“Internet of Things” Needs More Bandwidth, but Promises a Connected Future

A written Q&A exchange with two industry experts.

During my recent research into the connected car and in-vehicle infotainment systems I’ve run across all manner of mobile data pipes. Those pipes, after all, are how information will flow to and from the car. It’s a massive data problem that relies on Wi-Fi (when available) and cellular networks to keep up with demand, scale out cost effectively, handle security, and interoperate with myriad handsets and M2M modems.

I’m no expert in LTE networks, so I went to two companies that really are expert in these current and next-generation networks. I tossed a couple of softball questions early on, then asked the harder questions about security and average revenue per user (ARPU). The return answers may surprise you. Read on to find out what our experts said. Edited excerpts follow.

EECatalog: What effects will the growing M2M trend have on wireless networks? How will all those “Internet of Things” nodes be integrated?

Andrew (Drew) Sproul is currently Director of Marketing at Adax, Inc.

ADAX: For carriers this is a tremendous commercial opportunity for additional revenue. The submission or exchange of data is minimal, much like signaling in terms of network bandwidth usage. It’s similar to the early use of the SS7 network for SMS services. That was, and this is major revenue from existing plant [infrastructure] with minimal CAPEX/OPEX investment.

As far as integration of all those nodes, most of these applications are point to point. Smart Meters send usage data to the energy provider and occasional alarms when necessary. Fleet vehicles send GPS data to their HQs, and security systems send arm/disarm notifications to a server that sends out an email. Additionally, there are service brokers such as Kore Telematics emerging that mediate the network interface, perform authentication and security for the end point data.


brian carr
Brian Carr, Strategic Marketing Manager, Embedded Computing, Emerson Network Power.

Emerson: By many accounts, M2M will have a large impact on the overall traffic profile in the future since the number of “things” will surpass the number of human users. One of the issues for the networks therefore is to successfully manage traffic to prioritize a user’s quality of experience over background M2M communication.

EECatalog: The cost of forklift upgrades is high. What are operators and their technology partners doing to increase capacity while maintaining costs?

ADAX: eNodeBs [Evolved Node B; the hardware communicating directly with LTE cellular handsets] are scaling up to support thousands of users, theoretically all at LTE/4G speeds. This capacity plus the inherent intelligence in the software and computing power of the devices allows network operations to share in the CAPEX of new equipment, thus lowering their overall costs.

Emerson: Operators should be looking to equipment based on upgradeable and future-proof technologies such as AdvancedTCA (ATCA) to be able to take advantage of the core technology evolution, especially in areas such as Deep Packet Inspection that gets used to identify and optimize communication flows across a necessarily limited network.

EECatalog: Some people have called “The Connected Car” the next great embedded platform. Yet to make it useful requires connectivity to the cloud, probably via Wi-Fi or cellular. What’s your vision and observation of this emerging trend?

ADAX: It really depends on how ‘The Connected Car’ is defined. If it means control of a moving vehicle then that’s clearly not yet ready for primetime. If it means infotainment, real-time traffic and navigation assistance then most certainly this is a trend on the rise. The question of connectivity will be solved by macro-wireless network coverage for phones. The question of billing will be the one that needs sorting out.

Comcast is advertising XFINITY Wi-Fi to automatically connect to available hot spots with a smart phone or tablet. Comcast and Verizon are already in a partnership for home mobile services in conjunction with cable-supplied voice [services]. It’s only one more step to use the intelligent device (resembling a tablet) that’s integrated into your car.

Emerson: This is simply another extension of M2M, but adding and combining with human communications.

EECatalog: Please comment on the market and growth for cellular and high bandwidth wireless networks.

ADAX: This is a very broad question that’s better addressed by comprehensive marketing reports. At the high level, LTE is in a very uneven stage of adoption. US and Japanese networks are leading the way. WiMAX is prevalent in many other parts of the world including Africa and APAC excluding Japan and Korea. We can expect bandwidth increases across all available technologies as personal and networked economy demand grows. Wi-Fi is of particular interest as until very recently it was dismissed as a viable network access technology. Now that market is exploding and everyone is scrambling to integrate Wi-Fi into the macro network.

Emerson: There is no shortage of demand for data capacity to be delivered to users, and mobile networks are where most of the focus is. According to the 2012 Cisco Visual Networking Index, mobile data traffic is expected to grow annually at a CAGR of 78% through to 2016. But investment in network capacity needs to make a return, so operator focus is on network and content optimization based on the latest packet processing platforms to better monetize existing and future investments.

EECatalog: Carriers are desperate to increase ARPU. What services and technologies do you predict might appear in the next 12-24 months?

ADAX: Personalized and dynamic Service Level Agreements based on a new generation of Policy Servers and Subscriber databases relying on sophisticated uses of DPI [deep packet inspection] and policy enforcement will allow network providers to tap newfound revenue streams based on personal preferences that the network profiles and acts on. Think real-time upselling to an HD enhanced bandwidth stream of yesterday’s Giant’s game. Would I pay $5 or $10 or even $25 dollars to watch that live on my tablet? Absolutely.

Emerson: We can foresee a number of initiatives that will be tried over the next several years to improve ARPU. One will be to offer a tiered quality of experience where customers will pay more to get an improved service. This is particularly relevant with regard to mobile video access, which will be another potential growth area. For this, and other improvement services, the latest technology underpinning this is packet processing based on AdvancedTCA hardware.

EECatalog: Please address “security” as a general topic as it pertains to wireless networks.

ADAX: In the early days of wireless, fraud detection and prevention were of paramount concern as the source of massive revenue loss to the NSPs. Secure access and use of the wireless networks is pretty well locked down today. However the proliferation of new IP, web-based services opens up a whole new realm of security risks that must be addressed. IPsec is being implemented in the handsets as an added measure to existing user security. These tunnels within the existing network protections should protect end-to-end transactions. I am not up on over the air interception techniques so I can’t comment on them.

An emerging point of vulnerability is access to the public internet from wireless devices. In LTE the PGW is designed to manage access to trusted and untrusted networks. Simply acknowledging that untrusted networks [exist] defines the problem. PGWs will need to rely in either external or integrated security gateways. Similarly MDOs (Mobile Data Offload) devices will need to incorporate security gateways in order to safely send and receive data on behalf of the eNodeB from potentially untrusted sources.

That leaves the end point or data at rest as the most vulnerable link in the chain. And indeed this is where we have seen the most frequent breaches on the most massive scale where thousands or even millions of users have had their private information compromised. This is basically an IT/Cloud security issue that is being addressed now by humongous VM security gateways front-ending data storage servers.

Emerson: Security is clearly an important issue. We are all aware of security issues in wireline networks, but not yet in wireless access where a lot of personally sensitive data is available on mobile handsets. We can expect more use to be made of authentication and encryption as a first line of defense. As evidence of this trend, Emerson is integrating into its ATCA platforms a new communications focused chipset from Intel that provides hardware acceleration for mobile encryption standards and for RSA key exchanges.

EECatalog: What are the top 3 open standards you’re following in wireless?

ADAX: There are 3 areas we are following closely: Security, GTP and Policy

  1. 3GPP TS 33.210 for Security gateways in LTE and legacy networks
  2. 3GPP 29.060.274/281 for GTP-U
  3. 3GPP 23.203 and 29.207/209/212 for Policy Control and Charging

Emerson: As Emerson, we concentrate on enabling network equipment providers to take advantage of the latest technology to build and deploy all sorts of network elements. In this endeavor, we focus on an open standard called AdvancedTCA. ATCA for short defines hardware practices that can be used to create carrier grade communications processing platforms using commercial off-the-shelf boards and enclosures, speeding time to market for innovative new applications such as policy enforcement and content optimization.

EECatalog: What technology are you most excited about for the future? How does it relate to wireless networks?

ADAX: The notion of freeway traffic management through a network of connected, intelligent computer-driven cars is intriguing. It is fraught with obstacles to overcome but the thought of traveling between San Jose and Oakland relatively stress free from freeway entrance to freeway exit is very appealing.

The GPS technology is there to identify the best freeway exit to take. Traffic advisories could also be incorporated real-time and given as options to the ‘driver’. Lane changes would be restricted to an as needed only basis with distances between cars calculated by on-board sensor and speeds set accordingly to ensure a steady flow of traffic.

Universal implementation would require every vehicle to be intelligent in this manner, but even before that incremental steps could be taken. Such as individual cars set to control speed and distances between cars with lane changes prohibited. Just like cruise control the driver could override the program instantly at any time to change lanes or exit.

I don’t think intelligence and control embedded in the roads themselves is the way to go. For information yes, but not control. It adds another element of complexity to an already difficult problem. Intelligent devices in the cars with driver override options is optimal in both the short and long run.

Emerson: We are excited about the advent of 40G AdvancedTCA since this will underpin many of the new scalable packet processing applications that will help monetize the mobile network through to 2017. This is now a reality and innovative companies are using this technology in active development programs today. We are looking forward to increasing this speed to 100G over the next 3 – 4 years to support the generation beyond that.



Chris A. Ciufo is senior editor for embedded content at Extension Media, which includes the EECatalog print and digital publications and website, Embedded Intel® Solutions, and other related blogs and embedded channels. He has 29 years of embedded technology experience. He has degrees in electrical engineering, and in materials science, emphasizing solid state physics. He can be reached at cciufo@extensionmedia.com.

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