Where are my keys? by John Haine, u-blox

keysLook on Kickstarter any day you like and I’ll guarantee you find several projects raising money for “Internet of Everything” (IoE) gadgets, usually inspired by everyday concerns – where did I leave my keys?  Did I lock the back door?  How’s my widowed mum doing?  For want of anything better, they all assume that some short-range wireless network is making the connections, at least in the home – but is that enough?  What if I left my keys at the pub? What if my home broadband isn’t working?  My mum doesn’t even have a computer let alone broadband!  If ever we are to have 50 billion devices in the Internet of Everything, don’t we need a better wireless technology to connect them?

 It’s time for radio standards to get interesting again, to connect up the Internet of Everything

Recent CW news discussed moves by operators and vendors towards a new radio standard to connect up the IoE.  This may seem a dry and theological debate, but I think it’s vital to the industry.  We are all used to the idea that phones are just mobile, and those old fashioned ones with wires just a last resort when our battery runs out or we’re in another not-spot.  When we think of wireless networks we think of the mobile phone networks that we all use for apps, web browsing on the move, and sometimes even to chat!  But today’s networks aren’t really up to the gadget challenge – not surprisingly since they were never designed for the job.  And the way that standards are going with LTE, they are getting better and better at giving us mobile broadband but less and less suitable for connecting “things”.

As Kickstarter demonstrates, great new ideas are driven by giving people the ability to play, create things and try them out.  Much of the time they fail but every so often you’ll get an Oculus Rift that revolutionises the industry.  The time has come for the wireless industry to liberate the gadgeteers with new and appropriate networks.  They need to have all-pervasive coverage so the gadgets work anywhere; require only an cheap and simple radio that’s easy to build-in and fire up; be able to work for years on small batteries; and the service has to be inexpensive.  Communications is just a utility, like roads, railways and drains.  Utilities are generally best operated by big, reliable and boring companies operating standardised technology you can rely on.  It’s time we gave the carriers the standards tools to build these networks – perhaps that dry news item signals the start of something big?



About The Author


John Haine has spent his career in the electronics and communications industry working for British Telecom, Marconi, PA Consulting, and with start-ups including Cognito and Ionica. His technical background includes R&D in radio circuitry and microwave circuit theory; and the design of novel radio systems for cordless telephony, mobile data, and fixed wireless access. He has led standardisation activities in both the latter areas in ETSI, and contributed to WiMax. In 1999 he joined TTP Communications working on research, technology strategy and M&A activities; and after the company’s acquisition by Motorola became a Director of Technology Strategy in Motorola Mobile Devices. After leaving Motorola he was CTO Enterprise Systems with ip.access Limited, the leading manufacturer of GSM picocells and 3G femtocells. In early 2010 he joined Cognovo Limited, which was acquired by u-blox AG in 2012. In u-blox John is defining RF platform strategy for future wireless modules and looking at emerging standards for M2M. John has a first degree from Birmingham and a doctorate from Leeds universities. For further information please visit: http://www.u-blox.com.

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