This week I traveled to San Diego to meet with Qualcomm, and they had an impressive showing of their near term wireless advantages. One of the points the company made was that it has a substantial advantage because it makes both the radio and the modem for solutions, so the result is far more optimized and integrated than the typical multi-vendor approach. This vertically integrated approach is an advantage they are just starting to talk about but speaks to why they are the default wireless technology vendor for premium devices.
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Let’s talk about some of the changes we are likely to see in the near-term future as Qualcomm’s latest solutions make it into tablets, smartphones, PCs and wearable devices.
Conferences and Events Will Suck Less
There are three synergistic technologies coming to market with the next wave. They are 5G, Wi-Fi 6 and Millimeter Wave, which is truly cutting-edge. Combining these things with Qualcomm’s secret sauce, the firm demonstrated that it could pack more people into a big event and avoid the massive performance degradation you now get when you are in a crowd. These advancements mean, when deployed, your smartphone, tablet, and wearable device will connect more reliably, have good data rates from both consuming and transmitting data, be more secure and last longer off a charger.
Qualcomm showcased how an older access point or one using a competing technology drops in an individual performance like it went off a cliff as loading increases. It surprises me when I can get any data performance at all in an event. But with current Wi-Fi 6, the degradation is far more gradual, and its ability to handle far larger numbers of users increases significantly to a point where the result should not only be useful, it should allow us to better stream the event or access resources while we are at it. This performance improvement could be huge for those of us who cover events.
Granted, you’ll likely see the greatest advancements in the coming wave of premium devices because they will get the strongest set of new features, but that should help these devices better justify their premium prices.
Virtual Telepresence Becomes a Thing
When you can wirelessly connect AR glasses, you can not only use the embedded camera to communicate better what you are seeing you can see remote collaborators as if they are there in the room with you. Granted, for a truly immersive and realistic experience, you’ll need a lot of backend processing power to correctly render and place the image, but the result should be amazing. Imagine your kid at college being able to virtually visit you in your office, or your remote doctor virtually enter your bedroom, use the bedroom’s sensors to check up on you, and save you a trip to their office.
Imagine being able to walk and talk with your parents after they have passed away as their personalities are recreated by a remote AI, and their images, just as you remembered them, appear near you. Several firms are working on the digitization of people, but the ability to project high-definition AR images realistically into your space should be a game-changer for telepresence.
Everything Is a Sensor
One unusual disclosure is that many of the wireless devices coming to market can also act as sensors, given our bodies do impact the wireless spectrum. This advancement means you could get security camera-like solutions but without the actual cameras and without the identity risk associated with taking videos and having them stolen. These devices don’t see in the conventional sense but instead infer the presence of people and animals based on how organic material disrupts the RF field. This hidden feature reduces the need for dedicated sensors and makes auto-opening interior doors like they had on “Star Trek” for more likely by making them, potentially, far cheaper.
Not a lot on 6G yet, because it is still around a decade out, but we did get updates on the next 5G changes, and they will be impressive. Improvements in coverage, density, data rates and even more reliable connections are coming along with better wireless connections to homes and cellular towers lower the costs associated with building the towers and providing lower-cost high-speed in-home networks. Huge advancements in IoT coverage, power needs and security are coming making it very likely we’ll be up to our armpits in connected things by mid next decade. We are at the beginning of the 5G technology wave, and it is going to advance a lot before we even can begin to anticipate what 6G will be.
The future that Qualcomm is anticipating, as you’d expect, will showcase far more connected devices and other devices that can do multiple things--such as access points that have Amazon Alexa built-in that can determine whether you are in the room and can provide a lower-cost alternative to dedicated sensors. We’ll also see a ton more stuff connecting directly to the WAN network. Now imagine a future where, when you get a new connected device, it comes pre-configured, so you only have to plug it in. That may be one of the most compelling aspects of the future, and our unwanted tech support jobs may become obsolete as remote automated services take over.
The concept of devices that can also communicate with each other will have a major impact on initiatives such as autonomous driving, because when a car in front of you sees a problem, your car, miles back, can then anticipate it. Trackers can help keep your kids and pets safe, and even better help you find your keys, because they can more reliably connect to services that can more effectively locate them.
By the end of the next decade, most everything will be wirelessly connected, autoconfigured and remotely updated. I’m not sure what those of us who have been providing technical support will do with all the free time that should result. I’m sure our spouses will come up with something.
Rob Enderle is a principal at Enderle Group. He is a nationally recognized analyst and a longtime contributor to QuinStreet publications and Pund-IT.