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Gartner: Top Wireless Tech Trends to Watch

business person holding wireless network in hands

New forms of wireless technology are poised to enable emerging tech such as robots, drones, self-driving vehicles and more, according to a recent assessment by Gartner. The research firm identified 10 key wireless trends worth watching as the technology continues to develop over the next five years:

1) WiFi. This long-used technology will be the primary high-performance networking technology for homes and offices through 2024, Gartner said, pointing out that "beyond simple communications, WiFi will find new roles," such as in radar systems or two-factor authentication systems.

2) 5G cellular. A December 2018 Gartner survey found that two-thirds of organizations intend to deploy 5G by 2020. The complete rollout will take five to eight years, Gartner said, and in some cases the technology may serve as a supplement to the more cost-effective WiFi. "5G is still immature, and initially, most network operators will focus on selling high-speed broadband," noted Nick Jones, distinguished research vice president at Gartner, in a statement. "However, the 5G standard is evolving and future iterations will improve 5G in areas such as the Internet of Things and low-latency applications."    

3) Vehicle-to-everything (V2X) wireless. This is the technology that will allow conventional cars, self-driving cars and the road infrastructure to all share information and status data. It can also provide other services such as safety capabilities, navigation support and infotainment, Gartner said. "V2X will eventually become a legal requirement for all new vehicles. But even before this happens, we expect to see some vehicles incorporating the necessary protocols," explained Jones. "However, those V2X systems that use cellular will need a 5G network to achieve their full potential."

4). Long-range wireless power. While the first wireless power systems have required users to place devices on a specific charger point, new technologies can deliver a charge over longer distances, Gartner said. "Long-range wireless power could eventually eliminate power cables from desktop devices such as laptops, monitors and even kitchen appliances. This will allow for completely new designs of work and living spaces," Jones said.

5) Low-power wide-area (LPWA) networks. Typically used to cover very large areas, "LPWA networks provide low-bandwidth connectivity for IoT applications in a power-efficient way to support things that need a long battery life," according to Gartner. Current LPWA technologies are relatively inexpensive, Gartner said, and include Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT), Long Term Evolution for Machines (LTE-M), LoRa and Sigfox.

6) Wireless sensing. This involves using the absorption and reflection of wireless signals as sensor data for radar tracking purposes. As an example, Gartner pointed to wireless sensing as an indoor radar system for robots and drones. "Sensor data is the fuel of the IoT. Accordingly, new sensor technologies enable innovative types of applications and services," noted Jones. "Systems including wireless sensing will be integrated in a multitude of use cases, ranging from medical diagnostics to object recognition and smart home interaction."

7) Enhanced wireless location tracking. The forthcoming IEEE 802.11az standard will enable wireless communication systems to track connected devices with one-meter accuracy, Gartner said, adding that this high-precision tracking will be a feature of future 5G standards. "Location is a key data point needed in various business areas, such as consumer marketing, supply chain and the IoT," said Jones. "For example, high-precision location tracking is essential for applications involving indoor robots and drones."

8) Millimeter wave wireless. "Millimeter wave wireless technology operates at frequencies in the range of 30 to 300 gigahertz, with wavelengths in the range of 1 to 10 millimeters," Gartner noted. "The technology can be used by wireless systems such as WiFi and 5G for short-range, high-bandwidth communications (for example, 4K and 8K video streaming)."

9) Backscatter networking. This technology can send data with very low power consumption, making it ideal for small networked devices, Gartner said. For example, in areas that are already saturated with wireless signals, it can be used to support simple IoT devices.

10) Software-defined radio (SDR). With SDR, most of the signal processing in a radio system is shifted from chips to software. "This enables the radio to support more frequencies and protocols," noted Gartner. The research firm expects SDR to grow in popularity as new protocols emerge.  

"Business and IT leaders need to be aware of these technologies and trends now," commented Jones. "Many areas of wireless innovation will involve immature technologies, such as 5G and millimeter wave, and may require skills that organizations currently don’t possess. [Enterprise architecture] and technology innovation leaders seeking to drive innovation and technology transformation should identify and pilot innovative and emerging wireless technologies to determine their potential and create an adoption roadmap."

The full report, "The Top 10 Wireless Technologies and Trends That Will Drive Innovation," is available to Gartner clients here.

About the Author

Rhea Kelly is editor in chief for Campus Technology, THE Journal, and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected].

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