Tag Archives: Wireless

Show review: impressive tech from IFA 2019

PCR IFA blog

Wow, what another great IFA. In its 59th year, the show exceed last year’s 1,800+ exhibitors and 244,000+ attendees and continued to be cemented in the calendar as the leading showcase of the technology industry for trade and consumers.

The consumer goods market in Europe is significant and for the first half of 2019 was worth €450bn, down 2% and forecasted to remain flat in the second half at €1.011tn. However, the stats still define Europe as the second largest technology market with a 25% share, behind China at 27% with North America third with a 19% share.

The speed of change in product innovation, and the increase in channels to sell these products in line with customer needs, is not losing pace. While there was no great fanfare of a new technology announcement, what was evident was how innovation and invention are evolving into the mainstream. This included the next generation of Web Operating Systems, 5G devices and AI developments, all designed to achieve a more proactive ecosystem which enables all devices and appliances in the home to be connected more efficiently.

One of the key focuses this year more than ever was the prevalence of voice control / AI controlled products. Almost every brand and category has either one or both of the two leading voice assistants becoming inbuilt and connected, increasing the smart home ecosystem across almost every device, MDA and wearable.

The adoption of AI amongst all age groups is on the increase with 31% of millennials owning three or more connected devices and rapidly increasing across all generations as ‘our’ trust increases in the technology and privacy fears are addressed through tougher regulatory measures. Apparently it would take you on average 73 days to read all the Ts & Cs you’ve signed up for online and even then we don’t have a clue what we’ve agreed to. Tougher regulation is essential to protect our data and how brands use the data we willingly offer up.

The smart home market is growing, but for many, the smartphone is still key when controlling smart home elements. However, when looking at energy and lighting controls, 32% use a smart speaker. Whilst 15% of UK consumers say it is “essential” for new smart home devices to connect with a smart speaker/ home hub, 32% say “I would be open to trying shopping via voice and a smart speaker”, whereas only 20% say “shopping by voice with a smart speaker would be much more convenient than the ways I shop currently”.

JBL who have shipped over 100 million speakers globally and launched the #100mSmiles campaign made clear their intentions to dominate by understanding the market better than many, having identified that 70% of consumers would like an audio device with the possibility to control their environment to create the right ambience while listening to music. They also had a nod with ‘green’ credentials in the smart device category, which may be a first, launching the Flip 5 Ocean & Forest, a connected speaker made from 90% recycled plastic.

LG were really rather forward thinking at this year’s IFA Future Talk and identified the ‘silver generation’ as a potential growth area for technology, however it accepts that trust within this generation is a barrier. It also focused on the need for simplicity, which is self-evident from products that were once considered cutting edge and are now defunct. Thinking about how difficult it was to program a VCR. It was a challenge and now this challenge is eradicated because we just talk to the devices to fulfil the same function.

The connected market is on the increase, no question and this extends to white goods with 11.4% of all MDA’s sold in Western Europe being connected, up from 4.8% in the same period back in 2016. When you consider that in Q4 2018 connected MDAs in Asia Pacific accounted for 26.5% of all MDAs sold, there is still growth opportunities for brands and retailers in the European market.

There’s been a lot of hype around 5G and this was also evident at IFA 2019, and while autonomous vehicles will rely on the technology in the future, more immediately 5G is a transformative technology for the home. As it’s spearheading a multi-dimensional world connecting appliances, brands and people in real time with its fast bandwidth and reduced latency. Take a look around your home. There’s already numerous appliances that rely on a strong wireless connection to work, from virtual assistants to laptops – and without it everything comes to a halt. 5G will provide an alternative to fixed wireless internet making things connect quickly, nicely and simply. From rural areas where broadband speeds are poor to urban areas where speeds can suffer from congestion; 5G will enhance the possibilities for a smarter home, streets, towns and cities.

Autonomous vehicles were more evident this year and as we draw closer to the reality that we may get driven rather than drive ourselves, acceptance is increasing. In essence cars will become more than a means to get from A to B, enabling the passenger to do more. An interesting take on this reality, again by LG, was asking what are we going to do with our time whilst being transported? Well LG want to entertain you by making that now redundant windscreen become a TV screen that you can cast to and watch, work, play or shop. Imagine being driven autonomously and be surrounded by the convenience of technology that enables you to carry on as you would do at home or in the office. The safety concerns are evident as highlighted by Tyron Louw, Research Fellow at the Institute for Transport Studies, University of Leeds: “Nobody knows for sure how the world will look in five years, yet we are all under pressure to prepare for that future. Driverless cars merge two imperfect systems – humans and automation – to anticipate new types of road accidents.”

However, with the advent of 5G, autonomous vehicles on our streets, not just in major cities, is certainly not fantasy and definitely reality within the next decade.

The consensus at SHIFT, the two-day convention at IFA Berlin exploring the Future of Mobility was clear: “Electric vehicles will be a key part of the future of mobility, but they are not the only solution. Instead, smart cities and autonomous vehicles will be key components of our “mobility-as-a-service” future, where cars are just one component of a broad mix of transport modes that we are using.

“While there was no doubt among participants that autonomous vehicles would soon become reality, they were split on how this would affect the world’s car culture.”

Other trends away from true innovation saw many brands tapping into the increasing esports market. Acer launched Planet9, an open gaming community platform and others have negotiated tenuous link ups such as Beko with League of Legends and Samsung with Fortnite. All no doubt designed with a view to ride the increasing esports wave and appeal to Millennials and Generations Z and Alpha. The global market for gaming hardware is on the rise as a result of its appeal and new ease of access assisting in a forecasted 14% increase in 2019 with an estimated value of €12.4bn.

Whilst IFA is all about innovation and showcasing the future, I must admit I do enjoy a bit of nostalgia and my favourite throwback product came from Sony with the Walkman 40th Anniversary edition. A welcome reminder from Sony on how they as the innovators once changed how we listened on the move and created a category in the process that everybody copied and developed to be better or worse depending on your opinion.

IFA is not just about showcasing technology, it’s also about defining how we as human beings could or will live better lives through the adoption and acceptance of innovation. Long may IFA continue to enable and encourage the creativity of brands to define the technology of the future.

To read the full article please visit PCR.
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How 5G will boost the smart home market

PCR Blog

Over the last few years, smart home technology has revolutionised the way we live at home and according to PWC’s white paper, ‘Connected Home 2.0’, £10.8bn will be spent on smart home devices in the UK in 2019. But despite this, a recent survey we carried out into the connected home highlighted consumer frustration with smart home technology, with consumers citing that they can’t get their smart home technology to connect to each device and talk to each other, they have no idea how it all works, they are worried about security and there’s little perceived benefit or value.

Whilst this may sound negative, this presents a huge opportunity for 5G to boost further device adoption and showcase the future possibilities in the home.

There’s been a lot of hype around 5G – from downloading a full HD movie in under five seconds to making fully automated vehicles a reality – but I believe 5G will be a transformative technology for the home, as it’s spearheading a multi-dimensional world connecting devices, brands and people in real time with its fast bandwidth and reduced latency. Take a look round your home, count up the numerous devices that rely on a strong wireless connection to stream, to work, to secure, to survive – tablets, mobiles, TVs, voice assistants, PCs, thermostats, light-bulbs, alarms, cameras, and gaming right through to connected appliances. Without a good connection, they can all come to a grinding halt.

Stadia by Google is an example of where 5G and gaming complement each other. No downloads, no patches and no console makes this the cloud gamers dream, and Google is delivering this incredible service without compromising on graphics quality. With 2.3bn active gamers globally and 46% of those (1.1bn) spending, the financial impact to the establishment is significant. Stadia will be a tough act to follow, with sharing options via YouTube, which has 63m daily viewers worldwide, Google Assistant built in, 4K resolution games at 60 frames per second with HDR (High Dynamic Range), and a plan to support 8K resolution in the future. Now with Stadia, the internet – accessed increasingly via 5G – will be your store, with the network and data centre as your platform.

The innovation that is 5G will provide an alternative to fixed wireless internet making things connect quickly, faster, nicely and simply. From rural areas where broadband speeds are poor to urban areas where speeds can suffer from congestion, 5G will enhance the possibilities for entire communities and not only the smart home.

This will pave the way for 5G enabled fully integrated living spaces that adjust to the needs of each member of the family, changing the way people entertain, consume media, use their utilities, communicate and cook. Virtual assistants like Alexa and Google Home are only the start and we’ve seen just a fraction of what personal assistants are capable of. Google announced at CES earlier this year that it wants to make its assistant the focal point of a consumer’s life; in the home, in the car and on mobile devices. 5G will be that enabler.

Layer on top of this the possibilities of 5G enabled in-home augmented and virtual reality for cooking. Imagine at the touch of a button, Delia or Jamie standing next to you showing you how to cook one of their recipes. Sit down with your friends and family to watch a tennis match and image real time sports data appearing over tennis players as they hit the ball. 5G will make smart homes even smarter by unshackling developers from the speed restrictions and other issues that exist with today’s solutions where devices rely on Wi-Fi networks or Bluetooth connections.

For those who feel security could be an issue, the good news is that mobile operators are ensuring security is built into the fabric of their 5G networks and there’s no reason for 5G networks to be any less secure to use than 4G. When connecting a device to a 5G network the same protocols you’d apply to security software, passwords etc. should be applied as normal, however it is worth noting that all data sent over 5G is encrypted and 5G devices will offer increasingly advanced security options. Interestingly, according to research from Ericsson, 29% of people would like DNA authentication to be a biometric security option.

The reality is that 5G can provide a more consistent approach, making things easier to setup and thus encouraging product development through to subsequent consumer adoption and increased usage of the vastly developed Internet of Things. With inbuilt future proofing, one of the most interesting effects will be the societal impact 5G will have for our ageing population, assisting those who are fit but may be less able to manage themselves. This may blur the lines between hospital and home. For many, it’s more effective to manage the healthcare of patients who require the most resources from home rather than via our currently overloaded NHS. In addition, its adoption can reduce loneliness and speed of response in the event of an emergency.

We’ve already seen how sensor operated smart home tech can alert families to movement, so they know their elder relatives are up and about in the house and not lying there injured. There are also remote surgeries where doctors see patients by video call, however buffering is often an issue in remote locations, which makes the service more difficult for vulnerable people to use. The implementation of 5G will take this to a whole new level; real-time remote monitoring of medication usage; food intake levels and exercise; connecting the vulnerable to seamlessly operated telehealth services and tracking indicators from sleep to blood pressure and insulin levels.

It can help power personalised, preventative and smarter care capabilities and elevate connected medicine to an unprecedented level, helping elderly people live fulfilling and productive lives on their terms. This is exciting times for a growing societal issue here in the UK but let’s not underestimate the understanding we need of the health ecosystem and what it will take to implement the systems to connect to these technologies.

The opportunities 5G technology offers all generations extends beyond the home and to the streets through autonomous vehicles, traffic management and the smart monitoring of the environment around you, telling you in real-time, for example, where best to avoid pollution on your daily run. Moreover, everything you would currently expect to be able to access or control in the home will be available to you wherever you are, without any comprises imposed on you by being away from regular Wi-Fi based connectivity.

Ericsson forecasts that by 2024, 5G subscriptions will reach 1.9bn, and that coverage could blanket up to 65% of the world’s population.

The UK’s largest network operator, EE, was the first to launch 5G in the UK on 30th May, 2019, beaten by the Swiss who launched in April. Service started in London, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Belfast, Birmingham, and Manchester, with several other cities joining before 2020. Vodafone also launched on 3rd July 2019 in seven cities with 12 other cities to be included before 2020. Three will join the 5G race in August in London. A total of 25 other locations will get 5G in the UK via Three before 2020. Lastly O2, with no published launch date, announced its plans to roll out its 5G network in 2019 in Cardiff, London, Belfast, and Edinburgh to start, with more areas getting 5G in 2020.

Whilst the UK is already partially 5G enabled, devices are limited and we’re not that far ahead of the vast majority of developed nations whom all plan to launch in 2019/2020 such as Germany, Italy and Norway all behind Vodafone Spain who are ahead of all EU nations having launched on 15th June in 15 cities.

To read the full article please visit PCR.

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Happy 20th birthday Bluetooth, my haven’t you grown!

Lovely Mobile Blog

Two decades ago, in 1998, the concept of Bluetooth was born, and little did we realise that this oddly named wireless technology would rapidly become one of the greatest technology enablers of all time.

When the first commercial products started to roll out at the turn of the millennium, I was working at Orange creating training material for the network’s third party retailers and Bluetooth was, like WAP and Wildfire one of many exciting new developments that we hoped to enthuse the channel about. I was lucky to receive from Ericsson a limited edition Bluetooth kit containing a HBH-10 headset and adapter to enable my T28 to hook up to it.

However, despite being impressed at how clever it all was, I was just too self-conscious to go full geek and use it in public!  And whilst those behind the technology probably had a vision for where it could lead, I certainly didn’t think far beyond the wireless Bluetooth headset…how wrong was I?

If you don’t know the history behind the development of Bluetooth, it’s incredibly interesting. The germ of the idea was first pioneered more than half a century before its official launch. Like so many technological breakthroughs, war proved the catalyst. The pioneer was Hollywood actress and part time inventor Hedy Lamarr.

Her war-time invention was for radio communications to ‘hop’ from one frequency to another, so that Allied torpedoes couldn’t be detected by the enemy. Despite not being able to bring it to market, her idea paved the way for both Bluetooth and Wifi.

Fast forward to 1989 and a meeting between Nils Rydbeck, CTO at Ericsson Mobile in Lund, Sweden and Johan Ullman paved the way for the realisation of Lamarr’s vision. The meeting was to establish a mobile specific solution for hands-free headsets.

The development of the “short-link” radio technology, uniting the PC and cellular industries, later named Bluetooth, was initiated in December 1996 where a series of companies got together to form the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG), finally established in 1998.

What the companies (thankfully) understood was that a standardized protocol had to be created so that Bluetooth would seamlessly work across several devices from a multitude of companies. SIG, which started with five companies (Ericsson, Intel, Nokia, IBM, and Toshiba) and 400 members now has more than 30,000.

Most of us don’t think about whether a product is Bluetooth enabled we just expect it to be built in allowing our smartphones to connect seamlessly to all manner of devices such as headphones, wireless speakers and voice enabled assistants.

Eighty-Six per cent of new vehicles now come with integrated Bluetooth, allowing drivers to enjoy their personal streaming services such as Spotify and helping to reduce the number of motorists spotted with a mobile phone clamped to their ear. Without Bluetooth there wouldn’t be voice control in Sky Q remotes, wireless gaming controllers, PC connectivity and devices and whole new categories such as Wearable technology.

It is a great democratising force in technology. And what about the future? The SIG’s Developer Centre provides the opportunity for companies and individuals to create Bluetooth products and take them to market. A whole host of exciting developments are powering new possibilities for the technology.

  • Point-to-point is a network topology used for establishing one-to-one (1:1) device communications. This enables all your devices to talk to each other. It provides optimized data transfers and is ideal for connected device products, such as fitness trackers and health monitors.
  • Meanwhile Mesh is a network topology used for establishing many-to-many device communications. The mesh system enables the creation of large-scale device networks with the ability to connect thousands of devices reliably and securely communicating with one another.

In retail this presents some great opportunities. With traditional retail under enormous pressure, pioneering retailers are already leveraging Bluetooth to enable personalised promotions and way-finding services that connect to smart shelves. Increased customer-centricity enabled by Bluetooth could include Smart pricing, tailored offers, real time data-led category management, all the while creating better shopper experiences for the customer. This in turn will enable retailers to increase sales, boost profit and reduce operating costs.

Bluetooth can play a vital role in enabling planners to connect city infrastructures in ways never before imagined and gather data to guide informed policy making.  As the population grows exponentially, there will be increased pressure on resources, utilities, and council budgets. Smart homes and cities can provide ongoing real time feedback to provide evidence-based decisions based on human need. From where to plan schools, doctors’ surgeries or free bike stations.

As the demands of the Internet of Things (IoT) continue to grow, Bluetooth continues to expand its capabilities. This most strangely named of technologies is set to remain an ongoing but invisible feature in all our lives. Happy birthday Bluetooth! My haven’t you grown.

To read the full article please visit Lovely Mobile.

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