The ten most anticipated advancements in wireless technologies

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By Miro Stoichev

Our world will be transformed by new wireless data technologies in five years. Internet of Things sensors will be able to operate autonomously for years, unmanned vehicles will become safe and enjoyable for passengers, wireless charging will become easy, robots and virtual assistants will be able to distinguish voices and surroundings more clearly, and geopositioning accuracy will reach one meter. There will also be fresh interior design concepts. These are the top ten exciting wireless technologies that will rule home and business networks in the future, per Gartner.

It will have even fewer cables

It will have even fewer cables

Wireless technologies have supplanted many conventional methods of communication and information transfer during the last 20 years. It is anticipated that new wireless communication technologies will surface over the next five years, serving as the foundation for the advancement of exciting new technologies like robotics, autonomous ground and aerial transportation, and medical devices.

The requirements of new generation developments are being met by refining and adapting existing wireless solutions. Conversely, there are instances where the advent of novel and highly promising technological trends necessitates the development of unique communications with particular demands on power, energy efficiency, program control, and high autonomy.

As they develop next generation enterprise architectures, experts at research firm Gartner have examined the major trends and identified the top ten wireless technologies.

1. Wireless charging at a distance

Wireless charging at a distance

Although they introduced a revolutionary element to the wearable electronics market, first-generation wireless charging systems did not achieve the widespread popularity that their manufacturers had hoped for. Users find that placing devices on the charger in a designated spot is only slightly more convenient than charging via a cable. But a number of new technologies are already available that enable devices to be charged from up to a meter away.

According to analysts, power cables for kitchen appliances as well as laptops, monitors, and portable appliances will eventually be eliminated by Long-Range Wireless Power and/or Long-Range Wireless Power systems. Over time, technology will contribute to the development of completely new interior designs for homes and workplaces.

2. Infrared detection

Additionally, wireless technologies will be used in autonomous vehicles and robots as navigation and sensing systems, like autonomous radar. There is potential for using wireless-based radar in virtual assistants, for instance, to increase voice tracking accuracy when multiple people are chatting in the same space.

Analysts predict that radar-based sensors and wireless sensing will allow for completely new kinds of Internet of Things sensors. These sensors will serve as the foundation for novel applications and services, such as object recognition and smart home interaction, as well as medical diagnostics.

3. Long-range, energy-efficient networks

Devices intended to run independently for extended periods of time can communicate with one another via Low-Power Wide-Area Networks (LPWANs). To put it another way, LPWANs are the best option for Internet of Things technology and applications.

Large-scale areas, such as entire cities or even entire nations, are covered by LPWANs. The following choices represent the current state of LPWAN technologies:

1. The 3GPP industrial group standardized the NarrowBand IoT (NB-IoT) protocol for LPWAN deployment in cellular networks;

2. For 4G/LTE communications, the 3GPP association finalized LTE-M, or Long Term Evolution for Machines;

3. LoRa – Long Range Broadband Modulation Protocol (Long Range, LoRa, LoRaWAN) – a proprietary technology for low-cost commercial LPWAN products, developed by the LoRa Alliance group of companies;

4. Sigfox: The French company Sigfox developed the Ultra Narrowband (UNB) modulation protocol, which is used to create LPWAN for the needs of utilities (such as energy and water meters) and to link low-power devices like smart watches and other sensors that send little amounts of data.

These LPWAN variations are all built around comparatively cheap chips that have extremely low power consumption. They can be used by producers of Internet of Things appliances to make low-cost, small-sized sensors, meters, trackers, and other wireless devices that run on batteries for several months or even years.

4. Networks with WiFi

High-performance home and office networks are built on top of Wi-Fi networks, and this will be the case until at least 2024. New developments will find applications for the technology beyond its conventional role. As the foundation of radar systems or a component of the upcoming two-factor authentication systems, for instance.

The inter-industry Wi-Fi Alliance announced at the end of 2018 the release of IEEE 802.11ax, a new version of the standard that was marketed as Wi-Fi 6. The new standard supports the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands and is backwards compatible with earlier iterations. The Wi-Fi 6 standard will allow devices to support OFDMA, or orthogonal frequency division multiple access. This implies that data can be transmitted synchronously at an average rate by a number of clients. Additionally, up to eight connections at up to 11 Gbps will be supported by the combined use of OFDMA and MU-MIMO. A maximum of four connections could be made using the Wi-Fi 5 standard.

Wi-Fi 6’s new Target Wake Time feature will let users schedule their sleep to conserve battery life.

With the advent of Wi-Fi 6, wireless network densities will rise dramatically, and data exchange quality will be enhanced in public spaces with high user density, such as stadiums, corporate offices, retail malls, transportation hubs, and hotels. Wi-Fi 6 is expected to launch commercially for the first time in late 2019.

5. Networks “Car Connected to Everything”

Networks Car Connected to Everything

Specialized wireless communication protocols that could offer extremely dependable and highly secure communications between vehicles as well as between vehicles and the road infrastructure were needed as autonomous (driverless) vehicles evolved and were introduced. This is how the “Vehicle (in a broader sense, “Transportation”) connected to everything” (V2X) wireless standard was created. V2X protocols support various options like security, navigation, and infotainment services in addition to their primary functions of exchanging information and status data.

Adopted in 2012, IEEE 802.11p was one of the first standards in the V2X family, allowing vehicles to communicate with each other and with infrastructure via a wireless network (V2V and V2I). The next step was the adoption of the LTE/4G cellular networks-based Cellular V2X (C-V2X) standard by the 3GPP association in 2016. This version is thought to be a viable option for the standard’s organic transition to 5G cellular networks.

Analysts predict that new cars will eventually have to be equipped with V2X support. However, models that incorporate the required standard protocols will begin to appear on the market well in advance of that time. The true potential of V2X systems will only be fully realized via 5G cellular networks.

The future dominance of 802.11p or C-V2X remains uncertain, but analysts at SNS Telecom & IT predict that worldwide investment in V2X solutions will rise by 17% annually on average between 2019 and 2022. By the end of 2022, SNS Telecom & IT projects that the global fleet of vehicles equipped with V2X-enabled solutions will number six million, and the market for V2X technologies will have grown to a value of $1.2 billion.

6. 5G (fifth generation) mobile networks

While the first 5G cellular networks were launched in 2018, the first commercial projects spanning entire countries or urban agglomerations did not begin to operate until 2019. Specifically, in April 2019, South Korea became the first country in the world to simultaneously launch three commercial 5G mobile networks nationwide. Late May saw the start of 5G network commercial operations in China.

The global rollout of 5G networks will take five to eight years, according to Gartner analysts. Fifth-generation cellular networks may occasionally be used in conjunction with Wi-Fi networks to provide a less expensive option for high-speed data transmission in crowded locations like major cities, airports, and manufacturing facilities. While 5G technology is still being developed, the majority of operators will initially concentrate on offering services for high-speed Internet access. Nevertheless, there is a lot of room for improvement with the 5G standard. Future iterations of the standard will serve as the foundation for the Internet of Things and many other applications where reducing signal latency is essential.

7. Enhanced Bluetooth tracking

The development of technologies to locate devices connected to wireless networks is one of the major trends in this field.

With the development of Next Generation Positioning (NGP), a promising new IEEE 802.11az protocol is being developed for this purpose. The final version of the IEEE 802.11az standard, which is scheduled for adoption in March 2021, will aid in the high-accuracy, one-meter tracking of connected objects. It is anticipated that 5G cellular networks in the future will come equipped with IEEE 802.11az as a standard feature.

Accurate location determination is a crucial technology that is in demand in robotics, unmanned aerial vehicles, robotic consumer marketing, logistics, and the Internet of Things.

8. Networks using millimeter waves

The frequencies used in millimeter-wave wireless networking technologies range from 30 GHz to 300 GHz, with corresponding wavelengths of 10 mm and 1 mm. The band is known as Extremely high frequency (EHF) in International Telecommunication Union (ITU) jargon.

Although the EHF band isn’t used much these days, there are big hopes for it to carry large amounts of data over short distances. Specifically, data exchange in line-of-sight conditions at a distance of up to 10 meters at frequencies of 60 GHz with a speed of up to 7 Gb/s is implied by the IEEE 802.11ad standard (commercial name of networks: WiGig).

As the need for high-bandwidth, short-range data exchange systems, like those for streaming 8K video, increases, millimeter-wave wireless technologies will become more and more common.

9. Networks of backscatter (Backscatter)

Backscatter Wi-Fi, also known as Backscatter technology, is a very low power wireless communication method that works by harnessing RF signals, specifically Wi-Fi, as a power source and then reusing the pre-existing Wi-Fi infrastructure to establish an Internet connection. Stated differently, backscatter devices use the Wi-Fi network to transmit their own data and the Wi-Fi energy to power them.

Analysts at Gartner claim that these devices’ compact size and autonomy make them the perfect choice for locations where wireless signals are already abundant.  Relatively basic Internet of Things solutions, like sensors and sensors in smart homes and offices, can be built around backscatter devices.

10. Radio Defined by Software

One of the newest and most promising wireless technologies is called Software-Defined Radio (SDR), in which the great majority of radio signal processing functions are transferred from chips to software.

Long developed and commercially available, SDR technologies have faced ongoing obstacles to further development, primarily due to their higher cost when compared to specialized radio frequency chips.

However, the benefits of software-defined wireless technology are clear: SDR systems enable the effective use of frequency ranges with any data exchange protocol over the same radio frequency path. Analysts predict that as new wireless communication protocols appear, SDR technology will become more and more popular. If new standards are implemented, flashing the software to support the new communication protocols while preserving full backward compatibility with the old protocols will suffice in place of replacing the hardware.

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