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Wi-Fi 6: is it really that much faster?


Illustrator by Alex Castro / The Verge

The next generation brings more than just faster speeds

By Jacob Kastrenakes, Reports Editor for The Verge | @jake_k |  Feb 21, 2019, 9:45am EST

 

Wi-Fi is about to get faster. That’s great news: faster internet is constantly in demand, especially as we consume more bandwidth-demanding apps, games, and videos with our laptops and phones.

But the next generation of Wi-Fi, known as Wi-Fi 6, isn’t just a simple speed boost. Its impact will be more nuanced, and we’re likely to see its benefits more and more over time.

This is less of a one-time speed increase and more of a future-facing upgrade designed to make sure our speeds don’t grind to a halt a few years down the road.

Wi-Fi 6 is just starting to arrive this year, and there’s a good chance it’ll be inside your next phone or laptop. Here’s what you should expect once it arrives.

What is Wi-Fi 6?

Wi-Fi 6 is the next generation of Wi-Fi. It’ll still do the same basic thing — connect you to the internet — just with a bunch of additional technologies to make that happen more efficiently, speeding up connections in the process.

How fast is it?

The short but incomplete answer: 9.6 Gbps. That’s up from 3.5 Gbps on Wi-Fi 5.

The real answer: both of those speeds are theoretical maximums that you’re unlikely to ever reach in real-world Wi-Fi use. And even if you could reach those speeds, it’s not clear that you’d need them. The typical download speed in the US is just 72 Mbps, or less than 1 percent of the theoretical maximum speed.

But the fact that Wi-Fi 6 has a much higher theoretical speed limit than its predecessor is still important. That 9.6 Gbps doesn’t have to go to a single computer. It can be split up across a whole network of devices. That means more potential speed for each device.

Wi-Fi 6 isn’t about top speeds

Instead of boosting the speed for individual devices, Wi-Fi 6 is all about improving the network when a bunch of devices are connected.

That’s an important goal, and it arrives at an important time: when Wi-Fi 5 came out, the average US household had about five Wi-Fi devices in it. Now, homes have nine Wi-Fi devices on average, and various firms have predicted we’ll hit 50 on average within several years.

Those added devices take a toll on your network. Your router can only communicate with so many devices at once, so the more gadgets demanding Wi-Fi, the more the network overall is going to slow down.

Wi-Fi 6 introduces some new technologies to help mitigate the issues that come with putting dozens of Wi-Fi devices on a single network. It lets routers communicate with more devices at once, lets routers send data to multiple devices in the same broadcast, and lets Wi-Fi devices schedule check-ins with the router. Together, those features should keep connections strong even as more and more devices start demanding data.

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Wi-Fi’s weird naming scheme:

Until recently, Wi-Fi generations were referred to by an arcane naming scheme that required you to understand whether 802.11n was faster than 802.11ac, and whether 802.11ac was faster than 802.11af, and whether any of those names were just made up nonsense. (Answer: sort of.)

To fix that, the Wi-Fi Alliance decided to rename Wi-Fi generations with simple version numbers. So the current generation of Wi-Fi, 802.11ac, turned into Wi-Fi 5. This new generation, previously called 802.11ax, is now Wi-Fi 6.

You probably won’t hear the Wi-Fi 5 name used very much since it’s been around for five years and just got that name in October 2018. For Wi-Fi 6, you might see the 802.11ax name here and there, but companies largely seem to be on board with using the simplified naming scheme.

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Okay, so how fast is each device?

Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer here.

At first, Wi-Fi 6 connections aren’t likely to be substantially faster. A single Wi-Fi 6 laptop connected to a Wi-Fi 6 router may only be slightly faster than a single Wi-Fi 5 laptop connected to a Wi-Fi 5 router.

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The story starts to change as more and more devices get added onto your network. Where current routers might start to get overwhelmed by requests from a multitude of devices, Wi-Fi 6 routers are designed to more effectively keep all those devices up to date with the data they need.

Each of those devices’ speeds won’t necessarily be faster than what they can reach today on a high-quality network, but they’re more likely to maintain those top speeds even in busier environments. You can imagine this being useful in a home where one person is streaming Netflix, another is playing a game, someone else is video chatting, and a whole bunch of smart gadgets — a door lock, temperature sensors, light switches, and so on — are all checking in at once.

The top speeds of those devices won’t necessarily be boosted, but the speeds you see in typical, daily use likely will get an upgrade.

Exactly how fast that upgrade is, though, will depend on how many devices are on your network and just how demanding those devices are.

How do I get Wi-Fi 6?

You’ll need to buy new devices.

Wi-Fi generations rely on new hardware, not just software updates, so you’ll need to buy new phones, laptops, and so on to get the new version of Wi-Fi.

To be clear: this is not something you’ll want to run out to the store and buy a new laptop just to get. It’s not that game-changing of an update for any one device.

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Instead, new devices will start coming with Wi-Fi 6 by default. As you replace your phone, laptop, and game consoles over the next five years, you’ll bring home new ones that include the latest version of Wi-Fi.

There is one thing you will have to make a point of going out and buying, though: a new router. If your router doesn’t support Wi-Fi 6, you won’t see any benefits, no matter how many Wi-Fi 6 devices you bring home. (You could actually see a benefit, though, connecting Wi-Fi 5 gadgets to a Wi-Fi 6 router, because the router may be capable of communicating with more devices at once.)

Again, this isn’t something worth rushing out and buying. But if your home is packed with Wi-Fi-connected smart devices, and things start to get sluggish in a couple years, a Wi-Fi 6 router may be able to meaningfully help.

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What makes Wi-Fi 6 faster?

There are two key technologies speeding up Wi-Fi 6 connections: MU-MIMO and OFDMA.

MU-MIMO, which stands for “multi-user, multiple input, multiple output,” is already in use in modern routers and devices, but Wi-Fi 6 upgrades it.

The technology allows a router to communicate with multiple devices at the same time, rather than broadcasting to one device, and then the next, and the next. Right now, MU-MIMO allows routers to communicate with four devices at a time. Wi-Fi 6 will allow devices to communicate with up to eight.

You can think of adding MU-MIMO connections like adding delivery trucks to a fleet, says Kevin Robinson, marketing leader for the Wi-Fi Alliance, an internationally backed tech-industry group that oversees the implementation of Wi-Fi. “You can send each of those trucks in different directions to different customers,” Robinson says. “Before, you had four trucks to fill with goods and send to four customers. With Wi-Fi 6, you now have eight trucks.”

The other new technology, OFDMA, which stands for “orthogonal frequency division multiple access,” allows one transmission to deliver data to multiple devices at once.

Extending the truck metaphor, Robinson says that OFDMA essentially allows one truck to carry goods to be delivered to multiple locations. “With OFDMA, the network can look at a truck, see ‘I’m only allocating 75 percent of that truck and this other customer is kind of on the way,’” and then fill up that remaining space with a delivery for the second customer, he says.

In practice, this is all used to get more out of every transmission that carries a Wi-Fi signal from a router to your device.

Wi-Fi 6 can also improve battery life

Another new technology in Wi-Fi 6 allows devices to plan out communications with a router, reducing the amount of time they need to keep their antennas powered on to transmit and search for signals. That means less drain on batteries and improved battery life in turn.

This is all possible because of a feature called Target Wake Time, which lets routers schedule check-in times with devices.

It isn’t going to be helpful across the board, though. Your laptop needs constant internet access, so it’s unlikely to make heavy use of this feature (except, perhaps, when it moves into a sleep state).

Instead, this feature is meant more for smaller, already low-power Wi-Fi devices that just need to update their status every now and then. (Think small sensors placed around a home to monitor things like leaks or smart home devices that sit unused most of the day.)

Wi-Fi 6 also means better security

Last year, Wi-Fi started getting its biggest security update in a decade, with a new security protocol called WPA3. WPA3 makes it harder for hackers to crack passwords by constantly guessing them, and it makes some data less useful even if hackers manage to obtain it.

Current devices and routers can support WPA3, but it’s optional. For a Wi-Fi 6 device to receive certification from the Wi-Fi Alliance, WPA3 is required, so most Wi-Fi 6 devices are likely to include the stronger security once the certification program launches.

Wi-Fi 6 is just getting started

Devices supporting Wi-Fi 6 are just starting to trickle out. You can already buy Wi-Fi 6 routers, but so far, they’re expensive high-end devices. A handful of laptops include the new generation of Wi-Fi, too, but it’s not widespread just yet.

Wi-Fi 6 will start arriving on high-end phones this year, though. Qualcomm’s latest flagship processor, the Snapdragon 855, includes support for Wi-Fi 6, and it’s destined for the next wave of top-of-the-line phones. The Snapdragon 855’s inclusion doesn’t guarantee that a phone will have Wi-Fi 6, but it’s a good sign: Samsung’s Galaxy S10 is one of the first phones with the new processor, and it supports the newest generation of Wi-Fi.

The inclusion of Wi-Fi 6 is likely to become even more common next year. The Wi-Fi Alliance will launch its Wi-Fi 6 certification program this fall, which guarantees compatibility across Wi-Fi devices. Devices don’t need to pass that certification, but its launch will signify that the industry is ready for Wi-Fi 6’s arrival.

Correction February 22nd, 2:10PM ET: WPA3 security is a requirement for Wi-Fi 6 certification, but it may not be included in uncertified devices.

“The Man In The Arena”

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

~ Teddy Roosevelt

2019 sports industry game-changers

Pete Giorgio

Pete Giorgio, principle with Deloitte Consulting LLP, leads Deloitte’s US Sports practice

Sports trends expected to disrupt and dominate

Like most other industries, sports are being disrupted by technology advancements and cultural changes. How can sports executives capitalize on these industry changes in 2019? Our annual report explores eight trends that could redefine the sports industry in the year ahead.

 

Our starting lineup for 2019

2018 was an exciting year for sports. France beat out Croatia in a goal-filled match to win the World Cup. Simone Biles took home six medals at the world championship. The Red Sox won their fourth World Series title in 15 years. And the Capitals took home the Stanley Cup for the first time in team history.

Off the field, we’ve seen athletes grow as spokespeople for causes, front offices overhauled to bring in even more analytical rigor, and streaming media options grow in prominence. What trends will we be scouting this year? Our 2019 sports industry outlook covers eight trends to watch:

 

sports and digital icons

Athletes as content creators

Gone are the days of sports fans needing reporters to get news about their favorite players. Over the past few years, athletes are increasingly becoming content creators in their own right—be it through Instagram, Twitter, or long-form stories on websites like The Players’ Tribune.

While the athlete’s role as an individual content creator serves as a small complement to traditional media, this trend—buoyed by stars who were raised in the digital age—could become even more impactful and important in the coming years. This platform will enable further expansion and value of personal brands while also opening the door for the next generation of athletes to build their brands before they become household names.

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“The fewer barriers there are between athletes and fans, the more commercial opportunities that will materialize. The value in having fans relate to their favorite players is immeasurable.”

Brian Finkel, Deloitte Sports Research, Deloitte & Touche LLP

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virtual reality headset

Augmented and virtual reality

As technology advances, the challenge of keeping fans constantly engaged has become more and more difficult. Any lull in the game leads to fans diverting their attention to their phones and consuming content from other venues.

However, the growing integration of augmented and virtual reality is transforming the customer experience by giving fans the opportunity to get “closer” to athletes while having a single platform to access a wealth of data. While there are still some kinks that need to be worked out, this is a time where prioritization of customer experience is at an all-time high.

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“VR brings the best of the stadium into the home, while AR brings the best of home into the stadium.”

Allan Cook, digital reality leader, managing director, Deloitte Consulting LLP

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football plays on a chalkboard

The offensive revolution

Few ideas are as widely accepted among sports fans and players as the old adage that offense sells tickets, but defense wins games. As we watch shootout after shootout across professional sports, during the regular season and the playoffs, analysts are beginning to wonder whether times have officially changed.

While viewership numbers are up, purists question whether such a focus on offense has impacted the integrity of the games they love. This presents teams with a tough decision to make: Do they keep investing in offense and hope that’s enough? Or do they consider strategic defensive investments that will enable them to play a different game to compete in both the arena and in the market?

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“While increasing offense intends to sell more tickets, leagues will have to balance offense with maintaining the value of defensive skill and the historical backdrop of their sport.”

Lee Teller, specialist leader, Deloitte Consulting LLP

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sports betting app

Sports betting trends

What happens in Vegas no longer needs to stay in Vegas. With states now free to choose whether to legalize sports betting or not, many key stakeholders see opportunities to monetize, while others raise concerns about the impact legalized gambling could have on the integrity of the game, and federal and state governments consider their roles and legislative next steps.

Not only will betting impact the relationship between leagues, gambling institutions, data providers, and the government, it’s already changing the way fans can interact with games. The NBA recently announced an offering that allows fans to stream the fourth quarter of a game for $1.99. While convenient for the busy fan who is only able to watch part of a game, this is particularly notable for gamblers staking bets on real-time game lines who want to watch critical moments in the games they bet on.

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“September 2018 marked the first month of online sports betting dominance in New Jersey. With results from recent months, this trend has and will continue to be the dominant theme for the foreseeable future.”

Jamie Poster, manager, Deloitte & Touche LLP

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bubble map of sports icons

Tackling mental health

The past few years have seen an increasing number of high-profile athletes, storied franchises, and top programs publicly address a topic that affects both MVPs and weekend warriors: mental health. Many stars have offered a glimpse behind the curtain of endorsements and champion podiums into lives affected by symptoms of depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions.

With one in four people worldwide affected by mental or neurological disorders during their lives, the notion that handsomely paid and highly visible athletes are willing to shed light on a topic historically burdened with a negative stigma is both a positive movement and refreshingly relatable. With each athlete that comes forward, it becomes increasingly apparent that the sports world’s investment in mental wellness is only just the beginning.

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“Mental health is more than a hot-button societal issue, it has the opportunity to become a key long-term competitive advantage for the teams and countries that effectively engage, support, and work with their athletes.”

Ramya Murali, senior manager, Deloitte Consulting LLP

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soccer players and goalie

European soccer reaches America

Every two years, soccer’s popularity in America spikes as fervor surrounding the World Cup spreads throughout the nation. However, recent polling points not just to cyclical interest but long-term, sustained growth. Soccer is now the second-most-played youth sport in America and more Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 name soccer as their favorite sport over baseball.

European nations have taken note of this rise and are seeking to capitalize. The English Premier League inked a deal with NBC Sports in 2015 reportedly worth a billion dollars to stream its games to American households. And investments extend to human capital as well: European clubs are increasingly looking to young Americans to fill their rosters.

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“The US market provides a massive marketing, financing, and talent opportunity for European soccer—from traditional powerhouses to lower division teams looking to regain relevancy.”

Sam Ebb, senior consultant, Deloitte Consulting LLP

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phone and video game controller icon

eSports

With the vast audiences drawn to eSports and the increasing direct ties to professional leagues, we’ve seen players, executives, and owners jumping into the arena as team owners and avid gamers, as well as a way to continue to connect with teammates and fans off the court. As leagues look to continue building and expanding their fan bases, their eSports presence will be a major part of those interactions.

Over the coming year, we expect teams and leagues will continue to embrace eSports as a part of the existing major sports leagues, including efforts to integrate eSports opportunities into the existing sports experience, from eSports lounges in Topgolf facilities to an eSports arena in the Real Madrid’s new stadium.

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“The eSports landscape continues to stabilize around the maturation of teams and leagues and increasing sponsor engagement.”

Kat Harwood, senior manager, Deloitte Consulting LLP

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bar graph and pie chart

Personalizing fan engagement

While organizations have always collected data from season ticket holders, fan loyalty programs, and other fan engagement sources, many teams house this data in disparate databases and siloed customer-relationship management systems. These organizations, though, are starting to think about the fan holistically, requiring a centralization of these touchpoints into a single source of truth that can drive deeper, more personalized fan engagement—inside and outside of the stadium.

As sports teams and leagues build on and incorporate the successes of the e-commerce revolution, they’ll be able to connect all dots of a single fan’s journey, helping to sell additional tickets while also driving personalized connections and experiences that can increase the lifetime value of fans. Over the next year, we believe organizations will adapt their marketing functions to leverage fan data and become even more nimble and automated.

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“A key question for teams remains who is in each seat, but more importantly, focus is shifting to who engages with the brand inside and outside the venue?”

Chad Deweese, manager, Deloitte Consulting LLP

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Download the full report to learn more

 

Take a look back at previous years’ reports:

2018 sports industry trends

2017 sports industry trends

2016 sports industry trends​

 

Let’s talk sports industry trends

We believe these topics are going to impact the business of sports, both on and off the field, over the next 12 months. But invariably new stories, trends, and themes will emerge that further disrupt the industry, derail the game plan for executives, and delight us as sports fans. Please tweet #DeloitteSports to share the sports trends or opportunities that are on your mind in 2019.

football field

Get in touch

Pete Giorgio

Pete Giorgio
US Leader | Sports

pgiorgio@deloitte.com

Pete, a principal with Deloitte Consulting LLP, leads Deloitte’s US Sports practice, serving multiple sports clients including the United States Golf Association, NBA, United States Tennis Association… more

Innovation in Energy: What Will It Look Like?

Even in this conservative industry, the latest technologies can make a huge impact.

 

Lal Karsanbhai

By Lal Karsanbhai, Executive President, Automation Solutions, Emerson for IndustryWeek  | Apr 16, 2019

 

As long as people have existed, we’ve needed to harness energy to live: fire to warm ourselves and cook food, gas to generate clean electricity. Energy is a traditional industry with roots that stretch as far back as human history. Yet even in this conservative industry, the latest technologies can make a huge impact.

Organizations that embrace digital transformation can see measurable benefits in critical industry focus areas: safety, reliability, production, emissions and overall performance. But there is always the underlying question: How do you get started?

The good news? The optimal digital strategy is different from company to company, meaning there is no single right path. The bad news? Digital transformation does not have one consistent playbook. This can be confusing for businesses trying to capitalize on the promise of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). A recent Emerson survey of industry leaders responsible for digital transformation initiatives found that 90 percent felt that a clear and actionable roadmap was critical for success, yet only 20 percent of respondents said they had a vision and roadmap.

Even as companies work to find their way in the new digital transformation landscape, a few definitive trends are emerging:

1. Software will remain the backbone of making data actionable. It has long been an industry staple, but advanced software solutions are making it possible for companies to safely test new approaches to optimize productivity and efficiency without any risk to operations. Take power generation, for instance – a critical industry with no margin for error. Through “digital twin” technology, power companies can simulate a live plant that allows them to test proposed changes without impacting the actual operations. Software advances like digital twin have the potential to help the industry find game-changing improvements.

2. Cybersecurity is non-negotiable, but its implementation depends on its environment. Not everything needs to go to the cloud. There are many opportunities for remote monitoring of systems and other data analytics in the cloud, but knowing which applications are best suited for on-premise (or edge computing) versus the cloud will be key for businesses. Different cybersecurity protections are required for each, and understanding what makes the most sense will help guide many digital implementation programs. Secure remote monitoring has created a new business model that brings significant performance and financial benefits, through predictive analytics that detect maintenance problems in oil fields, refineries and chemical plants before they occur – leading to millions of dollars saved annually.

3. A clear business case and scalability are the name of the game. Sweeping initiatives won’t work; companies need solutions that account for where they are and where they want to go. Digital transformation programs must have a clear business case.  Implementing technology and hoping for a return will not deliver the significant impact that’s possible.

4. Information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) need to be on the same side of the table. IT and OT can too often speak different languages even as they develop and implement programs for the same company. Successful transformation will happen only when IT and OT come together with an integrated approach to technologies and work together to implement and optimize. We are seeing movement in this direction, as some companies are organizing integrated teams to drive digital transformation and encourage the collaboration of these complementary skillsets.

5. Technology should empower – not replace – the workforce of the future. The rise of automation is bringing with it trepidation that robots will eliminate manufacturing jobs. Done well, the influx of automation will instead evolve current manufacturing jobs. Yes, automation may replace repetitive tasks-related jobs, but it will also require new data analytics and interpretation skills that rely on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) knowledge. Technology and automation are complementary job creators.

Empowering the future workforce comes down to meeting and supporting people where they are.  This includes upskilling the current workforce, making the industrial sectors attractive to students planning their careers, and instilling a passion for math and science with young learners beginning their educational journey.

Digital transformation has the potential to change the energy industry for the better—and give companies that embrace it competitive advantage.

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