Qualcomm enhances Wi-Fi mesh networking platform
Wi-Fi routers have the potential to become smart home hubs, but they will need to manage more than just Wi-Fi. Next generation routers that use Qualcomm silicon and software will be able to respond to voice commands and will manage devices that connect via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Zigbee, Thread, or Ethernet.
Qualcomm has introduced a new platform to its IPQ40x8/9 network system-on-chip, which the company says is used in almost every mesh networking product on the market. As Wi-Fi mesh networks gain traction in the marketplace, Qualcomm is upping its game in this space with several new features.
Self-organizing network technology will enable routers that use Qualcomm’s new technology to recognize and onboard new devices with minimal user intervention. SON technology also allocates bandwidth to devices based on their current needs. A smartphone trying to stream video would get more bandwidth than a smart light bulb, for example.
Qualcomm is also integrating voice control, which could help home Wi-Fi routers work more seamlessly with devices like the Amazon Echo. Consumers are finding voice control faster and more intuitive than smartphone applications when it comes to controlling smart devices. Jesse Burke, Qualcomm staff manager for product marketing, said the smart home is unlikely to be controlled by a myriad of smartphone applications that each control a different connected device.
“This is clearly not the end game for how we’re going to interface with these devices,” said Burke. “Voice clearly is.” Qualcomm’s mesh networking platform can support a built-in microphone array and speaker, voice recognition software, and APIs to several cloud-based assistant applications.
Qualcomm is also making application programming interfaces available for easier porting of its SON onto other silicon platforms, and enabling cloud-based diagnostics and analytics. The company has also developed a reference design for original equipment manufacturers that Burke said “gets them 70% of the way there.”
Burke said the new platform has the potential to bridge the “islands of connectivity” that exist in many homes today when different tehnnologies connect different devices. He said that even though Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Zigbee all operate in the 2.4 GHz band, Qualcomm has developed a way to manage all of them without interference.
“The value of this really comes in when you bring in smart appliances,” Burke said. “Some of them need to be cloud connected and now you don’t need a hub – you just need the access points and you go straight to the cloud.” He said Samung Connect is the first smart home hub to take advantage of Qualcomm’s new technology.