Wireless functionality plays an integral role in any of the emerging technologies on the current cusp of development. More specifically it will form the backbone of how businesses and consumers alike communicate, which is something that research firm Gartner is acutely aware of.

So much so that it believes wireless technology will be central to robots, drones, self-driving vehicles and new medical devices over the next five years. With that in mind Gartner has identified 10 technologies that it believes will prove significant in 2019 and the years to come, all of which should be of importance for innovation leads, the firm explains.

Business and IT leaders need to be aware of these technologies and trends now,” says Nick Jones, distinguished research VP at Gartner.

“Many areas of wireless innovation will involve immature technologies, such as 5G and millimetre wave, and may require skills that organisations currently don’t possess. EA (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,” he adds.

What to focus on

Looking at the 10 wireless technologies that Gartner has identified, the first two are rather obvious, with one already alluded to – WiFi and 5G. When it comes to WiFi, its application will beyond that of the home in coming years.

“Beyond simple communications, Wi-Fi will find new roles — for example, in radar systems or as a component in two-factor authentication systems,” Jones notes.

As for 5G he says that the rollout of the broadband standard, which is happening in 2019 and 2020, will take five to eight years to become more commonplace.

5G is still immature, and initially, most network operators will focus on selling high-speed broadband. However, the 5G standard is evolving and future iterations will improve 5G in areas such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and low-latency applications,” he adds.

Next is something that Gartner terms as Vehicle-to-Everything (V2X) wireless. This is where self-driving cars will begin to play their role in a larger IoT ecosystem, with V2X being the standard by which these autonomous cars will need to communicate.

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. However, those V2X systems that use cellular will need a 5G network to achieve their full potential,” continues Jones.

Next is long-range wireless power, with the first generation of this technology not yielding the benefits expected, the firm notes. To that end we should be seeing a greater influx of technologies that can support wireless charging at range, and delivering a similar experience to its conventional wired counterpart.

The fifth trend is low-power wide-area (LPWA) networks as a means of making IoT ecosystems more efficient and covering large areas such as cities. “The modules are relatively inexpensive, so IoT manufacturers can use them to enable small, low-cost, battery-powered devices such as sensors and trackers,” the Gartner researcher adds.

As for the sixth trend, Jones points to wireless sensing, which is explained as the absorption and reflection of wireless signals can be used for sensing purposes. “Wireless sensing technology can be used, for example, as an indoor radar system for robots and drones,” according to Jones.

Up next is enhanced wireless location tracking, with it specifically linked for application in 5G. “This high-precision tracking to around one metre in accuracy, will be enabled by the forthcoming IEEE 802.11az standard,” Jones explains.

At number eight is something that Jones touched on earlier in millimeter wave wireless. The technology operates at frequencies in the range of 30 to 300Ghz, with wavelengths in the range of 1 to 10 millimetres, and used for short-range, high bandwidth applications.

The ninth trend also has to do with power consumption and comes in the form of backscatter networking. “It will be particularly important in applications where an area is already saturated with wireless signals and there is a need for relatively simple IoT devices, such as sensors in smart homes and offices,” says Jones.

Last on the trends list is software-defined radio. SDR as it is known shifts the majority of signal processing in a radio system away from chips and into software. “The technology has been available for many years, but has never taken off as it is more expensive than dedicated chips. However, Gartner expects SDR to grow in popularity as new protocols emerge,” he concludes.

Gartner has not just highlighted the 10 trends here, but will be unpacking it in greater detail at its global IT Symposium/Xpo event in Barcelona during early November. Hopefully it’s also touched upon during the firm’s local Symposium in Cape Town come September.

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