Internet of Things (IoT) module manufacturer Cavli Wireless has announced a new range of cellular modules designed in, developed for, and to be manufactured domestically in India. Cavli claims it is the first module vendor to try to do so and will be using cellular modem chipsets supplied by GCT Semiconductor. Cavli Wireless is a relatively new entrant to the IoT module market, being formed in 2017, and is headquartered in California, alongside its new strategic partner GCT. Cavli’s modules are almost exclusively targeted at low-cost, low-bandwidth IoT applications with all but one of its C-series of models offering some combination of Long Term Evolution (LTE) Cat-1, Cat-M, and Narrowband-IoT (NB-IoT). Its P-Series modules are also Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) centric, but incorporate an application processor for edge computing.
PayPal announced last week (March 8, 2021) its intent to acquire Israeli startup Curv for an estimated sum between US$200 and US$300 million. The acquisition should complete mid-2021. Curv has developed a solution for secure digital asset custody (including cryptocurrencies) using secure Multi-Party Computation (MPC). MPC is a subfield of cryptography that distributes the computing of an encryption key (or other secrets) across various parties, so that no one party has access to the whole key. The startup’s main target clients are crypto exchanges, but Curv also targets investors who want to diversify their assets, such as investment funds. A number of existing crypto exchanges (such as Liquid and Copper) already make use of MPC, which is an increasingly hot technology.
There are several solutions and developments within the IoT technology market that are positioned as green and sustainable and environmentally friendly. And while those definitions seem to be easy to understand, discourse is self-conflicting on this issue—it creates a particular misconception regarding the technology functionality. The difference between something that is “green” versus something sustainable is precisely the line that separates green philosophies and products out there that focus solely on “energy/environment/climate improvement.” While the sustainable technology would mean improving the social and environmental footprint at every stage of the product’s life, from raw material extraction to end of life. While it does not have to directly be related to environmentally friendly green paradigm
In February 2021, Brazil’s telco regulator Anatel unanimously voted to release the full 1.2 GHz of spectrum within the 6 GHz band for Wi-Fi, making it the second-largest area to do so after the United States. The entire band will be available for low power indoor Wi-Fi use, as well as very low power Wi-Fi use by portable devices, making it the first country to do so. Very low power use allows outdoor interference to be eliminated, which is beneficial for a number of high-power, high data-consuming applications, including IoT, connected cars, AR, and VR. The United States is still to finalize plans for very low power use, despite being the first country to release the full 1.6 GHz of spectrum within the 6 GHz band.
Despite strong smart home growth, much of the value and appeal of smart home is currently lost through the cost and inefficiencies in collecting and leveraging smart home data. Sendal, a U.S. startup, is looking to change that by providing a platform capable of managing a multi-vendor smart home environment but geared toward making data available to application developers and service providers, bringing greater innovation and interoperability to the market. Sendal CEO and founder Jim Carroll also co-founded long-time smart home stalwart Savant, and in a market with limited data exchange capabilities, Sendal’s approach targets a key industry issue.
AWS, the leading global cloud provider, and BlackBerry, the leading intelligent security software provider, announced a strategic alliance for codeveloping the intelligent vehicle data platform BlackBerry IVY. IVY is a scalable, cloud-connected in-vehicle software platform that provides Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) with a consistent and secure way to read and normalize vehicle sensor data and to create actionable insights from it both at the edge and in the cloud. The solution combines AWS’s prominent cloud computing services and machine-learning expertise with BlackBerry’s in-depth knowledge of embedded automotive systems to deliver an end-to-end platform to automotives. The IVY platform has no vendor lock-in; thus, it works on multiple operating systems (not just QNX) and integrates to any endpoint destination (not just AWS). Moreover, the OEM has ownership of the data and maintains complete control over who can access it and how open the platform will be for the developer community. In summary, the platform reduces data collection and analysis complexity to allow OEMs to concentrate efforts on creating value for end customers and monetization via connected services and applications.
With the transition of the different cellular technologies and the high increase in data consumption both indoors and outdoors, optical fiber has become an important infrastructure element able to support multiple services such as Wi-Fi, surveillance cameras, and as a transport layer for Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS). In the United States, building owners are facing the challenge of deploying Public Safety DAS (PS-DAS) when it is mandated by the Authorities Having Jurisdictions (AHJ). For this purpose, multiple in-building solutions can be adopted, such as repeaters, passive DAS, and active DAS where the equipment and labor cost of the PS-DAS is typically assumed by the landlords. In the installation phase, the building is provisioned with power supply and cable trays as well as vertical and horizontal cabling, all of which can be leveraged for a better wireless business case. Thus, landlords could take this situation as an opportunity to give extra value to the building rather than looking for the quickest way to “fix the issue” and meet the requirements allocated by the AHJ.
Within the last year (2020), activities around AR/VR/MR market with telecoms have been bubbling. This is especially true with all major Japanese telecom operators (NTT Docomo, KDDI, and Softbank). For example, NTT Docomo has established a new venture, Fukugo-Genjitsu-Seisakujo, INC, looking at the development of XR services targeted towards different processes in industrial applications. (e.g., design, manufacturing, and inspection). KDDI partnered with Nreal, the Chinese AR device firm, to bring its product into the Japanese market. Softbank has also joined the Niantic Planet-Scale AR Alliance (that brings together telecom operators to work on 5G content), the only Japanese telecom operator to do so.
With continued adoption of 5G networks, the industry will see an explosive growth of data. That is in part because 5G provides the foundation for new value creation coming from new vertical industry applications. Use cases like automatic network management, network fault prediction and solution, and personalized user experience remain significant scenarios. But a data platform for 5G networks is needed to build a service indication system for end vertical industry use cases (e.g., augmented reality/virtual reality, smart homes, Industrial Internet of Things [IIoT], Industry 4.0, etc.) and to provide relevant analysis and management capabilities.
The race to the commercial launch of 5G started in 2019. Many countries worldwide have deployed their 5G networks, with the leading countries including South Korea, China, the United States, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Finland, Spain, the United Arab Emirates, Australia, and Germany. On the other hand, initiated by certain network operators such as Rakuten Mobile, Vodafone, Telefónica, Deutsche Telekom, and Orange, Open Radio Access Network (Open RAN) is also gaining momentum. By disaggregating software from hardware and opening fronthaul interfaces, the open network targets unlocking the telco supply chain, which is dominated by a handful of incumbent vendors, and introducing more flexible and agile multi-vendor interoperable solutions. In addition to these primary activities, academia and industry have also started envisioning and planning the 6th Generation (6G) of wireless technologies for the 2030s.
In 2020, COVID-19 and 5G adoption spurred gaming in the most populated Asian country—China—with domestic gaming revenues increasing 20% to US$43 billion and the number of gamers increasing by 3.7%, effectively making half of the entire Chinese population gamers (665 million gamers as reported by the China Audio Video and Digital Publishing Association).
The B2B application domain has seen tremendous growth the past few years, with many different companies attacking it from different angles and with different strategic priorities. Hyperscalers, and particularly Amazon and Microsoft, are moving into the on-prem space with products like AWS Outposts, Snowcone and Snowball, and Azure with Private Edge Zones. Meanwhile, telecom operators are starting to target enterprises with hybrid connectivity models that include private cellular, network slicing and their crown jewel, Wide Area Network (WAN) connectivity. At the same time, there are startups entering the market with new products and services, that use components from both hyperscalers and telecom operators to implement new types of functionality.
A February announcement saw Google add Ford to their growing list of Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) that have opted for the Android Automotive solution to meet the needs of their next generation of infotainment. After Renault-Nissan first took the plunge into Google’s automotive-tailored embedded solution in 2018, Google has gained rapid traction, particularly in the automotive mass market, with OEMs such as GM, FCA Group, Groupe PSA, and Volvo opting to bring Google onto the embedded side.
Khin Sandi Lynn
Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) services have been playing an important role in providing broadband connectivity to areas unserved or underserved with fixed broadband infrastructure. Although fixed wireless access broadband services are initially focused for Small Office and Home (SOHO) and consumer use cases to enable broadband connectivity, industry players have started expanding FWA products to the enterprise segment. In February 2020, Inseego—a mobile broadband Customer-Premises Equipment (CPE) maker—announced that its Wavemaker PRO 5G indoor FWA router FG2000e is certified for use in Europe, North America, and Australia.
On February 5, 2021, Magnite announced its acquisition of SpotX from the RTL Group for cash (US$560 million) and stock (14 million shares in Magnite stock) totaling US$1.17 billion (based on the closing price of Magnite stock on Thursday, February 4, 2021). Considering that SpotX’s 2020 revenue totaled US$116 million and the RTL Group spent EUR€107 million in 2014 (for 65% share) and EUR€123 million in 2017 for the remaining shares, Magnite paid a hefty price on the strong prospects for video advertising and CTV (Connected TV) in particular. Given the company’s recent history, however, the acquisition makes good sense.
Brain-Machine Interface (BMI) technology is starting to gain momentum. Although it is currently primarily powered by academia and extensive lab research, it is expected to successfully make the transition from healthcare to consumer markets within the next 4 years.
On January 5, 2021, former U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order banning transactions with eight Chinese app development companies, including Alipay, QQ Wallet, WeChat Pay, Tencent QQ, CamScanner, SHAREit, VMate, and WPS Office. As one of the last executive actions of the previous administration, it signaled a continuation of an increasingly combative relationship between American authorities and the Chinese commercial technology space, all justified under the auspices of national security. While this executive order focused on general purpose transaction applications, the United States has also placed further scrutiny on Chinese robotics vendors operating within the United States. A clear example of this is the restrictions placed on the Chinese company DJI regarding government procurement of civil drones.
Over the past few weeks, Apple has made a handful of moves in the Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) markets, once again preparing for a significant hardware, software, and service AR/VR presence in the next couple years. Most recently, rumors point to there being two separate Apple AR/VR devices, the first one being a high-end mixed or merged reality headset (merged reality being a VR headset with camera pass-through capability), and the second being a simpler assistive/AR device. No specific announcements have been made on these products, but related happenings are significant.
The transport ticketing market is seeing a gradual upheaval of long-standing technologies and proprietary systems in favor of an open model, placing the end user’s convenience and choice as a priority. However, rollout of closed-loop systems are still very much underway in cities across the globe. So is it the end of the line for the closed-loop card, or is it full-steam ahead in another closed format?
Smart buildings in any form are not a new concept and have traditionally focused on driving down costs for day-to-day practices through the use of sensors and Building Management Systems (BMS), which has been considerably improved with Building Automation Systems (BAS). These systems were rolled out to manage a building’s interior environmental conditions effectively and efficiently to ensure a happy medium of user experience and cost efficiency.
Transport Canada announced the final details of a new Electronic Logging Device (ELD) mandate, which will come into force on June 12, 2021. Despite the Canadian government initially offering no “grandfather” or “soft enforcement” period, it has now announced there will be a 12-month progressive enforcement period to help ease existing pressures from COVID-19. The mandate requires vehicle drivers currently keeping a Record of Duty Status (RODS) to switch from paper logbooks to ELDs. Current Hours of Service (HOS) regulations will not be affected, but the new regulation will help monitor and improve driver compliance.
Lian Jye Su
Microsoft has finally launched its edge AI hardware solution that complements its cloud services. This is another attempt by cloud service providers to target edge AI applications. This ABI Insight breaks down the key features and components of Azure Percept, popular use cases, and the overall competitive landscape.
Long-Term Evolution Machine-Type Communication (LTE-M, aka Cat.M) and Narrowband-Internet of Things (NB-IoT) were confirmed as 5G cellular Low-Power Wide-Area (LPWA) standards by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) and the GSMA in mid-2018. LTE-M and NB-IoT were standardized in 3GPP Release 13, before 5G New Radio (5G NR) was standardized in Release 15, but have now been incorporated into 5G. Coming at the tail end of the LTE standardization process, the unrealized potential for LTE-M and NB-IoT needed to be protected, as both technologies are only just gaining meaningful adoption. IoT network technologies must be guaranteed to be supported by carriers for decades to come to secure customer confidence in them, as IoT deployments must be assumed to need to persist without human intervention to upgrade or replace them for the duration of their operational life.
SpaceX launched yet another set of 60 Starlink satellites earlier this month as the company continues its expansion of its satellite broadband services across the world. SpaceX is planning to launch 42,000 satellites in its Starlink Low Earth Orbit (LEO) constellation for global coverage by 2027. Currently, SpaceX has about 1,200 LEO satellites (with 310 of them launched this year) and an estimated 10,000 users across communities in six countries.
Distributed Internet architectures and edge networks have introduced fundamental architectural changes in telcos and associated network stacks. For example, operators’ data centers may increase in number from today’s 100 to potentially thousands; virtual machines proliferate from hundreds to thousands; and networks shift from tens in centralized core environments to hundreds at the “edge.” Further, with compute and networking converging to drive agility and efficiency, today’s cell sites and central offices become infrastructure hubs that facilitate computing at the edge for low latency and highly dedicated use cases. These architectural variances hold potential in terms of both the ability to support new applications and the control over the development of such applications.
Aspen Technology and Emerson have both been investing to expand their respective digital thread capabilities in the pharmaceutical vertical. In February, Emerson announced an equity investment in Fluxa, while Aspen Technology announced the acquisition of Camo Analytics in November 2020.
In March, two big names in virtual spaces drew attention for significant valuations. Rec Room, the social VR platform, raised US$100 million, which resulted in a US$1.25 billion valuation. Revenue grew at more than 500% in 2020, paired with 1 million monthly active users and 15 million lifetime users. VR is 25% of Rec Room’s user base. Roblox made similar news, after going public with a direct listing and a valuation over US$40 billion. While VR is not the primary portfolio element for Roblox, the platform’s flexibility in content means that there are a few VR-enabled titles as part of the ecosystem. The company claims more than 18 million “worlds” and experiences and 33 million daily users, with nearly US$2 billion spent on the platform’s virtual currency.
Increasing payment-card-based security remains an industry duty toward which all ecosystem players need to strive. As fraudsters become more sophisticated in their methods, the strengthening of authentication security and methods also needs to evolve in order to ensure that payment card technology, authentication, and security remains one step ahead.
Launched on March 29, 2021, IDEMIA has delivered its Mobile ID offering to the state of Arizona, alongside the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) Motor Vehicle Division. The result is that residents of Arizona are now able to use their personal smartphone to verify their driver's license and ID card information in a secure fashion.
Dynamic band-switching is not new. Back in February 2013, Qualcomm announced its RF360 chipset, which included an antenna switch and dynamic antenna-matching tuner to enable smartphones to support and optimize performance on all Long Term Evolution (LTE) frequency bands between 700 MHz and 2700MHz in real time. What is newer is its increased adoption in the Internet of Things (IoT). Band-switching has been less of an issue in the IoT market because of the relative simplicity of device protocols: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS), and Industrial, Scientific, and Medical (ISM) devices operate on a low number of frequencies, with the result that a relatively simple passive component can suit most requirements. Module vendors and antenna vendors have frequently partnered together to offer off-the-shelf joint solutions for Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and GNSS, in particular: these frequently consist of a Surface-Mount Technology (SMT) chip or Printed Circuit Board (PCB) trace antenna mounted on the same board as a module, ready for integration into any device. Because of the simplicity of the frequencies covered, no complicated matching network needs to be designed, and an antenna can be “pre-detuned” to make sure that it resonates at the right frequency after it is integrated into an end node.
In 2015, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) launched new location accuracy metrics (horizontal and vertical) for callers contacting the E911 emergency line through a wireless phone, particularly in indoor environments. Motivated by the requirements imposed by the FCC on Mobile Network Operators (MNOs), The 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) Release 13 conducted a study (TR 37.857 V13.1.0) to assess the performance and accuracy of the positioning mechanisms available in Long Term Evolution (LTE). As a result of the study, 3GPP concluded that existing positioning mechanisms (prior to 3GPP Release 13) can satisfy the 80% positioning accuracy requirement of 50 Meters (m) in the horizontal axis. However, new positioning methods were required to target the indoor positioning needs (TS 36.305 v13.0.0), namely Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN), Terrestrial Beacon System, Bluetooth, and Barometric sensor methods.
A lone worker is defined by the U.K.’s Health and Safety Executive as “those who work by themselves without close or direct supervision.” As the world has evolved due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many more people are now working at their residence. In April 2020 in the United Kingdom, 46.6% of the nation’s workforce was working from home. It has been found that many employees are more willing to stay employed by their employer if they could continue to work from home rather than returning to their offices. Just as social workers or engineers are considered lone workers, those working from home are also falling into this “lone worker” slot. Lone worker safety solution providers—such as Vismo, Solo Protect, and Lone Worker Solutions—all offer products for those who now work from home. These providers have expanded their portfolio to include solutions in order to protect lone workers working on the streets and at home.
On March 23, 2021, AWS announced the availability of its AWS Media Intelligence Solutions (AWS MI) that brings together a combination of services to serve a range of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine-Learning (ML) needs for media workflows across three initial target markets (media and entertainment [M&E], education, and ad tech) and that currently targets four primary use cases.
As enterprise 5G continues to mature in 2021, private network deployments have received particular attention within the industry. To fulfill implementers’ requirements for the maximum degree of network customizability as well as full control over Quality of Service (QoS) and Service Level Agreements (SLA), the telco industry so far has rested all its hopes on providing fully isolated private networks, with all network infrastructure deployed exclusively on the implementing enterprise’s premise.
One of the most frequent questions asked by connectivity and digital security providers concerns the creation of new monetization and pricing models for IoT security. Many different pieces populate the chessboard and many conflicting technologies battle for dominance to carve out an adaptive ROI.
Network slicing was positioned as the most promising use case for 5G networks in the enterprise domain, aiming to create completely new business segments for carriers and help them grow their enterprise revenues significantly. Until now, this has largely been a theoretical discussion that has not resonated with enterprise verticals, and network slicing is still many years away from the market for many reasons.
Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) is an integrated circuit designed for designers or customers to flexibly configure the hardware to realize certain processing functionalities after manufacturing. According to a standard processing hardware development procedure, once the performance requirements are well understood, the designed functions are hardened onto Application-Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC) for high-speed, cost-effective, and large volumes market provisioning. Such historical strategy works well for most applications that require optimization and high volumes, including radio network deployments of previous wireless generations, such as 4G/3G/2G. However, with the advent of 5G, the rapid growth of data traffic and various service requirements may force network operators and their ecosystem partners to look for a new way to design these systems. As network operators are under pressure to speed up their 5G deployments, there are many new technologies being considered, especially on the radio side—such as beamforming, bandwidth support, and processing requirements—that are still evolving.
The 400-meter-long Ever Given vessel was trapped for six days across the Suez Canal, causing havoc for global maritime supply chains, before finally being freed on March 29th, 2021. This comes at a time when the maritime ecosystem is already facing issues with port congestion and poor schedule reliability. The blockage of the 224,000-ton container ship has already caused vast economic damage with further implications yet to be seen. European countries are expected to see the most significant impact, along with some U.S. retailers such as Walmart and H&M.
Jun Wei Ee
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced countries across the globe to enter into lockdowns in much of 2020. While it introduced many economic challenges, one upside was that the world saw a reduction in outdoor air pollution. With restrictions on global and local travel, shutdown of schools and businesses, and halting of industrial activities, there has a been a substantial reduction in nitrogen dioxide (NO2), modest reductions in fine-particle air pollution (PM2.5), and higher levels of ozone (O3) according to the State of Global Air 2020 report. In addition, global emissions from burning fossil fuels fell by a record 7% in the same year according to the Global Carbon Project, an international group of researchers who track emissions.
Altair and Rolls-Royce Germany formed a strategic partnership in March 2021 to improve the firm’s design processes by applying Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) to its engineering test data. For Rolls-Royce Germany, the objective of the partnership is to accelerate and improve the decision-making process for its engineers by combining Altair’s simulation and data analytics tools together. Altair will work with Roll-Royce Germany to help the firm improve its AI modelling and application of data science and algorithms to support use cases, including developing synthetic data to be used for ML. In addition, Altair will create additional features in its software applications in order to make the use cases successful.
Facebook Reality Labs demonstrated a wristband wearable concept (resembling a smartwatch with a large screen) that detects hand/finger movements and allows the user to mentally control and interact with AR/VR devices. This User Interface (UI) leverages electromyography (EMG), which relies on sensors to translate electrical motor nerve signals that travel through the wrist to the hand into digital commands that can be used to control the functions of a device (such as clicking, swiping, and typing). Facebook claims that EMG is very accurate and can understand finger motion of just a millimeter. Initially, EMG will be limited to tapping on a button, but long term, the control options will be enriched (such as manipulating virtual objects in space or typing on a virtual keyboard) and support haptic feedback for more immersive experiences. To build this solution, Facebook is leveraging the technology from CTRL-labs, a startup that was acquired in 2019 (US$500 million to US$1 billion, estimated) and designed a wristband capable of transmitting electrical signals from the brain into computer input.
ABI Research forecasts Long-Term Evolution (LTE) to generate the most data traffic globally up until 2025, at which point 5G will overtake by 2026 (LTE and 5G combined will generate 1,600 exabytes of mobile data globally by 2026). As such, LTE still remains responsible for the majority of the data traffic for the next five years and will still be an essential technology to enable Mobile Broadband (MBB) in emerging markets. For developed markets, an extensive LTE network is foundational as an anchor for 5G Nonstandalone (NSA), and higher LTE coverage can serve rural areas and improve the initial user experience for 5G as users will experience LTE and 5G concurrently on the same spectrum through dynamic spectrum sharing, in which areas with limited 5G coverage will switch to LTE to ensure a consistent flow of data traffic.
Insurance & Mobility Solutions (IMS) announced the launch of the IMS Vehicle Data Exchange. The new service provides real-time access to vehicle insights and mobility data from OEM-embedded hardware, combined with the company's existing portfolio of aftermarket connectivity options. The solution aggregates, normalizes, and enriches data from both OEM embedded and aftermarket hardware, offering actionable insights in a single interface. IMS works directly with OEMs and ingests data directly from the OEM cloud, rather than using software in the vehicle, an intentional approach to reduce complexity. The solution is model agnostic and compatible with multi-marque light-, medium-, or heavy-duty vehicles.
Khin Sandi Lynn
As 5G networks expand their capabilities, the utilization of satellite platforms has emerged as a solution to ensure global coverage.
In ABI Research’s recent competitive assessment on autonomous material handling robots, it was found that the most successful Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMR) vendors currently, generally utilize SICK AG LiDAR sensors alongside a 3D camera. Sensor fusion is thus an increasingly common reality for navigation and perception in the mobile robotics space. That being said, a small number of companies are offering mapping, positioning and perception (in effect the full SLAM capability) purely through the use of cameras. Among these include Seegrid, 634 AI, Sevensense, and Gideon Brothers, although others are entering the market.
Lian Jye Su
This insight explores the role of gateway and server Original Equipment Vendors (OEMs) in edge AI deployment.