Researchers at the University of Washington have made strides in the eternal problem of WiFi power management that could lead to power efficiencies of up to 10,000 times over conventional WiFi.
Passive WiFi, as it has been dubbed (because you can breathe it in through other people’s WiFi smoke?), works just like the tech you’re used to but requires a mere 10-50 microwatts of power.
Instead of having an entire WiFi network chattering at each other, Passive WiFi works by having a single beacon and with each device containing passive sensors.
The Passive WiFi web page explained: “Our experimental evaluation shows that passive WiFi transmissions can be decoded on off-the-shelf smartphones and WiFi chipsets over distances of 30-100 feet in various line-of-sight and through-the-wall scenarios.”
Passive WiFi doesn’t transmit anything itself, unlike a mesh system used by home automation networks like ZigBee and Z-Wave, or the forthcoming Bluetooth meshing system. It simply bounces and mirrors using a process that the students have called “backscattering” which it is claimed is 1,000 times more efficient than any of the three mesh networks.
So will we see a sudden jump in the efficiency of our mobile devices? The short answer is no. Backscattering is an entirely new concept that requires compatible chips. It’s comparable to WiFi Direct, in that it’s not a given that it’ll work just because there’s WiFi involved.
What it does mean, though, is that if the idea turns into something bigger, the limitation on the devices that could support WiFi are removed as it will mean that tiny devices could become WiFi-compatible with no discernible power drain.
But hold up, this isn’t a viable alternative to conventional WiFi either. Passive WiFi currently runs at around 11Mbps, which is faster than Bluetooth, but is equal to WiFi running 802.11b (remember that?), because that’s exactly what it is.
As such there’ll also need to be refinement and filtering because 802.11b is a fairly inefficient protocol that can cause problems with more modern versions.
So while we’re not at some impending WiFi revolution, this lab experiment paves the way for WiFi to get back in the game in terms of being an overarching one-size-fits-all protocol for the IoT era.
The technology that makes it possible is called g.Fast. Step by step, chipmakers and equipment manufacturers are getting it ready for large-scale commercial services that are expected to arrive next year.
After getting the network equipment to work, vendors are increasingly focusing on the modems.
Alcatel-Lucent has launched the 7368 ISAM residential gateway, which uses g.Fast and 802.11ac to offer speeds surpassing 750Mbps, the company said. The product has four Gigabit Ethernet ports and two USB 3.0 ports. It can also be used to deliver broadband over VDSL2. The thinking is that operators can offer VDSL2 today and then upgrade to G.fast.
Sckipio, meanwhile, has announced a new line of G.fast reference designs to support G.fast modems inside an SFP (small form-factor pluggable) module. This approach lets modem manufacturers develop products that aren’t tied to one access technology, and also makes upgrades easier. Sckipio has also developed a reference design for an affordable modem.
Neither company offered any details on pricing and shipping.
The speed increase offered by g.Fast is needed for applications such as streaming 4K video (and in the future, 8K video), IPTV, cloud-based storage, and HD video calls. At the International CES trade show in January, Sckipio demonstrated G.fast’s ability to carry 4K TV.
Operators backing g.Fast include British Telecom, Telekom Austria and Swisscom.
A range of fixed, cable and mobile operators have started or are planning upgrades to 802.11ac, the fastest Wi-Fi technology yet, according to market research company IHS. By this time next year, a noticeable number of hotspots will use it, said research director Richard Webb, who is conducting a survey to pinpoint operator plans.
Overall operator spending on Wi-Fi networks in 2015 is expected to increase by 88 percent year-on-year.
Networks based on 802.11ac are faster because of features such as MIMO (multiple-input multiple-output) and beamforming. MIMO uses multiple antennas at the same time to increase data speeds, while beamforming aims the signal at the user to improve performance.
British Telecom and Boingo Wireless have already started to upgrade. There is a drive toward 802.11ac as public venues upgrade and get more serious about the role of Wi-Fi in their networks, according to Boingo. It has upgraded hotspots at airports, while BT has focused on hotels. For example, London hotels Every Piccadilly and Amba Charing Cross offer expected speeds of 196Mbps and 175Mbps using BT technology, according to Hotelwifitest.com.
The actual speeds that users get depend on a number of factors, including distance to the access point, the number of users on the network, and the number of antennas in their smartphone, tablet or laptop.
However, the upgrade to 802.11ac isn’t just about higher speeds.
The so-called Wave 2 of the technology adds a feature called multiuser-MIMO, which will help remove bottlenecks by allowing networks to transmit data to many users simultaneously instead of just one at a time. Public hotspots have the most to gain from using MU-MIMO, because they handle more users than home networks and a majority of enterprise WLANs. However, for MU-MIMO to work, networks as well as clients have to be upgraded.
Ruckus Wireless is seeing growing interest for 802.11ac. It was, along with Cisco Systems and Huawei Technologies, one of the biggest vendors of carrier Wi-Fi equipment last year, according to IHS. Some mobile operators and cable operators have already certified its newer equipment for deployment, while others are still in the process of doing that, Ruckus said.
A Paris Court earlier this week ordered Google France and its parent company Google to pay plaintiff Bottin Cartographes 500,000 euros (about $660,000) for providing its free mapping services to companies across the country. The court also required Google to pay a 15,000 euro fine for its practice.
“We proved the illegality of (Google’s) strategy to remove its competitors,” Jean-David Scemmama, attorney for Bottin Cartographes, a company that provides mapping services to the enterprise, told the AFP in an interview earlier this week. “The court recognized the unfair and abusive character of the methods used and allocated Bottin Cartographes all it claimed. This is the first time Google has been convicted for its Google Maps application.”
According to Scemmama, Bottin has been arguing its case against Google for two years, claiming the search giant was engaging in anticompetitive practices by using its free service to take control over the online-mapping industry.
In a statement to the AFP, Google said that it will appeal the court’s decision, adding that Google Maps is still facing competition in that market.
Late last year, Google Maps also came under fire in the U.S., after British Telecom filed a lawsuit against the search giant in a Delaware District Court, claiming the mapping service violates patents it holds related to navigation information.
British Telecommunications has filed a civil lawsuit in a Delaware court alleging that some Google products and services including Android, and its search, music, map, and location-based advertising infringe several of its patents.
The British company entered a request last Thursday before the United States District Court for the District of Delaware for an injunction against Google, as well as unspecified damages, which could be tripled if proven that Google’s alleged infringement of the patents was willful and deliberate. BT has also asked for a trial by jury.
The BT patents said to have been infringed include service provision system for communication networks, navigation information system, storage and retrieval of location based information in a distributed network of data storage devices, telecommunications apparatus and method, and communications node for providing network based information services.
Google Music and Android were cited by BT as examples of Google’s violation of U.S. Patent No. 6,151,309 for service provision system for communication networks, also referred to in the suit as the Busuioc patent. This patent is “directed to systems and methods for accessing content in a mobile environment where network constraints vary across networks”.
Intellectual property analyst Florian Mueller wrote in his blog that with so many major patent holders asserting their rights, obligations to pay royalties may force Google to change its Android licensing model and pass royalties on to device makers. Android is at the center of a number of patent disputes involving large companies including Oracle and Apple.
Google was not immediately available for comment on the suit.
AT&T also said that it will be able to use Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 mobile phones to display U-Verse movies and access broadband service accounts. U-verse uses your telephone line to deliver broadband connectivity, much like a digital subscriber line (DSL). It can also deliver live or pre-recorded movie and TV show programming over the same connection, using Microsoft’s IPTV software.
In 2007, Bill Gates announced with great fanfare at the Consumer Electronics Show that you would be able to use your Xbox 360 as a set-top box of the company’s Microsoft TV IPTV platform. That meant that phone companies such as AT&T would be able to use the Xbox 360 to deliver TV services over broadband networks, cutting into the monopoly of cable TV companies. British Telecom rolled out the first IPTV over the Xbox 360 in 2008.
Now it will happen in the U.S. for the first time. AT&T’s U-verse TV and web service will be able to use the Xbox 360 as a set-top box. Customers of AT&T U-verse will be able to get access to this feature on Oct. 15. Then the actual consumer use of that feature will be activated on Nov. 7.
To use the Xbox 360 as a set-top box, you have to have a version with a hard disk drive. Then the Xbox 360 essentially becomes a receiver for U-Verse TV programming. The web-connected Xbox 360 receives the cable TV-like programming over your U-Verse telephone broadband line and then the Xbox 360 displays the show on your TV. With this solution, you don’t have to pay AT&T to rent a set-top box for a monthly fee. But you do have to pay $99 for a kit.
For homes that are in U-verse territory, you can get U-verse subscription TV and internet service without having to get a set-top box. Consumers will now be able to watch U-verse’s live TV service on the Xbox 360. U-verse will also release a mobile app on Nov. 7 to make U-verse TV shows available on Windows Phone 7 devices. That will enable U-verse programming to be available nationwide. If you have U-verse service, the programming is free. For those who don’t have it, the subscription fee is $9.99 a month for mobile access.