Sample Articles from Bob Wallace.
Read More about Bob.
Wireless Worth Watching in 2023
- Published on 22 February 2023
Wireless power transfer, Wi-Fi 6 versions, life after 3G network shutdowns, and home networking challenges top the list.
Important challenges and opportunities for wireless technologies will take center stage this year as IT managers look to plan network upgrades, expansions, and new installations.
While 2022 seemed like the year of 5G, several cellular technologies will share the spotlight in the year ahead.
One emerging tech to watch in 2023 is Wireless Power-at-a-Distance, which is an expanded form of wireless power transfer (WPT). The tech portends to enable the charging of devices from smartphones to drones by eliminating the need for wiring – or close proximity - by beaming power over special radio frequencies to devices. The advancement here in WPT is the ability to beam the power over distances far beyond a few meters.
Benefits from this form of WPT include savings in wiring, maintenance, and management, and the ability to better power an expanded list of devices, potentially from meters to miles.
“Scalable wireless power beaming will hit the market and promises to bring freedom to a broad range of equipment – from lower wattage IoT devices to higher wattage robotics – making 2023 the first year that high-wattage, industrial-scale wireless power-at-a-distance hits the market in a real, deployable way,” said Chris Davlantes, CEO, and founder of Reach.
Wireless on the home front
With the proliferation of devices in consumer homes and a widening array of services offered to residences, upgrades to home networks are a certainty in 2023. Work From Home programs up the bandwidth ante.
“Broadband speeds continue to increase for consumers, but the problem area is wireless within the home,” explained Elizabeth Parks, President and CMO of Parks Associates, a research and advisory firm focusing on home networks and services. “[That’s why] new network solutions are supporting that and advanced networks that can provide managed services.”
Parks also strongly advises IT managers to keep cyberthreats front of mind when thinking WFH approaches. “Data privacy and security are important as well as the strength of the VPN network protection.” She warned that businesses will continue to incur costs for added cyber-security protection, which is an area that will see continued growth and change.
Wireless, post-3G network shutdowns
With the disruptive sunsetting of 2G and 3G wireless networks by top operators in the U.S. last year, enterprises in numerous verticals (including transportation) were driven toward interim solutions such as 4G versions of wireless equipment as carriers shifted the older network resources to supercharge 5G rollouts.
Forward-looking business and technology managers can be expected to move their telematics and other core wireless data operations systems to 5G-powered offerings. A vertical industry for IT managers to watch is transportation (especially vehicle fleet monitoring and management) which relies on wireless for numerous core functions such as vehicle and asset tracking.
The far higher bandwidth offered by 4G and 5G allows vehicle fleets to add important capabilities, such as camera systems-based video telematics, to optimize vehicle, driver, and delivery performance.
Wi-Fi 6E, is it for me?
Wi-Fi 6E grabbed headlines in 2022, with the Wi-Fi Alliance claiming to have certified over 660 devices as of November. Expect early implementors to be large, multi-event sports and other entertainment venues, hospitality industry members, and healthcare.
Those that embrace the latest version will have extra heavy traffic (including video) and require its mesh networking capabilities as well as WPA 3 wireless security.
After those specific early users, it's unclear who will follow and when, as Wi-Fi 6E implementations require dense network support with super heavy data and video traffic and the need for advanced features. Expect these pioneers to be revealed in 2023.
Help upgrading to advanced Wi-Fi
But what about enterprises with Wi-Fi 5? IT planners with routers three years or older have been advised to consider moving to Wi-Fi 6.
Before making upgrades, IT architects should consider using any of a variety of Wi-Fi network design and analytics packages. They are offered from the top networking equipment vendors – Cisco, HP, Extreme Networks, and Juniper Networks – and smaller vendors.
"Before deciding to upgrade, it's important to get a handle on traffic patterns and where the problem is occurring, and analytics can help there for sure," emphasized Siân Morgan, Research Director at Dell’Oro Group, Inc., a tech market research, and advisory services firm. “There’s no point in covering your building with the latest and greatest Wi-Fi 6E APs and then discovering that the traffic had been hitting a problem at the switch!”
The year ahead will see an increase in the use of the latest version, Wi-Fi 6E, notably in sports venues, to keep pace with soaring use by fans in the stands. But given its maturity and the far larger list of Wi-Fi Certified products, expect upgrades from older versions to focus on Wi-Fi 6.
How Video Telematics Can Help Trucking Industry Overcome Covid, Supply Chain, and Inflation Challenges
- Published on 08 February 2023
Fleet owners keep a close eye on vehicle health, driver performance, and asset tracking with advanced onboard cameras that deliver live-streaming video to managers to power analytics.
Beset with 3G network sunsetting, supply chain disruptions, and spiking fuel prices, truck fleet operating enterprises are looking to video telematics, which uses machine learning and AI, for help entering 2023.
At its core, video telematics is a video camera system or subscription service that comprises linked high-resolution units and sensors to combine video surveillance and vehicle analytics.
The advanced dash cams can be powered by machine vision and AI. They can be trained on the road ahead and/or on the driver to capture live streaming video of the location, road conditions, traffic, and another vehicle or structure in the case of an accident.
The in-cab-facing camera can be disabled or used as a sensor to identify distracted behavior without video recording. Also, the roadway-facing camera can live stream video to provide managers with instant access to what's going on at the job site, backups at the yard, and other daily situations.
The wireless lifeline
The sunsetting of 3G networks in the U.S. this year has driven fleet operators to replace legacy telematics with systems powered by higher performance, tried-and-true offerings for those that use 4G wireless networks. Looking forward, fleet managers will have options that can eventually support superfast and ultra-low latency 5G services.
Video telematics are designed to ensure fleet and driver safety, help safeguard fleets from fraudulent claims, help reduce collisions, and potentially lowers insurance costs.
The goals are to allow fleet managers to see everything that’s happening inside, outside, and around their vehicles in real time. Data collected from these advanced systems is used to generate analytics that can ensure driver safety, optimize vehicle operation to reduce costs, and cut downtime for maintenance and accident repairs. Video telematics can also enhance vehicle and asset tracking when used in conjunction with currently installed telematics packages.
But for all the purported benefits of video telematics and their advanced technology-enabled capabilities, what issues stand between them and rapid, widespread adoption by enterprises?
“The high installation cost is a significant obstacle for the video telematics sector. Because the initial configuration of video telematics, as well as its ongoing maintenance, can be costly,” according to a recent research report from Mordor Intelligence. “Furthermore, the cost of fuel may further strain the organization. As a result, the high cost of video telematics may limit the market's growth.”
The cost of non-compliance with trucking industry regulations can be staggering as vehicles that fail tests are taken out of service until the problems are fixed.
A case in point was the results of Brake Safety Week in late August, during which inspectors in the U.S. placed 4,664 (13.6%) of 34,402 vehicles examined out of service for non-compliance.
With major U.S. wireless operators phasing out 2G and 3G networks to focus resources on 5G network deployments – American fleet operators have been replacing modems and more in their vehicle telematics systems to keep pace.
Forward-thinking IT managers might want to evaluate options to determine how and when video telematics vendors plan to incorporate support for superfast, lower latency connections than widely used 4G.
“Most of the solutions we have investigated have been based on 3G/4G. It seems 4G LTE also works well for high-end applications so far,” explained Rickard Andersson, Principal Analyst at Berg Insight, a market research and analysis firm. “5G has yet to make a notable impact on this market, but it is likely that we will see a transition similar to how 4G has gradually grown at the expense of 3G.”
Andersson noted that there are also solutions that can leverage the connectivity of the onboard computer (when video is an add-on to "conventional" fleet telematics).
Trucking under siege
As mentioned above, the trucking industry has not yet recovered from the numerous challenges created by Covid and worsened by situations such as a critical shortage of drivers dating back to 2016. A potential train union strike that could slow rail shipping across the U.S. and beyond.
Enterprises worldwide have faced 11,642 supply chain disruptions worldwide in 2021 alone, nearly double that of 2020, according to Statista. What does the near and longer-term future look like for video telematics?
The road ahead-Market forecast
Despite the ongoing challenges faced by the commercial trucking industry in North America, Berg Insight sees robust growth for video telematics in the region. It estimates that the installed base of active video telematics systems in North America reached 2.9 million units in 2021. Growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 16.5 percent, the active installed base is forecasted to reach almost 6.3 million units in North America by 2026.
In Europe, the installed base of active video telematics systems is estimated to have reached over 0.9 million units in 2021, according to Berg. The base in the region is forecasted to grow at a CAGR of 17.9 percent to reach 2.1 million video telematics systems in 2026.
Will the Broadband Ecosystem Save Telecom in 2023?
- Published on 17 January 2023
Guidance for IT managers facing historic carrier spending, workforce shortages, and struggling operators.
Still recovering from Covid-created supply chain issues, chip shortages, and high transportation costs? There's hope that the ecosystem forming thanks to historic broadband infrastructure spending may provide a savior for the overall telecom industry.
But at the same time, IT decision makers will need to spend more time and scrutinize the financial health and well-being of the service providers they rely on and are considering to avoid missteps that could make 2023 a year of regrets.
To recap, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Bill, the FCC's Rural Development Opportunity Fund (RDOF) program, and broadband USDA programs have collectively committed nearly $100 billion in funding for broadband network deployment. The grandiose plan is to cover dense cities to rural regions to close the digital divide over the next several years.
Minimizing risk with carriers
Many carriers who were awarded broadband funding (several startups) have dropped out, with several fighting to survive. This development has elevated the importance of IT leaders tracking their current and potential carrier partners as the telecom industry faces strong economic challenges now and in 2023.
“With the overall economy facing strong headwinds, it becomes really critical to understand the balance sheet status of providers today and pre-funding,” cautioned Jeff Heynen, Vice President of Broadband Access and Home Networking at Dell Oro Group, an industry analysis, and research firm. "As an IT manager who has to make decisions regarding providers, you really want to make sure that you are partnered with someone that's been in business for a while and is committed to providing the services you need for your company."
This requires far more than following the money, a saying that covers tracking investments in their current and other service providers, as that can be deceiving, as was proven by upstart fiber carrier Starry, which received $155 million in its March IPO, but was in such financial trouble that it had to pass on $269 million in RDOF funding, has since cut staff by 50%, changed its focus and is struggling to survive as it seeks a buyer.
“Again, there is going to be the usual amount of waste in these programs and, as an IT manager who has to make decisions regarding providers, you want to make sure that you are partnered with someone that’s been in business for a while and is committed to providing the services you need for your company,” emphasized Heynen.
And while other tech sectors, such as social media, are cutting tens of thousands of jobs and implementing hiring freezes, the opposite is true in the broadband business, where equipment vendors and others are suffering workforce shortages as they prep for what could be the largest national network rollout in U.S. history.
Filling the broadband jobs void
That’s as carriers and industry associations are scrambling to create new and expand current training programs for those with or seeking fiber optic cable-related skills. Carriers and equipment vendors -including the duo of AT&T and Corning - have joined in by creating new manufacturing facilities here and abroad to meet surging demand for equipment and cable.
Lumen Technologies recently announced plans to invest $80 million a year to hire and train almost 1,000 new employees to support its fiber expansion plans. The carrier joined AT&T, Charter Communications, and the Communications Workers of America (CWA) union joined President Biden’s Talent Pipeline Challenge, designed to help develop a stronger labor force for crucial infrastructure jobs.
The need for skilled staff is such a challenge that the large CWA union plans to bring former broadband technicians back to the fast-expanding industry. The CWA announced it will work with the NTCA, the rural broadband association, to help its members land apprenticeship and OSHA training programs.
Saving the telecom industry
Healthy spending levels for fiber networking and 5G appear and are projected by Dell’Oro Group to avoid a regrettable plunge next year. Cases in point include Dish Network committing to spending billions to build a 5G network and the broadband access market booming as carriers chose optical systems to next-gen their current networks and fuel expansions.
So instead of a chilling gloom and doom forecast for the telecom industry next year, Dell’Oro’s three-year global telecom CapEx forecast released earlier this year has growth expected to moderate from 9 percent in 2021 to 3 percent in 2022 before tapering off in 2023 and 2024.
What to Expect When You’re Expecting Broadband – Part 2
- Published on 29 December 2022
Here are the infrastructure bill’s process milestones for IT strategists on the road to broadband for all.
(In part one, we explored the highs and lows of the FCC's Rural Digital Opportunity Fund. This installment focuses on the infrastructure bill's BEAD program, looking forward to 2023)
Long promised and having survived partisan opposition in a polarized Congress, work done to enact the $1 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act might someday be seen as the easier part of bringing broadband to all in America.
The toughest part began when agencies began creating the processes and products (maps) needed to determine where and how to allocate the Broadband Equity, Access, and Development (BEAD) program’s $42.5 billion to begin closing the digital divide once and for all.
Under BEAD, each state will receive a minimum of $100 million in funding.
Enterprise business and IT impact
Why should IT leaders keep track of the infrastructure bill's broadband rollout? The process, maps, and funds are designed to determine how, where and when tens of billions of dollars will be used to serve unserved and underserved locations in the U.S. over the next five years.
These deprived sites, including residences, are expected to use broadband to foster commerce, extend work-from-home and hybrid workforces and connect new locations to corporate networks.
The first challenge for 2023
Before releasing funding, the focus had to shift to replacing old and deceptive broadband maps that counted an entire census block served by broadband if only one resident had broadband.
“The net result was maps that were overly optimistic, lacked location-specific information, and subsequently glossed over gaps in coverage,” explained FCC Chairwoman Rosenwarcel. “With these new maps, the FCC has integrated the information from broadband providers with hundreds of location-specific data sources, giving us a far more detailed and accurate picture of fixed broadband availability.” Nearly $400 million has been spent on creating the maps.
In mid-November, the FCC released a pre-production first draft of the more granular new map asking all parties, from consumers to carriers, to check them for accuracy and submit changes ASAP. Changes can be submitted through the map interface.
The second challenge in 2023
The second challenge is the limited amount of time set for this iterative process – with a mid-January deadline – which has been met by concerned governors' lobbying for a two-month extension. The accuracy of the first draft maps has been challenged in some areas. The most accurate versions are crucial to the success of the broadband rollout aspect of the historic bill.
The second challenge to the broadband rollout
Once the maps are updated, as required by the infrastructure bill, the NTIA is expected to issue program rules for $42.5 billion in funds to support broadband deployment. This is the largest single investment the federal government has made in broadband.
Through BEAD, each state will receive a minimum of $100 million. Additional funds will be provided based on the number of locations that are “unserved” (do not have access to reliable service of at least 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload) or “underserved” (do not have dependable 100/20 Mbps service).
What’s the plan for 2H 2023?
The NTIA announced before the holidays that it plans to release its funding decisions by the end of June. As the process goes on, they will be based on detailed plans created by states and others seeking assistance.
Initially, the NTIA will release 20% of the funds secured, possibly by yearend, with the remaining 80% contingent on longer and more elaborate plans submitted and approved by the agencies.
The longer-term plans are mandated in part to benefit from evolving broadband maps, which the FCC has said will be updated every six months to account for ongoing updates and progress in broadband rollouts.
The evolution of the maps will be powered by data received from several trusted sources to ensure the integrity of the broadband rollout. Updates will be based on new data provided by ISPs, consumers, states, and local entities.
The broadband-for-all bottom line 2023 and far beyond
Creating new processes, new deliverables, and associated deadlines for a historic undertaking of any type is a Herculean task that almost certainly will include numerous hiccups along the way.
The challenges faced, however, won’t derail this infrastructure as delivering broadband to all promises to forever change the way the U.S. functions for consumers and businesses.
While it appears unlikely infrastructure funded by the bill will be built in 2023, understanding this ongoing effort will drive the business and technology advancement efforts of enterprises for years to come.
Emerging Wireless Power at-a-Distance Movement Promises Users Big Benefits
- Published on 06 December 2022
The plan is to cut wiring, maintenance, and management costs for in-building and wider area power – an effort that has drawn interest and funding from enterprises, government agencies, and branches of the military.
In an effort expected to drive the creation of IoT networks at home and over kilometers, a group of emerging startups are creating products to beam energy through airwaves to mobile and fixed wireless devices.
The companies hope to redefine power distribution by replacing wires for charging everything from phones to drones, thus providing an alternative to single-use and rechargeable batteries, wiring maintenance, and related time and expenses.
The emerging technology is called wireless power at-a-distance and was initially limited to short distances. However, a recent specification by the FCC has expanded the limit to multiple kilometers, catching the interest of those interested in networking sensors, drones, robots, and cameras, as well as creating microgrids.
Unlike common wireless charging systems found in the home, which require the power-delivering device and power-receiving device to be touching or almost touching, wireless power-at-a-distance (also known as distant or far-field wireless power) delivers power to devices tens of meters away and farther, through the air.
Players in the emerging wireless power at a distance sector include Ossia, Energous, Powercast, Reach, Voltserver, and WiTricity. They believe the technology will eventually transform how power is delivered. With over 200 patents, Ossia plans to license its Cota technology to all interested parties. WiTricity has created an electric vehicle charging focus. Reach has targeted government, commercial and military use cases.
“Power beaming that can scale to high power at great distances – think kilowatts over kilometers – has become viable with advances in adaptive antenna, high power transistor, and software optimization technologies,” explained Chris Davlantes, Founder and CEO, of startup Reach. “Wireless power-at-a-distance promises to complement wireless data by fully untethering systems such as IoT sensors, industrial and home robots, drones, and even community-scale microgrids. Like Wi-Fi did for data, RF-based wireless power delivers flexible access to energy, streamlining device deployment and improving device performance across verticals, including manufacturing, government, energy, logistics, and retail.” (The company secured a $30 million B round of funding on December 2.)
Wireless power at a distance proponents envision a series of attainable benefits for their products. They are:
- Reduced or eliminated reliance on single-user and rechargeable batteries in the home, facilities, and stores.
- The freedom to only place devices where they are needed, including hard-to-reach locations.
- Greater flexibility as wireless power beaming doesn’t require a line of sight.
- Reduced infrastructure expenses (such as cabling and termination devices).
- Reduced maintenance and workload for electricians.
- Increased flexibility and greater functionality.
Wireless power-at-a-distance products are set to use the unlicensed Industrial, Science, and Medical (ISM) band. In the U.S., this includes 14 different radio frequencies. Though the ITU determines the international band designations, individual countries' exact ISM band frequencies may differ. Wireless power products do not require a clear line of sight between the point of origin and destination.
The FCC, which manages product certification under Part 18, defines ISM equipment as equipment or appliances designed to generate and use local RF energy for industrial, scientific, medical, domestic, or similar purposes, excluding applications in the field of telecommunication.
However, there is potential for interference with Wi-Fi systems operating in this band, which may be a concern to be addressed as the heavy use of the unlicensed radio frequency band by many new parties can be problematic.
The FCC specification referenced above helped expand the wireless power opportunity by expanding the distance. Products can support one or several power levels.
A wireless power system needed to beam milliwatts to meet the needs of low-power IoT devices such as sensors will be possible, as will systems to support commercial drones and other devices that would share gigawatts. From homes to businesses to large geographic areas, wireless power proponents promise to have the bases covered.
Although the wireless power movement has been growing and advancing for years, several gating factors have accelerated its emergence.
Among them are the reduced costs of high-frequency transistors needed to deploy large, adaptive antenna arrays in commercial scenarios. Demand for IoT devices is stronger than ever. A growing number of low-power devices are being distributed throughout commercial and residential environments to collect data and provide edge decisions.
Also, research has led to advances in signal processing, algorithm design, low-power communication, and high-frequency RF-DC converters that are required for wireless power-at-a-distance. On the regulation front, the FCC agreed early this year to certify longer-distance wireless power removing a significant barrier to deployment.
Network and Services Technologies Fuel Personalization Push for Sports Venues
- Published on 22 November 2022
Data-driven decisions help operators optimize current and new processes to profile and monetize the fan.
At no other point in history have sports venues embraced advanced infrastructure to feed data on access, transactions, and social media use to analytics engines to help owners personalize the monetization of fans.
In the NFL, for example, the league provides venue owners tools for use with ticketing data, an important step in learning about fan trends. Combine this valuable information with data from transactions at the venues, and owners can build a detailed profile of fans.
Activities and interests that can be tracked on a per-fan basis are far more valuable than those that can only be measured as a large group. The former allows venue owners to pitch individual fans personalized offers – before, during, and after the game - for the life of the fan.
More technology in less time than B2B
Keeping pace with emerging and new technologies in this B2C vertical is arguably much tougher than in the B2B world. That is because sports venues such as those in the NFL have gone from no-frills oblongs to tech-infused mega-complexes in less than a decade. Implementing and upgrading to more advanced technologies, product iterations are often an annual event.
How did we get here?
IT and business leaders in the NFL began with team websites, followed starting a decade ago with first-generation, stadium-wide free Wi-Fi for fans seeking access to the Internet for scores, highlights, and to social media to share their experiences. Many NFL stadiums use Extreme Networks for the Wi-Fi and its analytics offering.
Expanding the stadium infrastructure
With the democratization of smartphones, cellular services from carriers could not keep up, initially, nor could early stadium Wi-Fi networks. Both have since advanced and have been deployed in several NFL stadiums now equipped with Wi-Fi version 6 (which helps with mobile ticketing). Add Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS), which are networks of antennas used to extend public cellular wireless network (such as Verizon 5G) coverage.
It is little surprise that backbone networks and the number of devices and apps they support are growing. For example, the Atlanta Falcons’ Mercedes Benz Stadium, completed in 2017, featured a Passive Optical Network (PON) made up of over 4,000 miles of fiber. It supports data transport to and from wireless access points, over 2,500 large IPTVs, security cameras, PoS systems, digital signage, and back-office systems.
Backbone networks and data centers in NFL stadiums are expanding to enable a fast-growing list of applications, including mobile ticketing, facial recognition, contact-less and cashier-less purchasing of concessions, and crowd management/control. Greater computing power is essential to draw crucial analytics from lakes of data.
Streamlining core processes: Concessions
Once an onerous and strictly manual process at NFL venues, a few venues added concession ordering to their smartphone stadium apps to address long lines during events.
Today, many NFL teams have opted for an app-based, cloud-enabled system from SpotOn that allows attendees to order from anywhere in the stadium without leaving their seats. The POS system offers analytics to customers, which include pro and college sports venue operators, to help vendors with food and beverage planning and management.
The vendor counts the New York Giants, the Denver Broncos, and Philadelphia Eagles among its thirty-seven sports clients. Fans can get the food and drinks they want faster and easier, elevating their satisfaction and increasing the total amount spent per game, according to the vendor.
A checkout-free NFL first: Amazon’s Just Walk Out
When a fan visits District Market at the Seattle Seahawks Lumen Field this season, they can opt to insert their credit card at the entry gates or hover their palm over an Amazon One device to enter.
Amazon One is the vendor’s palm recognition technology and payment service that consumers can sign up for at kiosks outside the stadium stores or at the company’s owned businesses such as Whole Foods supermarkets.
Users visit a kiosk or a point-of-sale station at participating locations to link their palm and payment card to the service. Then, all they must do during the checkout process is hover their hand over a scanner to complete the transaction.
Facial recogniition use expanding
And while facial recognition is widely used in law enforcement, sports venues are deploying the systems for access control first and for concession sales, crowd control, and analytics later this season.
The Cleveland Browns operator chose Wicket Software to provide its facial recognition ticketing system, which the team installed in 2020. It is an opt-in offering whereby fans upload a selfie, and their ticket info to an app before Wicket's computer vision sensors verify their identity as they enter designated gates.
The team plans to expand its use of the Wicket system to handle payments for concessions and age verification for alcohol purchases. What aids the system use is the fact that 90% of fans coming to Browns games come to every game, according to the team. The Atlanta Falcons also use wicket software.
Verizon hopes to sell venues a solution that combines Wicket software with its 5G service to accelerate processes in venues deploying facial recognition for use in core operations such as concession sales.
The bottom line
Technology pioneers take their share of arrows. Those that follow later, however, can often learn from the challenges and victories of early adopters.