No More Passwords? The Future of Wireless

— September 18, 2012

In his keynote at the Intel Developer Forum, 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 demonstrated 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 22nm tri-gate technology. System-on-chip designs for smartphones and tablet computers would be the most likely spot for the devices to be integrated, and the small size and lower cost of the integrated devices 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 also described a next-generation wireless standard called WiGig that operates in the millimeter wavelengths of the radio spectrum and delivers bandwidths over 5 Gbps per second. The standard is an industry-wide 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," said Rattner. "Even multiple displays can be docked at one time."

Always Connected
To bring users the capability to receive email and social media updates while their Ultrabooks are asleep, Intel Smart Connect technology currently wakes up the devices just long enough to receive the incoming packet traffic before going back into standby mode to ensure long battery life.

To show how Smart Connect technology could be enhanced to include active operation for file transfer and video streaming, Rattner also demonstrated "Spring Meadow," which manages communication between the cloud and the device more intelligently. By pre-processing incoming network traffic and proactively managing traffic flow, the solution makes more efficient use of the host processor, allowing it to remain in a low-power state longer without impacting system performance.

Eliminating Passwords, Increasing Security

Passwords remain a way of protecting access to valuable or sensitive information, but some find them inconvenient. In an effort to eliminate them, Intel Labs has developed a replacement scheme called Client Based Authentication Technology that replaces passwords while simplifying and accelerating the process for accessing cloud-based personal information.

The technology allows the user to authenticate once to the physical device using a biometric sensor, and then lets the device automatically authenticate itself with one or more cloud-based services. Reading a person's unique vein patterns in the palm of the hand, the user is then directly taken to his or her secure service accounts. It also provides a presence monitoring capability that locks the device and the secure service connection when the user puts the device down. A biometric scan unlocks the platform and immediately restores the previous secure service connections.

Cloud-Based Radio Access Networks and the Future of Wireless Broadband

Chih-Lin I, chief scientist at the China Mobile Research Institute in Beijing, appeared at the Intel forum to discuss the research collaboration between Intel Labs and China Mobile to design and prototype a full-scale cloud radio access network (C-RAN). The network is an alternative to traditional RAN, which is the basis for modern cellular communications. Instead of moving the proprietary base station hardware to the data center, it is replaced by standard Intel-based servers running a software-defined radio application. The technology is expected to reduce both capital and operational expenses for wireless service providers while providing high levels of wireless services to users with fewer dropped connections during periods of peak demand.

Rattner described another research area, 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 Cisco’s visual networking index indicating that mobile video traffic is expected to grow significantly over the next five years, 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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