Could mmWave and edge drive the next era of IoT Connectivity?

As we enter the fifth wave of computing, there is no doubt that a shift is taking place. The rise of new technologies is changing what we require from connectivity. The world generates 2.1 exabytes of data every day – an explosion of information that is putting pressure on cloud and on-premise storage. If we want to pursue technically challenging emerging innovations such as autonomous vehicles, we will need a new class of data processing capability.

The centralised way in which we deliver internet infrastructure today is not sustainable in the long term. By 2035, Arm has predicted that there will be a trillion connected devices, processing an unimaginable quantity of data that will need to be managed to meet user expectations in terms of speed and reliability.

The answer is processing more at the edge: bringing the cloud to the devices themselves rather than to the cloud and back. Arm have recently launched our suite of high-performance, secure, and scalable Arm® Neoverse™ solutions which will provide an internet infrastructure foundation to support this journey. To truly leverage the power of the edge, networks will need to improve their agility, and this is where I believe we will see mmWave play a key role. This technology’s capacity for low-latency yet high-speed gigabit connectivity could become the catalyst for Edge as emerging IoT applications that require a fast, cost-effective, and reliable connection mature and move into the mainstream.

The combination of mmWave and edge technologies has much potential. mmWave will enhance capability around high-speed connectivity, with its low latency and multi-gigabit throughput even up to speeds of 200km-300km per hour. And edge will ensure fast performance, as data can be processed within the device itself rather than travelling back and forth to the cloud.

Applying mmWave and Edge

High-Speed Rail Connectivity

Successfully implementing high-speed connectivity across a rail network is an incredibly challenging technical feat, but with recent advances in edge technology and mmWave, this is likely to become a reality in the very near future.

The expectation consumers have today while travelling is to be able to download and upload media content with very high bandwidth requirements, increasingly moving from voice into video calls. Train companies are working on delivering a higher quality of connectivity to improve their service to consumers on the move, but there is still considerable work to be done on improving Wi-Fi performance.

As for better network intelligence, part of the challenge is around understanding where the trains are on the track. Installing a number of sensors within the rail network infrastructure, as well as on trains, could give a much greater insight into train scheduling. Sensors which work consistently and effectively even at high speeds would improve network predictability and reduce frustrating signal failures.

Autonomous Vehicles

As investment increases into self-driving cars, vehicle-to-everything (V2X) technology is coming into the spotlight. But for autonomous trucks, trains, cars or planes to be safe enough for public roads, we will require 100% reliability from networks. Due to the challenges around achieving this level of latency, this is a need which is not currently supported, but could potentially be met by mmWave and edge technology.

Security is another concern. I recently attended a conference in China where Tencent explained how they had managed to hack into Tesla cars, gaining control through drive and park mode. Arm will be tackling this in our Neoverse platforms through the development of our own security model, designed for a world of connected devices.

5G Networking

There has been a huge amount of global activity around 5G, with considerable investment into 5G infrastructure taking place in Asia and the US. As 5G is rolled out, mmWave and edge applications will become more commonplace. mmWave performs like a wireless fibre, the difference being that it is faster, much less disruptive, and much more cost-effective than its fibre equivalent. mmWave can be deployed above ground, putting a stop to the digging up of roads for network installation, which is very expensive and resource-heavy. Edge technology would further improve the performance of 5G connectivity, if employed alongside mmWave.

Blu Wireless Technology and the Future of mmWave

The complexity level of chips being produced today is rising steadily, moving from 16-nanometre to 10-nanometre to 5-nanometre processors. Often, no one semiconductor will have the IP and expertise to develop these single-chip solutions. Blu Wireless’s diverse and expert knowledge in radio and wireless technology, as well as their proven track record and unique technology, is what sets them apart for Arm and makes them an exceptional partner. They are offering an agility that will drive future of connectivity, as we pursue increasingly complex and technical industry applications.