In his keynote delivered at the Intel Developer Forum this week, Intel CTO Justin Rattner said, “In the future, if it computes, it connects. From the simplest embedded sensors to the most advanced cloud datacenters, we’re looking at techniques to allow all of them to connect without wires.”

Rattner then demonstrated, for the first time, a working, all-digital Wi-Fi radio, dubbed a “Moore’s Law Radio.” The CTO explained that an all-digital radio follows Moore’s Law by scaling in area and energy efficiency with such digital chip processes as Intel’s latest 22-nm tri-gate technology. System-on-a-chip designs for smartphones and tablet computers would be the most likely spot for the all-digital radios to be integrated. The small size and lower cost of integrated digital radios will enable a host of new applications, from wearable devices to “The Internet of Things” where devices such as home appliances with sensors can communicate with each other, exchange data and can be operated remotely.

Rattner went on to describe a next-gen wireless standard called WiGig that operates in the millimeter wavelengths of the radio spectrum and delivers bandwidths significantly more than 5 gigabits per second. The WiGig standard is an industrywide effort to consolidate a number of proprietary 60 GHz wireless technologies under the existing Wi-Fi standard.

“WiGig is so fast it will let you wirelessly dock your enabled Ultrabook, tablet or smartphone without wires,” Rattner added. “Even multiple displays can be docked at one time.”

Cloud-Based RANs

Rattner was joined onstage by Dr. Chih-Lin I, chief scientist at the China Mobile Research Institute in Beijing, to discuss the research collaboration between Intel Labs and China Mobile to design and prototype a full-scale Cloud Radio Access Network (C-RAN).

According to Intel, C-RAN is an alternative to traditional RAN. Instead of simply moving the proprietary base station hardware to the data center, it is replaced by standard Intel-based servers running a software-defined radio application. Dr. I explained that C-RAN technology “will dramatically reduce both capital and operational expenses for wireless service providers while providing superior levels of wireless services to users with fewer dropped connections during periods of peak demand.”

Rattner described another research area, called a Video Aware Wireless Network (VAWN), where both service providers and end users will benefit from the latest wireless research. VAWN is the focus of a joint academic research program sponsored by Intel, Cisco and Verizon. With mobile video traffic expected to grow significantly during the next five years, according to Cisco Visual Networking Index, wireless networks could be constrained and video quality limited without new innovations. As such, VAWN aims to increase the streaming-video capacity of wireless networks while improving the viewing experience by optimizing network performance on an end-to-end basis.

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