atlanta Buckhead
3405 Lenox Road NE, Atlanta, GA 30326
Hotel Rooms are available at 149.00 plus tax, the rate is available until February 21, 2013.
Please call 888.855.7741 and mention “AGL Regional Conference” click here to reserve a room.
*Subject to change
|5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.||Meet other attendees at the cash bar reception in the Marriott from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., the evening before the conference. Sponsored by TE Connectivity.
|8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m.||Networking
Welcome: Rich Biby
|9:00 a.m to 10:00 a.m.||Site Acquisition: Where Will All the Wireless Go?You have all heard the statistics on wireless growth, but where will all these antennas and nodes be located? This session will teach you how to meet the zoning challenges and take advantage of the opportunities in innovative antenna siting. Stay on top of the trends in siting macrocells, microcells and DAS, whether it is a greenfield development or on rooftops or on street furniture. Our panel of experts will fill you in on the best practices in siting on federal properties, churches and schools.
|10:00 a.m. to 10:55 a.m.||Wireless Business Trends Roundtable This session will scrutinize the business side of the wireless industry, from tower brokerage to Wall Street to carrier class Wi-Fi. Stay up to date on the critical factors that have an impact on our industry, whether it is the latest mergers, cash infusions or LTE deployment news. You will learn where the opportunities are to increase your profits, whether you own towers or integrate wireless systems.
|11:00 p.m. to 12:00 p.m.||LTE and the Art of Achieving and Maintaining Tower Integrity With LTE systems rolling out at a furious pace, can proper equipment installations keep up? This session will teach you a wide range of best practices for deploying equipment on towers and keeping them in working order. Plus, keys for keeping tower climbers safe.
|12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m.||Lunch|
|1:00 p.m.to 2:15 p.m.||Small Cell, DAS, Wi-Fi – the New Wireless Frontier While it goes by different names – metrocell, picocell, microcell, DAS node and carrier-grade Wi-Fi – the result is the same, increased capacity and coverage enhancement. You will learn the latest technology trends in the deployment of multiple, smaller coverage area nodes. Additionally, you will learn the market drivers. All of which are critical to playing in this quickly evolving space.
|2:15 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.||Vertical Markets: Fertile Ground for Small-cell Technology Through case studies and analysis, learn about niche markets where small-cell technology will thrive. The healthcare space is rife with possibilities for wireless, whether it is connecting smart phones indoors, accessing electronic medical records or monitoring medical telemetry systems. Bringing smaller cells – whether DAS, Wi-Fi or small cell – to campuses and stadiums is also a challenging, high-profile venture. Come hear how to overcome the challenges in these complex yet most lucrative environments.
Alvarion has unveiled a new business strategy and multi-technology wireless broadband product portfolio. The end-to-end portfolio now addresses Wi-Fi access solutions, as well as the other needs of the wireless Internet service provider (WISP) market. Also part of its turnaround business strategy was recapitalizing by selling its patent portfolio for $19 million in earlier this month.
With the WIMAX market in flux, Alvarion has looked to expand its reach into the in-building wireless market. In October of last year, it introduced the BreezeCell flat-architecture, active indoor DAS. Additionally, it has been integrating two companies it purchased in the last year, Clariton Networks and Wavion. Alvarion purchased Clariton, an Israeli company that develops communications equipment and infrastructure to deliver cellular voice and data to homes in May 2011. With the acquisition of Wavion in November 2011, Alvarion picked up the WBSn family of Gigabit outdoor Wi-Fi base stations operating in the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz unlicensed bands.
“We always had Wi-Fi but we expanded the portfolio to include a complete end-to-end carrier-grade Wi-Fi family that covers indoor, outdoor and 3G offload,” said Gil Shacham, senior director of marketing, Alvarion.
Today, a wireless vendor must provide multiple technology platforms to be successful in meeting the needs of its customers, Shacham said.
“As a wireless vendor, we recognize that our customers use licensed and non-licensed spectrum. Our business is to deliver solutions that address these diverse telecom needs,” Shacham said. “Therefore, our multi-technology platform (Wi-Fi, WiMAX, cellular) offers a comprehensive, flexible solution that meets our customers’ needs and allows us to expand into new markets where the value of wireless is being recognized.”
The additional small cell product lines allow Alvarion to expand its markets to compete in the education, smart city, public safety/video surveillance, transportation, oil and gas, mining, and hospitality industries, as well as providing public hot spots.
Mike Cowan, president of Wireless Connections, a WISP, said he supported Alvarion’s multi-technology platform and business turnaround efforts. “Streamlining sales and product development for a more efficient go-to market strategy is already beginning to show results,” he said. “Our book of business in the traditional ISP/telco space is showing strong growth in new projects. We are also seeing significant development in alternate markets such as rail, government and military.”