Radio Frequencies and the Internet of Things

November 01, 2018
By Richard Trueman

Money is flowing into disruptive technologies such as the cloud, IoT and mobile devices, and much of this progress lies with an innovation created in 1895

The world of web analytics can seem opaque and daunting to people unfamiliar with terms like “bounce rate” and “site audit.” But, here’s a fact that even the most dogged luddite can understand: The odds are that more than half of the people who read this blog will do so on a mobile device.

And companies are investing to build a future driven by mobile devices, cloud and IoT, as well as the wireless technology that shapes these innovations.

Businesses in diverse industries are making investments to spur a tomorrow free of endlessly tangled clutter of wires. For instance, the telecom industry is putting money into small cells, or mini cell towers. These units are growing in number because they require less regulatory approval, and costs for construction, power and maintenance are lower. What’s more, in rural areas, small cells can augment coverage, and in cities they can boost capacity.

From Telecom to Autos to Health

Tech leaders are also putting money into inductive charging — the technology behind wireless charging. Those filing patents are varied, from automakers to phone manufacturers. They’re exploring the possibilities that come with a future free of power outlets and extension cords, according to research firm CBInsights.

inductive charging chart

Top Tech Leaders Investing into inductive Charging

From the Radio to the Cloud

With all these exciting developments, it can be easy to forget that Bluetooth® technology is rooted in frequency hopping—a method of transmitting information by rapidly switching the carrier frequency among predetermined channels. It is microcontrollers and software that permit frequency agility and allows devices to operate among other signals in the busy, 2.4GHz frequency band. As cloud computing and analytics software become more powerful, devices connected to the Internet of Things (IoT) will be able to upload collected data to the same network where it can be analyzed together.

Take, for instance, the potential smart home of the future posited by some experts in which multiple devices connected to the same wireless network and leverage data to automate personalized functions. A Bluetooth lock can recognize your phone as you approach, alerting the network that you’ve arrived home. Connected to that same network, an oven can be alerted to your arrival, recognize that it’s near the time you regularly eat dinner based on previous data, and begin heating the oven.

Smaller, Faster, Cheaper

Some experts think one way to capitalize on these newfound capacities for data collection and analysis is to combine wireless and sensor technology. Currently, product designers must incorporate both sensors and RF modules in their plans. By combining these two technologies, a single module can become a complete system that collects and transmits data. In the future, it’s quite possible a smart watch won’t just track our heart rate during a run, but also upload that data to the cloud when we return back to our home network. By combining wireless and sensor technologies into a single module, designers will be able to simplify their designs and take up less board space, something to consider as smart technology gets smaller—just think about smart clothing.

PAN1762 wireless graphic

Single Modules can become a Complete System

Security Concerns

Connecting the hardware that makes these wireless functions possible over a network leaves them vulnerable to attack. Many public Wi-Fi networks are unsecured and about 20% of people who use a mobile device have had that device compromised. Meanwhile, a recent Brookings Institute study finds that risks are rising from compromised chip designs. Along with rising concerns come investments into technology to prevent risks posed by emerging wireless technology. And savvy product designers are asking questions about prevention measures, such as storage on secure networks, blocked from uninvited third-party access.

Where to go for Expertise

Indeed, in a recent Panasonic study looking at investment in disruptive technologies, such as cloud, IoT and mobile devices, tech decision makers admitted that consumer privacy and security ranked high as obstacles to adoption. A lack of skilled employees and lack of expertise for effective implementation are also major concerns. In fact, half of the companies surveyed believe they might need a partner to guide them on how best to adopt and integrate these technologies into their business.

Panasonic has been in the wireless connectivity space for 15 years. Today, we bring to market RF modules for Bluetooth and Wi-Fi functionalities. Read more about working with emerging wireless technology in our “Everything wireless” series.