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Internet of Things June 2019 Viewpoints

Technology Analyst: Guy Garrud

Cloud Rendering

Why is this topic significant?

Cloud and edge computing could enable users to perform graphically intensive processes using relatively low-end devices.

Description

In March 2019, Google unveiled its Stadia cloud-gaming concept at the Game Developers Conference. Stadia is Google's planned service to deliver high-end-gaming experiences to users on many internet-connected devices by using cloud-based computing resources to perform the computationally intensive task of rendering high-quality graphics in real time. Google offered a limited preview of the platform in October 2018.

Google is not the only major tech company exploring the potential for cloud-based gaming. Sony already offers a cloud-gaming service, and Microsoft has announced that it is also developing a service. In May 2019, Sony and Microsoft announced that they had entered into a memorandum of understanding that the two companies will explore joint development of cloud solutions for their respective cloud-gaming services.

Microsoft already has an extensive investment in its Azure cloud-computing services. Although Azure focuses primarily on enterprise clients, the network of data centers necessary for Azure means that Microsoft already has much of the infrastructure it needs to offer low-latency streaming services to large numbers of users. In February 2019, Microsoft announced Azure Remote Rendering, which will enable even relatively simple devices such as smartphones to display high-fidelity augmented-reality "holograms."

Implications

Collaboration between Microsoft and Sony on cloud gaming is a little surprising given that the two companies are the biggest players in the gaming-console market. Their collaboration on high-end cloud gaming may be in part because Google caught them off guard with an approach that could potentially upset Sony's and Microsoft's dominant positions in the gaming market. Nevertheless, both Microsoft and Sony are deep into the product development of their next-generation gaming consoles, and a local-hardware-reliant gaming platform will likely remain the default for at least the short to medium term. Offering physical consoles that do not rely on a high-speed-internet connection greatly expands the market reach for both Sony and Microsoft in rural areas and among sets of users who may lack access to high-speed-internet connections.

Impacts/Disruptions

The barrier to entry for off-loading computationally intensive processes to the cloud is very high. In particular, applications such as gaming require low latency to keep a player's actions in sync with the rest of the game. (Autonomous vehicles could also potentially benefit from being able to use additional cloud or edge computing power but require very low latency.)

Given the importance of having a well-developed network of data centers and the associated transmission infrastructure necessary to provide such services, it is perhaps unsurprising that the main players in this market are well-established tech companies. However, this factor also means that competition in this space will likely be fierce, and the market of providers is unlikely to see significant mergers or acquisitions during the next several years.

Many IoT applications rely on companies' gathering and processing data from relatively simple devices and processing it centrally. Cloud gaming could serve to push hardware manufacturers to offer a greater range of components that prioritize central processing, which in turn can benefit companies' development of IoT applications.

Scale of Impact

  • Low
  • Medium
  • High
The scale of impact for this topic is: High

Time of Impact

  • Now
  • 5 Years
  • 10 Years
  • 15 Years
The time of impact for this topic is: 5 Years

Opportunities in the following industry areas:

Telecoms, gaming, film and television, autonomous vehicles, hardware development

Relevant to the following Explorer Technology Areas:

Wi-Fi 6 Prioritizes Multidevice Support

By David Strachan-Olson
Strachan-Olson is a consultant with Strategic Business Insights.

Why is this topic significant?

Wi-Fi has played a major role in the development of connected devices and the Internet of Things. The Wi-Fi Alliance's newest standard—Wi-Fi 6 (formally called 802.11ax)—will improve Wi-Fi's capabilities to support IoT devices.

Description

As stakeholders might expect, Wi-Fi 6 supports a theoretical data-transfer rate—9.6 gigabits per second (Gbps)—that is higher than Wi-Fi 5's 3.5 Gbps. However, the main advantage of Wi-Fi 6 over Wi-Fi 5 is a significant improvement in the way wireless access points communicate with many devices simultaneously. Wi-Fi 6 improves on the multiuser, multiple-input, multiple-output (MU-MIMO) technology in previous versions of Wi-Fi by enabling as many as eight devices to communicate with an access point simultaneously in comparison with Wi-Fi 5's four devices. Wi-Fi 6's MU-MIMO technology supports 8x8 communication (8 transmitters and 8 receivers) for downlink and 8x8 for uplink in comparison with Wi-Fi 5's 4x4 for downlink and 1x1 for uplink. In addition, Wi-Fi 6 will support orthogonal frequency-division multiple access (OFDMA), which enables routers to deliver data to multiple devices in a single transmission.

Wi-Fi 6 also has a new feature for low-power devices to reduce power consumption. Target Wake Time enables an access point and a device to schedule communications instead of having to maintain a constant connection. Wi-Fi 6 also features better security by using WPA3 instead of WPA2. Finally, Wi-Fi 6 also features a "coloring" mechanism to help coordinate transmissions from access points with overlapping coverage.

Implications

The new capabilities of Wi-Fi 6 will improve device connectivity in home, office, and industrial environments. Heavily congested networks with many connected devices will see the biggest benefits from Wi-Fi 6. In homes, Wi-Fi 6 will be able to support multiple devices all performing data-intensive tasks, such as video streaming and file uploading. Additionally, Wi-Fi 6 will improve support for the growing number of small IoT devices in the home. Some estimates indicate that by 2023, the average connected home will contain 50 connected devices. Wi-Fi 6 will also better support operations in offices and factories. The Wireless Broadband Alliance is working with Mettis Aerospace to test several industrial use cases for Wi-Fi 6. Potential applications include multistream live-video monitoring, low-latency communications with sensors on critical systems, and remote computing and rendering for augmented-reality devices.

Impacts/Disruptions

Wi-Fi 6 technologies are emerging just as 5G technologies are also coming to market. Although 5G and Wi-Fi 6 have technical differences, the two technologies have similar communication capabilities that make them competitors in many IoT applications. In homes and offices, Wi-Fi will likely remain the primary communication technology, whereas cellular will likely remain the primary communication technology for outdoor applications in cities and suburbs. However, for industrial use cases, outdoor campuses, and stadiums, the preferred technology is unclear. Because 5G will involve the development and deployment of microcells, cellular companies could create partnerships with organizations to deploy microcells in stadiums, outdoor campuses, and outdoor venues instead of deploying Wi-Fi networks. Additionally, the MulteFire Alliance is adapting 5G specifications to create standards for private LTE networks, which operate by using unlicensed and shared spectrum. Potentially, private LTE networks could offer ultrareliable low-latency communications similar to 5G networks for use in industrial facilities and enterprise campuses.

Scale of Impact

  • Low
  • Medium
  • High
The scale of impact for this topic is: High

Time of Impact

  • Now
  • 5 Years
  • 10 Years
  • 15 Years
The time of impact for this topic is: Now to 5 Years

Opportunities in the following industry areas:

Routers, access points, enterprise networking, portable electronic devices, home networks, smart sensors

Relevant to the following Explorer Technology Areas: