Living with the Future – 4 Predictions for Home Connectivity in 2017

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Charles Cheevers, CTO, CPE, ARRIS

Predictions serve a dual purpose. On one hand, they challenge us to fulfill the promise of new offerings and innovation. On the other, they excite us about the kinds of technologies and breakthroughs that might make it into our homes this year.

For 2017, I am predicting the potential for several advancements in the home that could help enable some of the latest ‘headline’ consumer technologies, such as IoT and VR etc. Here are four key innovations that I can see happening this year:

Gateways get companions and open the smart home as new classes of home device emerge

Single gateways and routers have done a great job creating connections for Wi-Fi devices in the home. As broadband speeds to the home increase, this needs to be reflected inside the home. The gateway is set to get some help from Wi-Fi extenders increasing range and performance to support services like 4K video over Wi-Fi.

These new devices offer both challenge and opportunity:

  • Challenge – to create better Wi-Fi and not act as interference. We solve this with software in the devices, supported by the cloud – to ensure best channel use and make sure the home clients are on the right access point, roaming quickly across them.
  • Opportunity – to add functionality to devices deeper inside the home and in rooms where connectivity is most needed. This could be, for example, IoT low-power radios to support smart device onboarding; or voice input and audio output – allowing the device to ‘double up’ as a wireless connectivity point and a smart assistant.

Adding functionality will enable service providers to leverage their position in the home and converge Wi-Fi capex spend with new IoT and smart assistant opportunities – it makes economic sense to deploy aggregated services.

In addition, increasing the footprint of extenders could also support emerging 60GHz applications, such as fast-sync to mobile devices and low latency un-tethered VR, that require in-room high bandwidth.

Service providers can take advantage of this device demarcation to add connectivity features in an all-in-one device. The natural evolution is to a future home architecture with a single connectivity device per room.

Shared Spectrum and convergence to 5G – experimentation and first reference architectures will emerge

As we move towards 5G, combining multiple wireless technologies into a seamless experience will be key. Consumers are only interested in the best access to the service or content on whatever device.

This is driving convergence of wireless connectivity at the device level to embrace connectivity for IoT, gigabit broadband, roaming, voice, VR, AR – independent of the physical layer. And, the lines between unlicensed and licensed spectrum-based devices are set to blur – more than the LTE + Wi-Fi capabilities in devices today.

New approaches to spectrum use – e.g., CBRS shared spectrum and frequency control via Cloud Spectrum Access Solutions as well as the aspirations of 5G – mean that service providers that don’t own LTE spectrum will be able to offer a seamless and robust solution across macro and pico wireless solutions.

We envisage a new class of home cell that is Wi-Fi dominant in the home and supports the 3.5GHz CBRS band promise over LTE – enabling the best of Wi-Fi and LTE within the home. The service provider augments the reach of 3.5GHz LTE with 5GHz Wi-Fi, and uses local wired connection for backhaul.

While mmWave promises point-to-multipoint transmissions at 10Gbp to get into the home (in good line of sight conditions), the 5G signal will be converted to Wi-Fi or sub 6GHz LTE inside the home. Solutions that terminate and retransmit, convert, and translate will be key for this multi-hop connection

Providers to investigate VR for live TV - testing the blended experience

The introduction of mmWave connectivity at 60GHz could provide more than 25Gbps of bandwidth wirelessly around the home – proving a platform for next-gen services such as untethered VR/AR.

VR/AR presents a number of challenges to begin considering:

  • Short-term – to support the large file downloads of gaming and graphic centric VR/AR experiences
  • Mid-term – to support low-volume VR experiences from the ‘best seat in the stadium’
  • Long-term – to support a million unique streams from the stadium – requiring new technologies and improvements in event IT infrastructure. Today live VR generates 6-10Mbps per view at 1080p levels and this will increase significantly with 4K level transmissions.

So long-term, VR/AR may not just be the prerogative of the gaming community. The industry is experimenting now to find the best blend of VR/AR and TV experiences.

The TV experience offers multi-camera views, helping the viewer find the best action at a live event. Adding VR/AR allows the users themselves take control of the camera. The ability to switch between live and user-controlled experiences will be an area to watch over the coming years as VR/AR tries to make its mark. TV producers are already experimenting with VR segments of scheduled live shows – allowing the viewer to continue immersing themselves after the live show has ended

Virtualization will increase hardware capabilities – not make CPE hardware redundant.

The predicted demise of hardware is not happening – the reality is that software partitioning between device and cloud is changing. When software has shifted to the cloud – there will still be a gateway and a set-top – very similar to today and with new features like IoT, Smart Assistant and 60GHz

Virtualization for vCPE is about the repartition of software features – allowing new services that require low latency knowledge of the home to be handled in the cloud. This enables rapid development cycles; development once in the cloud versus multiple times on different platforms and best in class services. For example, the best parental control solution could run on all platforms from a single cloud instance instead of trying to develop for all unique platforms.

Where does this leave CPE? On one hand there is less need to add more CPU capability if the service can be processed in the cloud. On the other, there are services that should stay in the CPE – for example; to benefit from low latency; to ensure optimal graphics performance or for the best wireless connectivity – guaranteeing a clear future for physical CPE.

ARRIS to Discuss Data Mining for Actionable Decisions @ Cable Congress 2017

We have access to the biggest trove of data ever produced, but how well-positioned are we to use it? And what are the areas in which consumers can derive benefits? ARRIS will be among the industry leaders discussing these themes at this year’s Cable Congress in Brussels this week.

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Charles Cheevers, CTO, CPE, ARRIS

Charles Cheevers, CTO for our CPE business, will be taking part in a panel discussion called Mining Network Data to Fuel Actionable Decisions. With the amount of information available from connected devices in the home, providers have a growing number of opportunities to improve services. New additions coming into the home, such as voice assistants and other IoT devices, will further broaden the possibilities. We can now better understand consumer behavior, improve service quality, and reduce churn. The panel debate will explore the ways in which we are currently prepared to do this.

But if customers are central to key service decisions, how do providers justify improved data mining to end users? Big data from a consumer perspective will also be part of the discussion. The panel debate will take place on Thursday 9th March in the Gold Hall at 11.50 am.

Cable Congress is a two-day event aimed at identifying and understanding the cable broadband market. This year, the event will cover commercial strategies, innovation, customer experience, marketing strategy and content as well as big data.

For more information about Cable Congress, click here.

Advancing Wireless Home Networking

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Charles Cheevers, ARRIS CTO, CPE 

Whole-home Gigabit is a hot topic. Our ARRIS Consumer Entertainment Index recently showed the huge importance of Wi-Fi and increasingly the importance of high-speed high-quality Wi-Fi delivery to every corner of the home. The Bedroom is coming out as the number one location where streamed video was consumed. With the impending delivery of UHD 4K video over Wi-Fi in 2016, the challenge for service providers is selecting the right architecture and network technology to make Gigabit reliable and pervasive while catering to the unique environment in each dwelling.

At this year’s SCTE Expo, I’ll explore the key components of a whole home Gigabit strategy for wireless home networking—including 2.4Ghz vs. 5Ghz, the necessity of multiple AP usage and management, high-speed backhaul technologies and architectures, and new wireless solutions 802.11ad/ay/ax, and more.

I invite you to join the discussion at my workshop on Thursday at 9:30 am CT: Gbps Wi-Fi – Is it Driving a Home Network Topology that Requires an Access Point in Every Room?

Interview with Charles Cheevers: Internet of Things

Charles Cheevers, CTO, Customer Premises Equipment

Charles Cheevers, CTO, CPE, ARRIS 

Today is the Fifth Annual Internet of Things (IoT) day. And while IoT is a hot industry topic that continues to make its way into our lives, it’s one that’s still evolving and often misunderstood. In celebration of IoT day, we sat down with ARRIS CTO Charles Cheevers to demystify IoT and shed some light on the ways it’s changing our industry and creating new opportunities ahead.

The Internet of Things means different things to different people. How do you define it and what does it mean to you?

It’s simply the ability to connect more end devices over wireless technologies and affect actions and operations across these devices – typically for a better user experience in the home as well as the ability to interact with devices outside the home.

An example of such a service is home automation where a homeowner can manage their heating and lighting remotely through the Internet – setting the lighting or heating to come on even if they are not in the house.

But what IoT means to the consumer can vary immensely, because of the sheer number of related devices and potential services.

What can IoT look like from a consumer’s perspective?

Currently, it’s unclear and even confusing.

Consumer are already involved in IoT, and getting more and more involved with each device they connect to a network – from smartphones on LTE to smart features in connected cars, smart TVs at home, wearable fitness devices, and Connected Home or Home Automation systems.

The problem with the consumer experience is that it’s fragmented and not consistent across different classes of services and devices. Many of the current solutions are proprietary and don’t play well in a diverse IoT environment, despite efforts to standardize them.

There’s a big opportunity to create simple, standardized solutions that minimize the number of different applications, instructions and services a user has to access to benefit from improvements in their digital lives. Often, the best IoT applications are the ones that are fully automated and work without human intervention or simple solutions that solve a distinct use case, like home camera solutions that allow you to check on the well being of a pet. Additionally using your voice to set house commands instead of costly products like keypads is both easier and more cost-effective for home automation.

Why should people care about IoT?

It’s about cost vs. value. There are many Internet-connected and -controlled devices and there’s an opportunity to create a lot of value here, but what it’s worth is different for different people. For example, people value convenience and simplicity, but while it may be convenient and therefore valuable to set your thermostat remotely, the cost to do so may or may not justify the convenience.

In general, however, these connected devices are becoming more capable, connected, and affordable. And this growing collection of connected devices creates the foundation for unprecedented levels of convenience and simplicity in everything from entertainment to transportation and medicine. As that value to consumers overcomes the price of entry, more and more people will jump on IoT to improve their lifestyles. One of the ways to ensure this is to collapse more functionality into existing devices like Broadband Gateways, Wi-Fi extenders, set-top/video gateways and remote controls. Including IoT onboarding functions in these devices reduces capital expenditure investments in IoT and allows service providers in particular to play a direct role in the IoT home experience.

The promise of IoT sounds a lot like Home Automation years ago; how is it different? 

IoT is much bigger than Home Automation; that’s just one of a thousand potential applications.

One can already see new services emerge, like connected automobile applications, where new levels of connectivity enable new services to be delivered to the car, which one day could include driving the car remotely because of the presence of a high-speed connection.

And then there’s the fundamental repositioning of the consumer’s involvement in these services… The future is not giving consumers the ability to control and manage more and more things, but anticipating, recommending, and eventually automating these actions.

The implication is a much greater connection between businesses and consumers that allow this exchange of services in the many facets of consumers’ lifestyles. A great example is in the verticals of Medicare and Energy management…

In the case of Medicare, consumers — if sent home from a medical treatment — can continue to be monitored in the home and stay in contact with their caregiver. Through reliable connectivity over wireless devices and leveraging things like the TV and Cameras to engage with physicians, the cost of aftercare or aging in place can be greatly reduced and the services enhanced.

In the case of Energy Management — think of a future where the washing machine could declare that it is now ready for a two-hour wash cycle and looking for a utility company to offer the best rate of energy for this cycle. These types of B2C operations can start to take place to create benefits for both businesses and consumers alike.

What’s the opportunity for Service Providers?

Service Providers have 2 basic choices regarding IoT in the coming years:

1.)    Focus on the connectivity and onboarding of devices and become a connectivity provider – extending the broadband network into the IoT realm but remaining a pipe for over-the-top (OTT) services

2.)    Extending their current demarcation of having gateways, extenders and set-tops in various locations of the home and adding 802.15.4 and Bluetooth low-energy radios to these devices to create multiple IoT hubs in the home by:

  • (a) Leveraging their own vertical IoT devices and services like Security and Automation
  • (b) Adding value to BYoD devices by partnering with the top IoT device and service providers and integrating their solutions into the overall Home experience — effectively becoming the aggregator for all connected services in the home. An example of this may be a partnership with a Smart Garage Door Opener where the notification of the door opening may also appear in the TV User Experience of the MSO.
  • (c) Partnering with large verticals of Medicare and Energy and Utilities to extend their current service offerings to include other OTT services and IoT derived connected home services. They can range from the traditional ones like Home Security right through the range of M2M and B2C opportunities with the service provider offering secure onboarding and integration into the multiscreen devices in the home.

The latter approach seems to be within the reach of the service provider by leveraging existing devices and adding new service layers to their backoffice.

How will IoT change our entertainment and communications? What’s the promise of IOT?

Entertainment and communications will be more automatic and more personalized.

The preferred experience is one in which the user does very little. Enter the room, and the music audio level increases. The phone rings, and the audio level decreases.

The success of IoT will be how simple it is and how little we have to interact with it… We don’t want to push three buttons over and over again to get the content we want.

There are already published applications where wrist-based wearable devices are integrated in the TV-viewing experience: when the person leaves the room the TV pauses or if they fall asleep the DVR kicks in automatically. The technology is already here; the test is its value to consumers.

The ultimate promise is improving our lives while reducing our interaction with technology—letting us focus on other things in life.

ARRIS Demonstrates Leadership in RDK Development at 2015 User Conference

At this past week’s RDK User Conference in Denver, platinum sponsor ARRIS not only header_long2demonstrated a range of RDK-enabled hardware and software solutions, but also its commitment to RDK advancement through its many significant contributions to the industry.

The product exhibition included ARRIS’s TG16282 DOCSIS Wireless Gateway device, which is the first such device enabled to support RDK-B. RDK Management also announced that it will be using ARRIS coding to add support for the Digital Video Broadcasting (DVB) standard that is widely deployed internationally.

This code was successfully run during the conference on an ARRIS DCX3620 DVB RDK-enabled Gateway, and is crucial to extending the RDK’s applicability for use in DVB markets, as well as making RDK more easily adoptable in global markets.

In addition to product demonstrations, ARRIS CTO, CPE Products Charles Cheevers and VP of Product Management, Rob Folk led industry discussions as panelists on the RDK-B Panel the OEM Panel respectively.

With RDK quickly becoming a crucial component to service providers’ ability to more rapidly and economically deploy next generation CPE product, ARRIS is well-positioned as a key enabler of the first wave of RDK deployments worldwide.

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