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MWC: Vendors compete to be the most ‘5G-ready March 07 2016

In the first instalment of Wireless Watch’s Mobile World Congress special edition, we looked at a selection of operator trials of pre-5G networks and services. Now we turn our attention to the vendors’ roadmaps, and the most interesting insights they provided in Barcelona, into developments which may well find their way into future standard or de facto technologies.

Nokia was the most aggressive of the big names in claiming to be 5G-ready – although it was a heavily overused term throughout the show. The Finnish vendor went a step further and said operators would be able to offer ‘5G’ services as early as 2017 using its new AirScale RAN platform (clearly angling for those operators which are promising ever-earlier ‘5G’ services, mainly around major sporting events in Russia and Korea, but which will, of necessity, have to use pre-standard or heavily customized kit).

AirScale will accelerate the transition to 5G when it comes by providing a smooth migration path from current LTE, Nokia promised, rehashing one of the most popular messages which vendors relay when a new generation of technology is looming. Somehow, when that upgrade becomes necessary, it’s never as automatic, low cost and software-based as the roadmaps suggest – virtualized flexible cores and software-defined radios will help, but there is still the question of the antennas, for instance. But Nokia, like its rivals, needs to persuade operators to keep investing in 4G now, rather than wait for 5G over the horizon.

CTO Hossein Moiin said the AirScale demo was “the industry’s first demonstration of how 5G will work in practice, going beyond previous experimental systems”, making 5G “no longer a distant vision” – ambitious stuff, considering the work on standards has only just begun. But some crucial elements of 5G are already accepted, Nokia argues, and these are the focus of AirScale – in particular, ultra-low latency, and a system designed with machines as well as humans in mind.

AirScale’s claim to be a vision of the future rests on its cloud-based architecture and open interfaces, which allow it to support all the radio technologies simultaneously in one base station; and to use any architecture topology with huge levels of scalability, all defined in software from the cloud. It also claims to use 60% less energy than Nokia’s current platforms. The server end of its Cloud-RAN solution uses Nokia’s AirFrame IT hardware, launched at MWC 2015, and Mobile Edge Computing is implemented on those same servers in order to harness information from the radio effectively and support low latency services.

Baseband units can be chained to support massive capacity and IoT connectivity, and a step-by-step road to virtualization is supported by Nokia’s NetAct and CloudBand offerings, which can work with legacy RANs and C-RAN at once. As well as the multiband AirScale base station, the vendor added AirScale WiFi (access points plus a WiFi controller, also running on AirFrame), and a common software layer which runs across small cells, macrocells and WiFi.

CEO Rajeev Suri said: “I believe that 5G not only must happen faster than expected – it will happen faster than expected”, which was why vendors could not wait for standards to be finalized before launching 5G products – a line also taken by ZTE with its Pre5G portfolio, though not by Huawei, which prefers the term 4.5G for its most advanced network offerings, and argues that these will meet operators’ needs for years to come, certainly until fully standardized 5G can be launched.

“5G is different. 5G must happen fast because important use cases demand it. If we know that 5G can help save lives, improve our environment and make our lives better, we need to move faster,” Suri said.

ZTE Pre5G:

ZTE has unveiled the latest developments in its Pre5G range, the Ultra Dense Network (UDN), claiming this can provide a highly functional bridge to emerging 5G platforms. The UDN works with existing networking models but aims to enhance the user experience with a combination of techniques including interference management, suppression and mobility enhancement.

The system adopts system frequency multiplexing to address interference caused by

overlapping cells in dense networks. According to ZTE, this technique can boost downlink rates by 10 times in areas of cell overlap and will be an important component of 5G.

The equipment also uses other expected 5G technologies, but on current network infrastrucfture and sites – like Nokia, holding out the hope of a smooth migration down the road. These include massive MIMO and Multi-User Shared Access (MUSA), which ZTE has been testing for over a year. Early in 2015, it announced the first commercial base station to implement its pre5G architecture, particularly massive MIMO and MUSA, and this has completed field tests with a number of global operators, including China Mobile and Softbank.

Zhang Jianguo, wireless general manager at ZTE, said Massive MIMO “will be in commercial use in China and in other countries later this year”.

Qualcomm and Ericsson:

Qualcomm and Ericsson have announced their latest collaboration, and will work together on early trials and verification of key 5G technology components, to support the technical work required for 3GPP standardization in Release 15. The companies also said they would drive interoperability in alignment with 3GPP to enable rapid adoption of new 5G standards.

“As we did in both 3G and 4G, we are excited about collaborating with leading operators and industry stakeholders such as Ericsson in the development of a unified, more capable 5G platform” said Matt Grob, Qualcomm’s CTO. “Now that the vision and interest for 5G are well established, it is time to focus on the technical and engineering work required to support operator trials and commercial network launches.”

Intel:

Intel was determined to put paid to any perception that it might be an outsider in the 5G race. Not only was it focusing heavily on virtualization and Cloud-RAN – changes to the mobile network where it has the most obvious opportunity to enter the inner circle – but it was talking up partnerships with Ericsson, Nokia, LG, Cisco and Verizon to develop technologies for the IoT, smart cities, driverless vehicles and augmented reality – all important drivers of 5G development.

“5G represents a significant shift for these networks and we think it’s essential to get ready ahead of the curve,” said Aicha Evans, general manager of the Intel communication and services group. “Rather than just being about a personal computing platform, it’s about everything that computing can connect and how it connects.”

Among the specific announcements were IoT-oriented connectivity solutions like the

Atom x3-M7272 wireless communication platform for “automotive applications capable of powering advanced security features”; and the XMM 7120M LTE modem, optimized for machine-to-machine applications.

Intel also announced a new collaboration with Cisco and its strategic partner Ericsson,  to develop a 5G router. This will be submitted to the Verizon 5G Technology Forum, of which all there vendors are members, and will aim to improve speed, latency and IoT scalability for business and residential customers.

NEC:

NEC has developed a prototype of a compact, A4-sized massive-element Active Antenna System (AAS) for 5G small cells operating in the lower SHF (super high frequency) bands, from 3 GHz to 6 GHz.

As well as its small form factor, the combined antenna/RF solution boasts fully digitized antenna beam control and MIMO pre-coding to improve the precision of beamforming and increase. The vendor said that, used in conjunction with NEC’s spatial multiplexing technologies, the AAS can achieve more than 10 times greater per-cell throughput than conventional LTE base stations.  It is now working on trials of the AAS with NTT Docomo.

“5G communications achieve higher speeds and increased capacity through the utilization of high frequency bands which are capable of securing wider bandwidth. On the other hand, high frequency bands face the issue of heavy propagation loss in communications. As a solution to this issue, NEC has focused on beamforming technologies which improve communication distances and reduce interference,” said Nozomu Watanabe, general manager of the firm’s mobile RAN division.

NEC also issued three white papers related to 5G – ‘Optimum Network Architecture for Full-scale IoT’; ‘NFV C-RAN for efficient RAN resource allocation’; and ‘Massive MIMO for High-capacity Mobile Access’. These are the three areas which the company believes will be most central to 5G’s architecture and business case.

For the IoT, it considers coordination between Mobile Edge Computing and the cloud as well as full context awareness when allocating resources. The C-RAN paper outlines NEC’s approach to this architecture, including its proprietatry inter-cell interference mitigation techniques and its fronthaul design, and describes a migration to 5G based on “virtualization of cells”. And the third paper shows how Massive MIMO can be applied to small cells, using technologies like NEC’s new AAS.

NEC is also working with MediaTek to develop 5G air interface and chipsets.

This article is part of our Wireless Watch subscription service. Learn More

 


Could Qualcomm be acquirer - or prey? August 03 2015

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With Qualcomm conducting a strategic review, under pressure from activist investor Jana Partners to break itself in two, there is plenty of speculation about the likely outcomes.

Some believe that, if the company does split its licensing and chip technology businesses (see Wireless Watch August 23 2015), the latter would become prey for an acquirer, probably Intel, and so continue the ongoing wave of M&A among semiconductor firms.

Reuters calculates that the Qualcomm chip business would be valued between $30bn and $40bn and could attract Intel as a way, finally, to achieve a strong position in the wireless market. Other analysts speculate that the division could be a target for Samsung, or for a Chinese group (despite the likely US government blocks).

But it remains true that, without the licensing arm, the chip unit is far less valuable than it currently is. It would be deprived of the profits from the patents royalties, which help to fund Qualcomm's massive investment in R&D, which in turn helps the chips to remain at the cutting edge.

Qualcomm itself is thinking in terms of being the acquirer, not the prey. CEO Steve Mollenkopf told Bloomberg: "Qualcomm is very likely to be some form of actor in the consolidation of the semiconductor industry … The timing of which is always the debate." The company will look at acquisition opportunities as part of its strategic review process, he said.

While not identifying possible targets, he said Qualcomm wants to expand outside its traditional handset sector into growth markets like connected cars and healthcare. It has already made substantial developments in these areas but could accelerate the ROI with an acquisition.

He also noted that the firm is better placed to make a major purchase now it has settled its antitrust lawsuits in China, bringing greater predictability to its revenues there. "It's an interesting time to be a scale player in the semiconductor industry, particularly from a position of strength," Mollenkopf said. "We've had strategic flexibility, but it's important that you have your home business well structured for the future first."

Among recent chip acquisitions are Intel's of Altera, NXP's of Freescale, and Avago's of Broadcom, leaving limited options in the top tier for Qualcomm. Nvidia, or even the combined NXP/Freescale, might be targets, speculate Wall Street analysts.


Altera could make Intel a C-RAN powerhouse March 30 2015

BY CAROLINE GABRIEL

The upheaval in the wireless infrastructure chip sector continues, with Intel said to be in talks for the biggest deal yet, a takeover of Altera, which had a market cap of $13.3bn on Friday.

If a bid transpires from the negotiations - leaked by sources to The Wall Street Journal - it would be one of Intel's biggest purchase ever, and would reflect the chip giant's urgent need to reduce its reliance on stagnating markets, notably PC processors, and consolidate its strength in servers (still 98% share, but under the first credible attack in years, from ARM).

This is no longer just about enterprises - Intel is pushing its server processor technology into the carrier network and wireless infrastructure spaces, riding on the interest in virtualization, including Cloud-RAN. It has made several acquisitions recently, including those of LSI's Axxia division and Mindspeed's former Picochip unit, aimed at improving its capabilities in base stations, network processors and C-RAN (even at the cost of introducing ARM-based platforms into the fold).

In this market, and in the broader cloud server segment, Intel has a natural advantage, but needs to build on that quickly to fend off ARM's licensees. Since the UK-based core provider moved to 64-bit, partners like Cavium and EZchip have been pushing the Cortex-A architecture into the heartlands of Intel x86 and of proprietary designs, including high end servers, accelerators and network processors.

Altera makes programmable chips (field programmable gate arrays or FPGAs) for base stations and other infrastructure, and leads this segment, ahead of Xilinx and Lattice, especially in the high end sub-sector which comprises over half the market. In 2013, the company became the largest customer for Intel's fledgling foundry business, signing a deal for the US giant to manufacture new top end parts with its cutting edge 14nm FinFet process. At the time, there was also considerable speculation that Intel would need to expand its FPGA expertise, probably via acquisition, in order to take a lead in base stations, and particularly in Cloud-RAN.

This is because FPGAs are increasingly needed, alongside general purpose processors, to satisfy the demands of performance-intensive infrastructure such as cloud servers and carrier networks. FPGAs can run specific tasks very quickly and are increasingly seen in data center platforms used by Microsoft and Baidu alongside Intel chips. Altera has been the leader in penetrating this high growth segment, and if Intel acquired it, there would be the chance to secure those revenues for itself, and also to integrate CPU and FPGA more closely, to gain competitive advantage against rivals.

In particular, that would cut off a valuable source of FPGAs for ARM-based competitors, though that in turn could boost Xilinx, and possibly make it a target for acquisition too (its shares leapt 6% on the reports of the Intel talks with its arch-rival).

As well as servers, FPGAs are an important element of base stations, and of the emerging virtualized version, Cloud-RAN. Intel has been prototyping a base station platform built around its Xeon processor with accelerators optimized for signal processing. Prototypes based on FPGA chips are being used in China Mobile's huge C-RAN market trial, which aims to virtualize network functions on an x86 server in order to control a large number of small and macro cell sites in a flexible, centralized way.

At this year's Mobile World Congress, Altera and Intel were part of China Mobile's demonstrations of C-RAN based on the NFV specifications. Altera signed a strategic collaboration with the China Mobile Research Institute (CMRI) in 2014, focused on the future needs of 5G with regards to virtualization and FPGAs.

"It has been nearly five years since CMRI first introduced the C-RAN concept to the industry, and there is now wide recognition within the industry that this solution is essential for 5G networks," said Chih-Lin I, CMRI's chief scientist, said in Barcelona. "As a key partner helping to realize the industry vision of the C-RAN architecture-based 5G wireless network, Altera provided advanced technologies and great support to our project as we conducted the research and development together."

Intel has also talked about producing a full base station platform, though to date it has mainly worked with partners to get x86 processors into cell site equipment, as seen in its alliances with NSN to create the RACS/Liquid Apps offering, and Cisco/Ubiquisys for the Smart Cell.

The Altera deal, if it materializes, would pull all these strands together, capitalize further on the important Axxia takeover, and give Intel a strong position when the C-RAN market gains scale (which, despite major trials by China Mobile, Telefonica and others, is unlikely to be until the industry gets close to its '5G' stage, around the end of the decade).

Analysts at Citi told Bloomberg that the acquisition could add 4% to Intel's earnings per share and contribute $2bn in annual revenue, as well as being an effective "fab filler" following recent huge investments in new plants and the 14nm process. It could also give Altera the boost it needs in its largest market, wireless and telecoms equipment, where its sales have recently been flat. It has also seen decline in military, automotive and industrial equipment chips, though the networking business has enjoyed growth and it saw a 12% year-on-year rise in sales in 2014, to $1.9bn, with net income pu 7% to $473m.

Founded in 1984, California-based Altera has more than 3,000 employees in 19 countries. Its largest customers are Huawei and Ericsson, which accounted for 10% of its revenue apiece last year and would be attractive targets for Intel, which has made slow progress in penetrating the heart of the mobile infrastructure world, despite its strength in some types of core network processors


Wi-Fi Blasts Ahead with 11ac Wave 2 Chipsets November 29 2014

By Maury Wood, Principal Analyst

Wi-Fi infrastructure has been evolving in two ways, in terms of performance and of usability. A significant wave of hotspot upgrades is under way, driven by the uptake of 802.11ac and of Hotspot 2.0/Next Generation Hotspot. These two technology shifts are the most important in the shift of public Wi-Fi from best effort towards carrier-grade.

2x2 MIMO 802.11ac is now a standard feature in new smartphones, phablets, tablets and notebook computers. By early 2015, new iOS and Android radio firmware will enable Multi User MIMO functionality in smartphones, potentially doubling Wi-Fi throughput as 11ac Wave 2 Access Points are deployed. This article highlights some of the key findings of the latest and unique report entitled “Wi-Fi Blasts Ahead with 11ac Wave 2 Chipsets” published this week by EJL Wireless Research, a research partner of Maravedis.

Promise of Gigabit Wi-Fi

Consumer client devices and access points (both consumer broadband gateways and enterprise-class / carrier-class) using 11ac Wave 2 technology promise nearly instantaneous (very low latency) data transfers with high Quality of Experience / Quality of Service. They will be capable of supporting multiple ultra high definition streaming video flows, including UHD “telepresence” video conferencing flows, as well as hundreds of clients per AP. Additionally, 11ac Wave 2 client devices and access points will offer increasingly robust and comprehensive wireless plus wired security as well as content-aware traffic engineering features.

Complex System Design Risks

Semiconductor companies who can supply both Wi-Fi radios and companion digital System-on-Chip (SoC) processors plus the software and system reference designs are at an enormous advantage over microchip companies who can only supply the digital SoC processor. Wi-Fi systems, such as access points and wireless broadband gateways, are extremely complex hardware (requiring digital, RF and mixed-signal integrated circuits) and embedded software systems. The overwhelming majority of WLAN equipment OEMs are uninterested in attempting to integrate these complex systems using radios and processors from different suppliers. A good illustration of this complexity is the Netgear R7500 Nighthawk X4 consumer WLAN router, which integrates the Qualcomm IPQ8064 with the Quantenna QSR1000 radio, and despite this combination of “best-in-class” silicon components, does not achieve performance that is superior to Broadcom’s chipset (radios and networking processor).

Integrated System Solutions Rule The Roost

Embedded software is frequently the critical determinant of Wi-Fi system performance, and suppliers of both radios and companion processors deliver optimized system software, as well as comprehensive system-level application / software integration engineering support to their customers. For this key reason, this report does not include analysis of general purpose embedded processors from AppliedMicro, Cavium, Freescale (including the Comcerto C2200 and QorIQ T1020), and LSI Logic, none of whom offer companion Wi-Fi radio products.

Super Smart Access Points Plus Storage

The purpose-built Wi-Fi access point networking processors most recently announced by Broadcom, Qualcomm and Marvell have enormously powerful general purpose multi-core ARM CPUs and specialized accelerator engines, and (concurrent with Wave 2 radio performance enhancements) herald a new era ofsuper-smart access points able to run multi-Gbps line rate unified threat management, adaptive / intelligent QoS, continuous spectral analysis and cognitive RF interference avoidance, deep packet inspection and other advanced embedded applications. This order-of-magnitude lift in access point compute capacity is occurring simultaneously with the trend towards controller-less cloud-managed enterprise AP architectures, as well as the trends toward Network Function Virtualization (NFV) and Software Defined Networking (SDN).

Broadcom – Market Leader

Among the top 30 best performing (using maximum 5 GHz downlink throughput as the metric) 11ac Wave 1 and early Wave 2 WLAN routers, using test results from Small Net Builder (www.smallnetbuilder.com), Broadcom chipsets occupies 22 slots (including 8 of the top 10), Qualcomm occupies 7 slots, and Marvell occupies 1 slot in results posted in October 2014. We believe that Broadcom is the performance leader in Wave 1 Wi-Fi chipsets today.

With more than 100 known 802.11ac production design wins, Broadcom is the current leading supplier of Wave 1 802.11ac chipsets (radios and companion networking processors), but Qualcomm (with 58 known 802.11ac Wave 1 production design wins) is now poised to threaten Broadcom’s leadership market share in 2H15 and 1H16 with strong recent Wave 2 product announcements. Broadcom is currently under competitive pressure to announce 11ac Wave 2 radios and upgraded fully carrier-class StrataGX processors.

Wave 2.5 Radios and RF PAs in 2H15

Announced Wave 2 11ac radios (from Qualcomm and Quantenna) do not have support for 160 MHz or 80 MHz + 80 MHz bonded channels. EJL Wireless Research terms next generation 11ac radios with 160 MHz bonded channel support as “Wave 2.5”, and forecasts this capability will appear in 11ac radios announced in 2H15. As the FCC, ETSI and other international regulatory bodies open up additional 5 GHz spectrum for Wi-Fi use, this will become a more important feature (potentially doubling maximum PHY data rate). Companion RF front-end ICs with adequate linearity performance to support 160 MHz channels are likely to be announced from suppliers such as SkyWorks and Qorvo (RFMD / TriQuint) in that timeframe. This report also compares the cutting-edge infrastructure radios and Wi-Fi networking SoC processors from the nine suppliers covered.

Download the brochure of this must-have report.


Intel has lost $2bn in mobile so far this year July 17 2014

Q2 results show resilience in PCs, growth in Chromebooks, but continuing struggle to turn mobile processors into profits

By Caroline Gabriel

The PC may be changing shape as unpredictably as a Transformer, but it is not being replaced by the smartphone or even the tablet, if Intel's latest results are anything to go by. While tablets are eating up much of the older form factor's growth, there is also considerable buoyancy in devices with large screens and keyboards, particularly Google Chromebooks. As it continues to struggle in mobile, it will be essential for Intel to keep its x86 processors inside those products, rather than cede them to lower cost ARM-based providers.

In Intel's second quarter financial report, mobile losses continued to mount, but PC revenues held up surprisingly well. Overall, the company reported record quarterly microprocessor shipments, and added $1bn to its year-ago revenue figure, turning in $13.8bn for the quarter. Operating income was $3.8bn, net income $2.8bn and earnings per share 55 cents.

Intel did not give exact processor shipment numbers, but credited that business with its strong figures, and particularly singled out Chromebooks and its low power Bay Trail system-on-chip. Slow to get the power-efficient SoC right in the past, Intel was in danger of ceding not just the handset market, but all the emerging new post-PC form factors, to ARM-based rivals. However, Bay Trail and other upcoming SoCs have finally given the company an offering which can genuinely go up against ARM in the low power game.

"With the ramp of our Bay Trail SoC family, we have expanded into new segments such as Chrome-based systems, and we are on track to meet our 40m unit tablet goal," CEO Brian Krzanich said in a statement. "In addition, we hit an important qualification milestone for our upcoming 14nm Broadwell processor, and expect the first systems to be on shelves during the holidays." The 14nm shift, together with 3D transistors, will put Intel ahead of the field in terms of process, indicating the advantages of its control of its own production, and enabling it to reduce power, size and cost of chips further.

Other upcoming chips for the year include Cherry Trail for tablets, which will ship by the end of the year, and Broxton, the next generation low-power Atom chip. Next year, Intel will release Skylake, for PCs and tablets.

However, the mobile and communications group continues to struggle. Its revenue was down 67% on Q114, and 83% year-on-year, to just $51m, a drop in the ocean for a company which has often acknowledged that mobile expansion is critical to offset the decline of the PC. The group lost $1.1bn in the quarter and has lost $2bn already this year.

Intel has come very late to the smartphone party, and despite some recent design wins and a much improved offering, it still has important disadvantages compared to Qualcomm, notably the lack of a fully integrated processor/modem solution for LTE - essential for low cost, low power handsets.

CFO Stacy Smith recognized the urgency of the situation, saying that, if Intel cannot integrate mobile connectivity into communications within 3-4 years, it will be locked out of critical segments of the market. Many would say Smith was being optimistic on the timelines.

Krzanich said on the analyst call: "I believe, over time, we can make this a profitable business. We have some ground to make up in moving LTE to Category 6 and having our products designed for this segment. As we turn into SoFIA [the all-in-one SoC family], you'll see a family of product really targeting this space and that's how we become profitable."


Linaro ports Android to 64-bit ARM July 10 2014

Provides vendor neutral reference board to help smaller developers accelerate their moves to 64-bit platforms

By Caroline Gabriel

Intel stole a march on its rivals by providing early-stage 64-bit support for Android, but with Google's recent release of the developer preview of Android L, the ARM-based community will be hard on its heels. Now a 64-bit reference board, combining the ARM processor design with the open Android sourcecode, aims to accelerate uptake of this combination.

ARM's 64-bit architecture, ARMv8, is gaining rapid momentum. Some licensees, such as Qualcomm, will do their own designs and Android implementations, but Google's operating system is all about extending to all levels of the chip industry. Linaro's recently announced 64-bit reference board for developers, Juno, targets those smaller providers, and aims to encourage proliferation of 64-bit ARM/Android devices. Now it has followed that up with a full port of the open source Android code (AOSP) to ARMv8-A.

This is part of Linaro's 14.06 release and, together with the ARM Development Platform (ADP), aims to accelerate 64-bit Android availability on silicon. James McNiven, general manager of systems and software at ARM, told EETimes: "Our collaboration with Linaro will enable our partners to create devices that will drive the best next generation mobile experience on 64-bit Android operating systems, while also providing full compatibility with today's 32-bit mobile ecosystem that is optimized on ARM-v7A."

Linaro, established in 2010, seeks to create a unified Linux code base for the ARM platform, with the related goal of fending off Intel, which hurls fragmentation as one of its most powerful missiles against its chief architecture rival in the mobile world.


Intel leads anti-Qualcomm IoT alliance July 08 2014

Four chip giants found Open Interconnect Consortium for device discovery, in apparent stab at Qualcomm's AllSeen

By Caroline Gabriel

'ABQ', or 'anything but Qualcomm', was an acronym which helped shape the more recent 3GPP standards processes, as companies sought to reduce the dominance of the chip designer's vast array of CDMA-based patents. Now, a similar mentality seems to be behind the latest initiative aiming to steer standards for the internet of things (IoT).

Intel, Samsung, Broadcom, Atmel and Intel's subsidiary Wind River are the founder members of the Open Interconnect Consortium (OIC), the latest in a long line of efforts to standardize the way devices discover one another, and communicate, in the world of billions of connected gadgets. Not only does the new consortium include several of Qualcomm's most important competitors, but it is likely to step on some of the territory of the AllSeen Alliance, which supports the AllJoyn discovery technology, devised by the San Diego chip giant.

The OIC is short on details of its approach so far, though it will publish its code later this quarter, but its announcements suggest it will be a rival to AllJoyn in using the weight of its big-name backers to establish a de facto standard. It says it will devise, and contribute to open source, a peer-to-peer protocol which handles device discovery and authentication. However, Intel says the key difference from AllJoyn is that the OIC code will be created collaboratively, rather than forming a supporters' club around an existing technology from a single firm.

This will certainly not be the last body formed to help the big chip vendors - all of them in urgent need of a leadership role in at least some aspects of IoT standards - to position themselves as standards setters. As seen in other technology markets, the array of would-be standards will gradually consolidate as the real market makers - such as the large-scale consumer and industrial devices vendors - make their choices.

In this way, the OIC has scored one big point, by netting Samsung, although the Korean firm's semiconductor division does not necessarily influence the alliances made by its consumer products activities. It will be positive to see some of those market makers taking some decisions, or risk the chip giants tearing IoT platforms into fragments with their politicking, before the segment has even gained scale.


Intel jumps on self-driving car bandwaggon May 30 2014

Chip giant offers integrated hardware/software platform to support infotainment today, driverless vehicles tomorrow

By Caroline Gabriel 

Like Google and Microsoft, Intel needs to drive next generation devices, not just follow the herd, and so ensure that its technologies remain essential. These days, of course, the car counts as a connected device, and the next step is the self-driving vehicle. Just after Google showed off its concept steering wheel-less car, Intel has announced hardware and software which will support better automotive safety and infotainment today, and move towards driverless vehicles in future.

The new family of In-Vehicle Solutions products aim to help carmakers and their supply chains to "quickly and easily deliver in-vehicle experiences", said Intel, by providing a complete platform, with processors, operating system and development kits. This pre-integrated, pre-tested and application-ready approach, so powerful in low cost handsets, will also reduce time to market for auto infotainment systems by over a year, claims the chip giant, and reduce cost by up to 50%.

The first available products focus on in-vehicle information (IVI) and entertainment systems, along with advanced driver assistance capabilities. Future additions will center on advanced driving experiences and self-driving cars.

"We are combining our breadth of experience in consumer electronics and enterprise IT with a holistic automotive investment across product development, industry partnerships, and groundbreaking research efforts," said Doug Davis, corporate VP of Intel's internet of things group, in a statement. "Our goal is to fuel the evolution from convenience features available in the car today to enhanced safety features of tomorrow and eventually self-driving capabilities."

Intel signalled its interest in this growth sector back in 2012 when it launched a $100m Connected Car Fund via its venture capital arm, with the stated goal of accelerating "the automotive industry transition to seamless connectivity between the vehicle and consumer electronic devices". That is the key to the intense interest in cars from many mobile and PC players - not just the chance to sell chips or software into a new segment, but the way a connected car could support new interactions with conventional devices; increased internet usage; and new revenue-generating applications.

The latest beneficiary of the Connected Car Fund was ZMP of Japan, which has developed an autonomous driving platform and vehicles connected with sensors, radars, and cameras. Intel's technology is used in BMW's Navigation System Professional, the Infiniti InTouch infotainment system in the Infiniti Q50, and the Driver Information System in the new 2015 Hyundai Genesis.X

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