You may have just finished an online videoconference from your home office, helped your kids log in for a remote class at the kitchen table and are taking a break to read this article from your favorite chair. If so – like millions of other people around the world working remotely – the remarkable reach of wireless connectivity has been critical for you to stay connected, productive and innovative.
In our case, as with most companies, we didn’t expect a pandemic to force us to work from home this year. As the severity of the situation became clear, the task seemed daunting. A semiconductor business is a complex operation with large research-and-development projects, thousands of customers to support and millions of parts to ship. With the support of technology and the resilience of our teams, I’m proud to say we have barely missed a beat.
Let me give you one example: We had a customer that was navigating regulatory certification and needed new firmware delivered. It had equipment running at a third-party lab in Asia, development in Europe and support from us in the United States. Within a week, its lab was equipped with an upgrade that enabled it to pass the certification. The problem was solved with support over three continents and three labs without anyone involved leaving their home.
Accelerating the pace of change
Connectivity like this – wireless, seamless and fast – is a vital part of our economy. We educate our children and connect with our families remotely. Health care professionals monitor their patients remotely. Our automobiles can download software automatically. Businesses develop new products and services and monitor and upgrade their systems from afar. The list could go on and on.
These advances have become integral parts of our lives fairly quickly, and we believe the pace of change will continue to accelerate.
I talk to customers regularly, monitor developments in technology and our culture continuously, and manage teams at our company that are working on innovations that will become commonplace in five years. Here’s what I see:
1. Remote access and control are setting the stage for growth in new services.
The pace of acceptance will accelerate as we continue to get more comfortable with remote work and access. Digital keys, for example, open up the market for new services for the home, office and automobiles. Whether it’s personalizing an owner’s interaction with their vehicle or home, creating a path for lower-power connectivity operation when the key is off, or providing users passive entry into their vehicles using phone-as-a-key applications, there are many possible enhancements to the user experience.
With a car, for example, the user can simply walk up to the vehicle to unlock it with the digital phone-key and let the vehicle automatically adapt to the user’s preferred settings for the positions of mirrors, seat, steering wheel and head-up display using their digital profiles.
Bluetooth® Low Energy based car access systems can also enable your vehicle to use various secure ranging and localization techniques to locate the authorized phone inside the car, adding one more security measure before unlocking the doors and turning on the engine.
Moreover, the user can create digital keys for friends and family as well as temporary digital keys for a valet, making car sharing more convenient. You may soon be comfortable giving a temporary electronic key for your car to someone who will take it for servicing and then return it to you.
2. Communications infrastructure will take new forms.
The backbone of the connectivity evolution is a continuous Internet connection, which traditionally has been delivered by an Internet service provider or a cellular network operator. In the future, developers of “things” will have alternative ways to connect to the Internet.
For example, Amazon Sidewalk can extend the range of low-bandwidth devices and ensure a subscription-free Internet connection. It draws on crowd-sourced connectivity, where end-device manufacturers can benefit from the already deployed base of Amazon Sidewalk Bridges that natively connect to the Internet.
With the number of connected nodes increasing in and around homes, the capability to build reliable, long-range networks is critical. Long-range connectivity extends our ability to collect more sensor data, monitor more devices and build smarter products.
As different types of radios become more common in the things around us, it requires multiple gateways for devices to talk to each other and connect to the cloud. This is where Amazon Sidewalk can reduce the complexity and eliminate the need for companies to design and manufacture their own gateways, making us even more connected than ever before.
3. More wireless connectivity technologies are coming.
Wireless technologies are the backbone of our rapidly evolving, connected world. These technologies push different boundaries around communication speed, range and integration. Developers and manufacturers are looking for standardized solutions that offer a simplified approach to Internet of Things design.
Consumers are familiar with Bluetooth® and Wi-Fi® wireless technologies, but they do not meet all connectivity needs. For example, the physical properties of radio signals in Sub-1 GHz bands make them more suitable for longer-range and lower-power applications.
The networks’ long-range, low-power devices use are often referred to as low-power wide-area networks (LPWANs). Examples of applications that benefit from LPWANs are environmental sensors that measure temperature and air quality and battery-powered flow meter sensors for water, heat and gas. The relative lack of standardization in this space has limited its popularity since development often requires a large amount of detailed radio design capabilities. As the benefits of the Sub-1 GHz technologies become apparent, the engagement and popularity of new standards will increase.
Amazon Sidewalk is one example that will benefit Sub-1 GHz technology. Additionally, this year the MIOTY Alliance was formed to serve as the governing body of the MIOTY LPWAN solution for large-scale networks. As the IoT landscape continues to grow and evolve, more new standards such as MIOTY will expand connectivity options worldwide and foster a more competitive market environment and better products for customers.
Staying connected through it all
Recent events have taken an enormous toll on people and economies around the world, but they also illustrate the importance of connectivity for how we live, learn and work. This technology has allowed us to stay nimble and to adapt and succeed in a world that is ever-changing.
Helping our customers connect and be productive – even during a time of market uncertainty – is one way our company is living its passion to create a better world by making electronics more affordable through semiconductors. We continue to make technology smaller, more efficient, more reliable and more affordable – opening opportunities such as connecting billions of devices in a scalable way.
And as we continue our leadership in wireless connectivity technologies, we enable our customers to innovate, ensure continuous operations, and make businesses and economies around the world more robust. This helps us stay connected through it all.
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A version of this story was originally published on RCR Wireless