Posts tagged wireless

5 IoT innovations that can’t advance without wireless power

wireless, internet, wlan

Until wireless power goes mainstream, the Internet of Things (IoT) will fail to reach its potential. And by “wireless power,” I don’t mean the power pads that masquerade as wireless chargers. True wireless power eliminates the need for all power cables and contact. It resembles Wi-Fi in its ubiquity, safety, and range.

Essentially, there’s a conflict between the proliferation of IoT and our ability to power it. In five areas of innovation, wireless power could enable dozens of technologies that are otherwise unfeasible:

1. Home

Question: how many devices in your home require power? Count up everything that has batteries or power cables.

At my home, I count 130 devices, 90 of which are sensors in the security system. For comparison, as a kid in the 1970s, my home had two such devices: a transistor radio and flashlight. As innovators put computing in every “dumb” device, from , my 130 count is going to skyrocket.

That sounds like good news for companies that make surge protector power strips and batteries. In reality, it’s bad news for IoT innovators because consumers won’t bother with powering 500 devices – unless they can do it wirelessly, with zero effort. 

2. Industrial

In a modern factory, loss of power to a single sensor can shut down the plant. Currently, factories power thousands of sensors with wires, but this has two shortcomings.

First, industrial-grade sensors cost roughly $50 while the wiring job can easily cost $1,000. Thus, installing and reconfiguring sensors is a heavy expense. Second, wired sensors don’t have backup power. If the wire fails, the sensor fails. These sensors are considered “wireless” since they communicate wirelessly, but nevertheless, they still need wired power today.

Wireless power would slash the installation cost and introduce redundancy. You can put two wireless power transmitters in range of each sensor, and if one transmitter fails, the sensor could switch to the backup. The cost of the transmitters would be a fraction of the cost of the wiring that’s installed today.

3. Retail

Today, the aisles in most stores are low-tech. Employees manually change paper price tags and post specials. In the few stores that use digital price tags, you can only modify them once or twice a day for one year before the battery dies (and again, wires would be impractical for a constantly shifting product positioning in the store).

Wireless power solves the problem. IoT price tags could automatically change as often as is optimal, and the staff wouldn’t need to constantly replace batteries as price tags black out. On wirelessly powered price tag screens, retailers could offer personalized ads and deals to create a new revenue stream.

4. Healthcare

Hospitals are starting to swap old-school stethoscopes and thermometers for mobile, IoT equivalents. Frankly, smart stethoscopes can tell doctors more about your heart than ears and intuition, and such devices can automatically transfer readings to patient records. Handheld ultrasound scanners, too, can capture information that used to require more time and expense.

But, if IoT medical devices can conk out, their use is limited. Healthcare organizations can’t risk leaving their staff underequipped to treat patients. Wireless power would eliminate that risk.

5. Wearables

Some entrepreneurs would like to create IoT wardrobes. Watches, shirts, hats, and socks are just the beginning. Today though, all wearables need to be charged with a power cord. Charging a single IoT smartwatch is one thing. Charging 50 wearables without wireless power is unviable.

This is especially true if people use wearables for health purposes. Most diabetics manually draw blood to test their glucose levels and then use a needle and syringe to inject insulin. While it would nice to switch to an IoT glucose monitor and automated insulin pump, who would risk their life on AAs or a rechargeable battery?

Cut the cables

If there is a tipping point for mass IoT adoption, we won’t reach it without true wireless power that works as easily as Wi-Fi. These popular areas of IoT innovation will remain pipedreams until we cut the last cable. Once we can take wireless power for granted the way we take Wi-Fi for granted, the Internet of Things can reach its potential.

The author is the CTO and Founder of Ossia.

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Outdated thinking on wireless could cripple UK smart cities

Concept of fast or instant shipping, Online goods orders worldwide

The former head of U.K. mobile telecoms giant O2 warns an antiquated “analog” mindset among government could stunt the development of smart cities.

Ronan Dunne mused on the challenges facing smart cities in the U.K. He recently left his role as head of Telefónica’s U.K. mobile subsidiary O2 to take over Verizon’s wireless unit.

See also: Who are smart cities initiatives actually benefiting?

Dunne said that the U.K. government needs to make it easier to roll out next generation mobile communications infrastructure. The consequences of lagging in 5G advancements could hamper the development of smart cities and related technology like connected cars.

“In the longer-term, we will forget this stupid debate about rolling out fibre cables,” said Dunne. “The UK taxpayers have to pay BT for digging holes in the ground which doesn’t make a lot of sense in this day and age.”

Many mobile operators have pushed for changes to the Electronic Communications Code (ECC) for years, and are lobbying for coverage in the impending Digital Economy Act.

The next stage of wireless

5G is the proposed next stage of wireless communications standards. Though it is currently in development, it is seen as a necessary evolution from the current 4G systems.

This is due to the massive increases in wireless data that are already flowing thanks to the advent of Internet of Things (IoT) technology.

IoT sensors form the backbone of smart city strategies, with everything from streetlights to manhole covers generating data that needs to be transmitted, analyzed and utilized.

Many telecoms experts have opined that 5G’s future role as IoT enabler will create new revenue streams for operators.

However, there have been doubts raised that the introduction of new the 5G infrastructure will be ultimately advantageous to telecommunication firms. New Street Research partner Andrew Entwistle warned earlier this year that 5G will not offer “any business case for a telecoms operator.”

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AT&T Labs unveils wireless broadband over power lines

The silhouette of the evening electricity transmission pylon

In a technological advance that could drastically extend the global reach of wireless web access, AT&T Labs unveiled a project to deliver ultra-fast wireless broadband over power lines.

The research and development wing of U.S. communications giant AT&T unveiled Project AirGig today. The company said the project is still deep in the experimentation stage but the first field trials are expected in 2017.

This technology aims to supply broadband anywhere there are power lines. The consequence of using such electrical infrastructure could enable high-speed connectivity for significant numbers of underserved and remote communities around the world.

AT&T says that this technology can run over license-free spectrum as it delivers ultra-fast wireless internet to homes and connected devices. And as it relies on using power line infrastructure, it says this connectivity will be easier to deploy than fiber.

The technology allows you to roll out a low-cost broadband solution in underserved areas “like a bit of a mesh network,” says AT&T chief strategy officer, John Donovan. He added he expects the first network to be up and running around 2020.

Cost issues for bringing new broadband “can’t just mean installing new equipment” in line with Moore’s Law, he said, adding that existing infrastructure needs to be leveraged.

The technology promises to provide the speedy web connectivity without requiring any direct electrical connection to the power line. AT&T adds that Project AirGig will provide last-mile connectivity without the deployment of any new fiber-to-the-home.

AT&T filed hundreds of patents

As part of the development of its new technology, AT&T has filed over 100 patents or patent applications related to Project AirGig.

Among its patent pending technologies, AT&T Labs created low-cost plastic antennas and devices that regenerate signals along the length of the power lines. These can accommodate 4G LTE and 5G multi-gigabit mobile and fixed deployments.

The flexibility of the technology allows the use of distributed antenna systems or small cells, which avoids requiring new buried cables or towers.

Beyond providing high-speed connectivity to many isolated and underserved customers, the company says utilities can also benefit from piggybacking the AirGig technology on their power lines.

It said that the new technology could provide allow the utilities to roll out new smart-grid applications and also enable new capabilities for power line integrity monitoring.

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White House offers $400 million in research for next-gen wireless

Telecommunications antenna tower for radio, television and telephony with beautiful blue sky.

Wireless broadband is an essential part of the United States’ digital infrastructure. Millions of Americans are presently connected to 4G and LTE networks, but with a swarm of new IoT devices demanding resources from these networks, the White House is taking steps to give development of a new generation of wireless devices a boost.

The Advanced Wireless Research Initiative was announced by the White House and includes a $400 million in investment in 5G technology. The initiative will be led by the National Science Foundation (NSF) building on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Spectrum Frontiers vote which took place this past week.

From the official statement from the White House announcing the initiative:

That vote made the United States the first country in the world to make vast quantities of high-frequency millimeter wave spectrum available for both licensed and unlicensed use. This spectrum, in combination with other spectrum already available, promises to enable faster speeds, quicker response times (“lower latency”), and increased capacity in future wireless networks.

5G wireless technology is expected to have the bandwidth to house a lot more devices than the current leading networks. With greater speed and lower latency, this network will be able to scale to include a massive number of new connected devices as subscribers add them to their home and person.

Is 5G impacting wireless carrier profitability?

For wireless carriers that have already invested billions into research and testing on their existing and growing 4G LTE networks, and concern over the profitability of providing services for IoT and other next-generation connected devices, there is limited financial incentive for them to spend massive amounts on developing a new network technology.

Its in this that the White House hopes the Advanced Wireless Research Initiative will step in by funding the research necessary to develop efficient systems management strategies that form a base blueprint for wireless network providers to build their own solutions.

Once 5G networks are made available, they are expected to enable carriers to offer speeds that meet or exceed 100 times the speed of presently-available 4G LTE.

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