Tag: connectivity

Internet of things to be worth trillions

Bee swarm - Wikimedia CommonsGrowth in the internet of things (IoT) could be worth as much as $1.7 trillion by 2020, according to a recent survey by market research firm IDC.

Worth $655.8 billion last year, spending by vendors and enterprises is set to proceed at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 16.9 percent in the next few years.

IDC believes that devices, connectivity and IT services will represent over two thirds of the IoT market in 2020, with modules and censors alone accounting for nearly a third of the total.

The IoT is a catch-all for technologies that include sensors, purpose built systems, storage, servers, security, analytics software, IT services and security, according to IDC’s definition.

The important thing is that systems have to be autonomous, so IDC is not counting smartphones, tablets or PCs for its predictions.

Yet, and it is a point IDC does not make, it is like the Wild West out there and there’s little or no standardisation at the moment.

Move over, Moore’s Law

Compound semiconductors are used in satellites and fibre optics and connectivity is the name of the game. That’s according to  Drew Nelson, CEO of IQE.

According to Nelson, IQE has 650 staff at 11 manufacturing operations around the world,  and has been going for 25 years. It leads in several markets and supplies half of the wafers that go into wireless devices.

Nelson said Gordon Moore, the inventor of Moore’s Law, “is a very clever fellow” and recognised a trend. Humans find ways to make things faster and cheaper and will continue, but probably in a different way over the next 20 years.  And he thinks compound semis will play a major role in this different kind of Moore’s Law.

Silicon is approaching its limits, according to Nelson, but compound semiconductors have very much more functionality and flexibility.  The material properties of compound semis are fundamentally better than silicon. From a power perspective compound semis have a clear lead over silicon.  

In compound semis you can mix all sorts of different materials together. IQE sells wafers to chip companies, and the trends driving its adoption are high speed connectivity, efficient energy, and safety and security, Nelson said.  

He said that in the third generation solar panels will be vastly more efficient than the current generation, and based on compound semis.  He believes that PV based on compound semis (CPV) will be over 50 percent efficient, compared to silicon PV at around 44 percent.

There are also big market opportunities for GaN on Si (Gallium Nitride on Silicon) in the LED market too, because of its superior switching properties and efficiencies.

MEMS, MEMS everywhere and not a drop to drink

Before long now, it will become the norm to have detailed, indoor, 3D maps – accessible on your smartphone. Using intelligent software combined with sensing equipment, particularly with Microelectricomechanical Systems, the sort of tiny devices you find in smartphones, like accelerometers.

MEMS are often just milimetres in dimension which means they can be unintrusively placed pretty much anywhere. You name it – if there is a need for something to be sensored, they have an application. As components, they may not be as sexy as the latest Snapdragon chip, but they will also be crucial for building an intelligent world wherever precision is necessary.

Stefan Finkbeiner, CEO of Bosch Sensortec GmbH, sat down with TechEye for a chat. Bosch Sensortec, currently top in terms of revenue, we’re told, is well placed in the market for a couple of reasons. It got into the market very early and its R&D is in-house, meaning it knows where it wants to go with its own designs. Because Bosch is not a microprocessor company, Finkbeiner said, all of them are potential partners for the company. Chances are, if you have one of the household name smartphones, it’s almost certain to have Bosch equipment in there.

Though the more obvious applications right now are things like your phone understanding which way it’s being held and miniature microphones, there are some pretty interesting possible use cases. For indoor mapping, Finkbeiner told us, “all the hardware is available and in the phones”, whch high end phones often shipping with a pressure sensor. This means it is a software question, but detailed indoor maps will be available to the public. If a company thought it was a good idea, they could put MEMS in a shoe to measure certain factors. Or, Finkbeiner said, you could put MEMS on clothes: you would need power and an interface but they could also be put into a wristband, glasses, or other items of clothing and you’d “have very smart navigation that can communicate with your smartphones”.

“A lot of them will go into smartphones but not just smartphones,” Finkbeiner said. They could have applications in gaming, for example with an item to wear on your head, so the console would understand precisely which direction you’re looking. On a bigger scale, this could extend to limbs. It would be possible to build MEMS into wearable items when driving a car, for example, a head display that keeps track of your line of sight.

“I’m sure a lot of cases will come up we don’t even think about now,” Finkbeiner said. There could be “security applications where you could tell when someone is opening a door and if it should be open – or on a window, even just with an accelerometer”.

Due to their precision, the tiny devices can be applied to check for vital life signs. At the MEMS Industry Group’s MEMS Congress last year, we heard from one professor who said MEMS could have an application in detecting early-onset Parkinson’s disease, as they were able to pick up tremors that would otherwise go unnoticed.

As new products come out, there will be new applications, for example, the idea of a smart watch with no display could force new sensors or applications for existing sensors. Business wise, MEMS is worth a punt at the moment: with the upcoming hype that the Internet of Things – connectivity everywhere – will build, the mini machines could be found in almost every nook and cranny.

Some MEMS barely visible, magnified, next to a 2 euro coin.

LTE networks to generate $265 billion by 2016

LTE networks are expected to reach global revenue of over $265 billion by 2016, according to analyst estimates.

The biggest subscribers of LTE will be consumers rather than in the enterprise, says a new study by Juniper Research, but enterprise will make most of the dosh. Early adopters will be the higher end users who will be making the most of the connectivity, both in developed and developing countries.

Premium service tariffs are likely to be a key driver for LTE revenues, specifically in the enterprise space where users want guaranteed connectivity.

Juniper thinks the beneficiaries of LTE off the bat will be high traffic subscribers who regularly use video, web and email services. Network providers are expected to rake in the cash and there are plenty of opportunities, the analysts say, to generate average revenue per user.

By 2016, Western Europe, North America, the Far East and China will be the largest users of LTE – making up 84 percent of total revenue globally.

LTE will quickly take up a sizeable chunk of all mobile service revenues, just over a quarter by 2016. 

Qualcomm Atheros wants to invade your home

Here at the Taipei Grand Hyatt, where it’s ten English quid for a coca cola, Qualcomm Atheros set up its briefing room right at the top. While most of our homes probably won’t have 24 floors – TechEye Towers is a modest 23 – you’ll probably be able to find a Qualcomm chipset within.

Qualcomm Atheros is really busy. It’s partnering with start-ups and established companies alike to try cement its place at the top of the connectivity ladder. Today Qualcomm talked up its upcoming Hy-Fi (apparently it stands for hybrid fidelity) and SmartLink products, which will act as both powerline and wi-fi connector in one. 

Because SmartLink uses all three wires, the line, the neutral and the ground, you can bung it into your crappiest plug and it’ll still make the best of a bad situation, Qualcomm tells us. 

Qualcomm Atheros’ SmartLink is a push towards 5GHz bandwidth, though it will support 2.4GHz too. It will use powerline technologies and Wi-Fi as one, which we’ve heard from some infrastructure experts is going to be kind of a big deal. 

Basically powerline utilises the, er, power line in your house as a connection. By running products with a Wi-Fi and powerline combo you double your chances of a good connection and if one drops that’s not that much of a problem. 5Ghz connectivity is going to be necessary, rather than a nice feature, for consumers as high definition streaming proliferates and becomes the norm. It’s on the way to standard in the enterprise and Qualcomm wants to push it to the rest of us.

Remember – connectivity boxes are not sexy but they do link up the increasing amount of gadgets and gizmos to the internet and each other.

According to Qualcomm Atheros’ Dan Rabinovitsj, SVP networking, the industry wants to move that way. Qualcomm certainly wants to make sure it’s picked up and that’s what the product push is all about. “We are driving the market in that direction,” he tells TechEye.

Critics suggest PLT needs some looking at. Recently the Civil Aviation Authority in the UK suggested PLT could cause interference on critical air systems. But “today, those problems are behind us”  says Rabinovitsj. 

“We don’t see the industry fretting about that. We can always make adjustments in a country with problems – frankly, the industry and Qualcomm are not worried.”

We did note Qualcomm was careful in its slides to say “most” interference is cut-out. Bold claims about shutting out all interference would be risky.

And will powerline be in all our homes as quick as some experts think? In five years time, says Qualcomm, we’ll be plenty over double the amount of connections now.

The response from service providers, such as Netflix, has been positive. We saw four HD films streaming at once. 

With SmartLink and Hy-Fi, Qualcomm is making a well considered, extra push into home and business networking. They’re ready for mass production now, we hear, and have been ready for some time. They will hit the market in “a couple of months”.

Internet is a fundamental human right, says world

Four in five people believe that the internet is a fundamental human right, according to a global survey.

In a study conducted by GlobeScan for the BBC, over 27,000 adults across 26 countries voted. It also asked the opinions of people in countries with no access to the net.

It found that 87 percent of respondents felt the internet was a human right, and 71 percent of these people who don’t currently use the internet believed they should have the right to access it.

The International Telecommunications Union called upon governments of the world to “regard the internet as basic infrastructure – just like roads, waste and water”.

In the survey, countries such as Mexico, Brazil and Turkey were the strongest supporters of net access as a right. More than 90 percent of those in Turkey agreeing that internet access is a fundamental right. This was more than any other European Country.

The BBC survey also questioned government oversight of some aspects of the net. The poll also found that most surfers felt that the internet should be regulated by governments. This was highest in South Korea, Mexico and Nigeria, but the majority of the Chinese and European respondents disagreed.

In the UK 55 percent believed that there should be some form of government regulation of the internet.

Nearly all of South Korea enjoys high-speed net access and 96 percent of those questioned there believed that net access was a fundamental right.

This survey will no doubt be interesting reading to the EU and the UK government.

Currently the Digital Economy Bill is in the stages of being pushed through parliament and could be law as soon as late April. The government has promised, as part of the Bill, for every household to have universal broadband in the UK by 2012.

The EU has recently launched the Internet Freedom Provision, whereby EU citizens are entitled to a “fair and impartial procedure” before any measures can be taken to limit their net access.

This is all well and good for those in Europe, but there seems to have been very little effort to help the African nations get fully connected. International bodies such as the UN are pushing for universal net access, but comparatively there has been little progress.

In figures published at the end of 2009, it is estimated that currently only around 25 percent of the 6 billion people on earth have internet access. On the African continent, less than seven percent of the population has access to the internet, according to ITU figures last year. Africa makes up just four percent of the worldwide usage.

Nelson Mandela, speaking in 1995 said: “In the twenty-first century, the capacity to communicate will almost certainly be a key human right. Eliminating the distinction between the information-rich and information-poor is also critical to eliminating economic and other inequalities between North and South, and to improve the life of all humanity.”

Finland and Estonia have already ruled that internet access is a human right for citizens.

“The right to communicate cannot be ignored,” Dr Hamadoun Toure, secretary-general of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), told BBC News. “The internet is the most powerful potential source of enlightenment ever created.”