Showing posts with label Smartphones. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Smartphones. Show all posts

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

When does your 5G NSA Device Show 5G Icon?


After I wrote about the 5G Icon Display back in February, I received lots of other useful and related materials, mostly from 3GPP standards delegates. Based on this updated information, I created a presentation and video called 'The 5G Icon Story'. Only recently did I realize that I didn't add it to the blog. So here it is.

And for people who are impatient and directly want to jump to the main point, it's UpperLayerIndication in SIB 2 as can be seen above.

The slides and video is embedded below.





Related Posts:



Sunday, 17 February 2019

Displaying 5G Network Status Icon on Smartphones and Other Devices

Who thought displaying of network status icon on 5G devices would be so much fun. Typically the network icons are more of:
2G - Gsm, G, G+, E
3G - 3G, H, H+
4G - 4G, 4G+

Back in 2017, Samsung devices started displaying 4G+ icon. Samsung told mybroadband:

that by default its devices require a network to support Category 6 LTE, and for the total combined bandwidth to exceed 20MHz, before they will display the “4G+” icon.

Networks in South Africa frequently don’t have over 20MHz of aggregated bandwidth available, though.

As a result, one network asked Samsung to reduce the combined bandwidth requirement for the 4G+ icon to display to 15MHz, which Samsung approved.

“Samsung’s global policy regarding the display of the LTE/LTE-A/4G/4G+ network icon is that the network icon display is operator-configurable upon official request and Samsung approval,” it said.

The reason this is interesting is because LTE is really 3.9G but generally called 4G. LTE-A is supposed to be 4G because in theory it meets IMT-Advanced criteria. Then we have LTE-Advanced Pro, which is known as 4.5G. While in majority of the operators display 4.5G as 4G or 4G+, couple of operators has decided to become a bit innovative.

AT&T started by updating the network icons of some of their devices to 5GE, which is their way of saying 4.5G. E stands for Evolution. Or as some people joked, it stands for economy (or value) version, as opposed to premium version.


Brazilian operator Claro, decided to use the 4.5G icon but the 5 is much larger font compared to 4 (see the pic above). Some people call this as dishonest attempt by them.

I see a few people asking how can devices decide if they are on 4G or 4.5G. There is no standard procedure for this and is UE specific. One way is to look at RRC messages. If the system information messages contain optional IE's for 3GPP Release-13, then the network supports LTE-A Pro and if the device supports the features for LTE-A Pro, it can display 4.5G or 5GE, etc. Another approach is the optional IEs present in NAS Attach Accept message. As this comes slightly later in the registration process, the device displays 4G first and once the registration is complete, 4.5G. Note there is no requirement from standards point of  view about displaying of the network status indication icon up to 4G/4.5G.

To avoid such confusion in 5G, 3GPP submitted the first Liaison statement S2-175303. In this, 3GPP said:

With this number of System and Radio access options available, one or more new status icons are expected to appear on the User Interface of future (mobile) devices. A user should expect consistency across devices and networks as to what icons actually mean (i.e. what services might be expected when an icon is displayed).

While 3GPP specifications are not expected to define or discuss Service or RAT indicators in the User Interface themselves, 3GPP should provide the necessary tools in EPS and 5GS to enable them. It is therefore necessary to understand the conditions required for displaying these icons and with which granularity so we can identify what information ought to be available in/made available to the device.

SA2 understands that Status Icons related to 5G might be displayed for example on a UE display taking into account all or some combinations of these items (other items may exist):
- Access Restriction Data in subscription (with the potential exception of emergency access); 
- UE CN registration (i.e. is UE EPC- and/or 5GC-registered?);
- UE capabilities; 
- Network capabilities; 
- UE is camping on a cell of NG-RAN supporting NR only, E-UTRA only or, the ability to activate dual connectivity with another RAT (NR or E-UTRA);
- UE is camping on a cell of E-UTRAN (connected to EPC) with the ability to activate dual connectivity with NR as secondary cell;
- UE is in connected mode using NR, E-UTRA (in 5GS) or dual connectivity between E-UTRA and NR.

Given the above, SA2 would like to kindly ask for any feedback from GSMA FNW and NGMN on requirements and granularity for Service indicators and/or RAT indicators related to 5G.

GSMA responded in R2-1713952. 6 cases have been identified (see the first picture on top) : 

The configurations consist of the following states and are as described in Table 1:

  1. EPS NR NSA (EN-DC) capable UE attached to EPC and currently in IDLE state under or in RRC_connected state connected to E-UTRAN cell not supporting LTE-NR dual connectivity 
  2. EPS NR NSA (EN-DC) capable UE attached to EPC and currently in IDLE state under or in RRC_Connected state connected to AND active on LTE for uplink and downlink on only E-UTRAN cell supporting LTE-NR dual connectivity and has not detected NR coverage (i.e. UE is not under NR coverage and/or not configured to make NR measurements)
  3. EPS NR NSA (EN-DC) capable UE attached to EPC and currently in RRC_Connected state connected to E-UTRAN cell (supporting dual connectivity) and active on LTE for uplink and downlink only and has detected NR coverage (i.e. UE is under NR coverage and has been configured to make NR measurements) 
  4. EPS NR NSA (EN-DC) capable UE attached to EPC and currently in IDLE state under E-UTRAN cell supporting LTE-NR dual connectivity and has detected NR coverage (i.e. UE is under NR coverage and has been configured to make NR measurements)
  5. EPS NR NSA (EN-DC) capable UE attached to EPC and currently in RRC_Connected state connected to E-UTRAN cell (supporting dual connectivity) and active on LTE and NR for uplink and/or downlink
  6. 5GS capable UE attached to 5GC and currently in IDLE state under or in RRC_Connected state connected to NG-RAN (eLTE (option 5 or 7) or NR (option 2 or 4) cell)

As there is no consensus on a single preferred configuration, it is desirable to make the display of 5G status icon in the UE configurable such that the display of 5G status icon can be made depending on operator preference. 

This proposal by GSMA was noted by 3GPP in R2-1803949.

RAN WG2 would like to inform GSMA and SA2 that, according to GSMA and SA2 recommendations (LSs R2-1713952 and S2-175270, respectively), RAN WG2 introduced 1 bit indication per PLMN called “upperLayerIndication” within LTE SIB 2. 

This bit enables the realization of the configurations based on UE states as per recommendation from GSMA (e.g. RRC_IDLE UE as for State 2 in LS R2-1713952 from GSMA)”. 

For idle mode UEs this is the only mechanism agreed. 

Actions: RAN WG2 would like to ask GSMA and SA2 to take the information above into account. 

Hopefully there will be less confusion when 5G is rolled out about the status icons. In the meantime we might see some more 4.5G icon innovations.

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Can KaiOS accelerate the transition from 2G / 3G to 4G?


The GSMA Mobile Economy 2018 report forecasts that 2G will still be around in 2025 and the dominant technology will be 3G in Africa. GSMA Intelligence Global Mobile Trends highlighted similar numbers but North Africa was missing in that report. As you can see in the picture below, 3G devices will make up 62% of the total number of devices in Sub-Saharan Africa and 37% in MENA.

Similar information was provided by Navindran Naidoo, Executive, Network Planning & Design, MTN Group in TIP Summit 2017 and Babak Fouladi, Technology and Information System (Group CTIO) , MTN Group in TIP Summit 2018. In fact Babak had a slide that showed 3G devices would make up 61%  of total devices in 2025 in Africa. Rob Shuter, Group President and CEO, MTN Group said at AfricaCom 2018 that Africa lags 7 years behind the Western countries in mobile technologies. Though this may not be universally true, its nevertheless a fact in many areas of the Continent as can be seen from the stats.

In my blog post "2G / 3G Switch Off: A Tale of Two Worlds", I said operators in many developing countries that maybe forced to switch off a technology would rather switch 3G off as they have a big base of 2G users and 3G devices can always fall back on 2G.

So what are the main reasons so many users are still on 2G devices or feature phones? Here are some that I can think off the top of my head:
  • Hand-me-downs
  • Cheap and affordable
  • Given as a gift (generally because its cheap and affordable)
  • 2G has better coverage than 3G and 4G in many parts of the world
  • Second/Third device, used as backup for voice calls
  • Most importantly - battery can last for a long time
This last point is important for many people across different parts of the world. In many developing countries electricity is at a premium. Many villages don't have electricity and people have to take a trip to a market or another village to get their phones charged. This is an expensive process. (Interesting article on this here and here). In developed countries, many schools do not allow smartphones. In many cases, the kids have a smartphone switched off in their bag or left at home. For parents to keep in touch, these kids usually have a feature phone too. 

While all feature phones that were available until couple of years ago were 2G phones, things have been changing recently. In an earlier tweet I mentioned that Reliance Jio has become a world leader in feature phones:


I also wrote about Jio phone 2 launch, which is still selling very well. So what is common between Jio phones and Nokia 8110 4G, a.k.a. Banana phone

They both use a new mobile operating system called KaiOS. So what is KaiOS?

KaiOS originates from the Firefox OS open-source project which started in 2011 and has continued independently from Mozilla since 2016. Today, KaiOS is a web-based operating system that enables a new category of lite phones and other IoT devices that require limited memory, while still offering a rich user experience through leading apps and services. KaiOS is a US-based company with additional offices in France, Germany, Taiwan, India, Brazil, Hong Kong, and mainland China. You can find a list of KaiOS powered devices here. In fact you can see the specifications of all the initial devices using KaiOS here.

Here is a video that explains why we need KaiOS:



There are couple of really good blog posts by Sebastien Codeville, CEO of KaiOS:

There is so much information in both these articles that I will have to copy and paste the entire articles to do them justice. Instead, I want to embed the presentation that Sebastien delivered at AfricaCom below:



I like the term 'smart feature phone' to distinguish between the smartphones and old dumb feature phones.

Finally, it should be mentioned that some phone manufacturers are using older version of Android to create a feature phone. One such phone is "Reinvent iMi" that is being billed as 'Slimmest Smart 3G Feature Phone' in India. It uses Android 4.1. See details here. Would love to find out more about its battery life in practice.

My only small concern is about security of old Android OS. As Android is extensively used, new vulnerabilities keep getting discovered all the time. Google patches them in newer versions of the software or sometimes releases a separate patch. All updates to the Android OS stops after 3 years. This means that older versions of Android can be hacked quite easily. See here for example.

Anyway, feature phones or 'smart feature phones' are here to stay. Better on 4G than on 2G.

Friday, 26 October 2018

The Yin and the Yang of AI & Blockchain


Today I read about HTC's Exodus 1, new Blockchain smartphone that only people with crypto-currency can buy. SCMP described in very simple terms what this phone is for:

Both HTC’s Exodus and Sirin’s Finney smartphones feature a built-in digital wallet application that will enable users to securely store and use cryptocurrencies, such as bitcoin and ethereum, in daily transactions.

Those smartphones are designed to replace the special memory sticks, which employ complex usernames and passwords to access, that cryptocurrency investors use to store their digital money. These investors typically store most of their cryptocurrencies in such hardware, which are kept offline as a means of security.

“There are things that a phone manufacturer can do with a chip that nobody else can,” said Chen. “We want to be safer than the existing hardware wallets … HTC has a track record of making trusted hardware.”

The company’s Exodus smartphone, for example, can serve as a “node”, which can connect to certain blockchain networks to enable trading of tokens between users. It will also be able to act as a so-called mining rig for users to earn new tokens tied to the Exodus blockchain.

“At some point, we’ll do our own utility token,” said Chen, adding that there was no timetable for such a token release.

HTC’s foray into blockchain, the distributed ledger technology behind cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, represents a strategy to keep the company relevant in smartphones, which is a market dominated by Samsung Electronics and Apple, followed by Huawei Technologies, Xiaomi and other major Chinese brands.

Anyway, the blockchain smartphone reminds me of the joke above (via marketoonist). The second technology mentioned in this joke is AI or Artificial Intelligence.

I heard HP Enterprise talk about AI recently and this picture above is a nice simple way to show how Deep Learning (DL), Artificial Neural Networks (ANN), Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are related.

I see AI and blockchain often referred to together. This does not necessarily mean that they are related. iDate allowed me to share a recent presentation (embedded below) that refers to AI & blockchain as Yin and Yang. Anyway, I am happy to learn more so if you have any thoughts please feel free to share.



Further Reading:


Related Posts:

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Summary and Analysis of Ericsson Mobility Report 2018

Ericsson Mobility reports always make a fantastic reading. Its been a while since I wrote anything on this topic so I thought lets summarize it and also provide my personal analysis. Please feel free to disagree as this is just a blog post.

Before we start, the official site for the report is here. You can jump directly to the PDF here. Ericsson will also be holding a webinar on this topic on 19 June, you can register here.

A short summary of some of the highlights are in the table above but lets look at more in detail.

Mobile subscriptions 



  • The total number of mobile subscriptions was around 7.9 billion in Q1 2018.
  • There are now 5.5 billion mobile broadband subscriptions.
  • Global subscription penetration in Q1 2018 was 104 percent.
  • The number of LTE subscriptions increased by 210 million during the quarter to reach a total of 2.9 billion.
  • Over the same period, GSM/EDGE-only subscriptions declined by 90 million. Other technologies declined by around 32 million.
  • Subscriptions associated with smartphones now account for around 60 percent of all mobile phone subscriptions.

Many things to note above. There is still a big part of the world which is unconnected and most of the connectivity being talked about is population based coverage. While GSM/EDGE-only subscriptions are declining, many smartphone users are still camped on to GSM/EDGE for significant time.

While smartphones are growing, feature phones are not far behind. Surprisingly, Reliance Jio has become a leader of 4G feature phones.

My analysis from the developing world shows that many users are getting a GSM feature phone as a backup for when smartphone runs out of power.


Mobile subscriptions worldwide outlook


  • 1 billion 5G subscriptions for enhanced mobile broadband by the end of 2023, accounting for 12 percent of all mobile subscriptions.
  • LTE subscriptions continues to grow strongly and is forecast to reach 5.5 billion by the end of 2023
  • In 2023, there will be 8.9 billion mobile subscriptions, 8.3 billion mobile broadband subscriptions and 6.1 billion unique mobile subscribers.
  • The number of smartphone subscriptions is forecast to reach 7.2 billion in 2023.

The report describes "A 5G subscription is counted as such when associated with a device that supports NR as specified in 3GPP Release 15, connected to a 5G-enabled network." which is a good approach but does not talk about 5G availability. My old question (tweet below) on "How many 5G sites does an operator have to deploy so that they can say they have 5G?" is still waiting for an answer.


5G device outlook



  • First 5G data-only devices are expected from the second half of 2018.
  • The first 3GPP smartphones supporting 5G are expected in early 2019.
  • From 2020, when third-generation chipsets will be introduced, large numbers of 5G devices are forecast.
  • By 2023, 1 billion 5G devices for enhanced mobile broadband are expected to be connected worldwide.

Qualcomm has made a good progress (video) on this front and there are already test modems available for 5G. I wont be surprised with the launch. It would remain to be seen what will be the price point and demand for these 5G data-only devices. The Register put it quite bluntly about guinea pigs here. I am also worried about the misleading 5G claims (see here).


Voice over LTE (VoLTE) outlook



  • At the end of 2017, VoLTE subscriptions exceeded 610 million.
  • The number of VoLTE subscriptions is projected to reach 5.4 billion by the end of 2023.
  • VoLTE technology will be the foundation for enabling 5G voice calls.
  • New use cases in a 5G context are being explored, such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).

Back in 2011, I suggested the following (tweet below)
Looks like things haven't changed significantly. There are still many low end devices that do not support VoLTE and many operators dont support VoLTE on BYOD. VoLTE has been much harder than everyone imagined it to be.


Mobile subscriptions worldwide by region



  • Globally, mobile broadband subscriptions now make up 68 percent of all mobile subscriptions.
  • 5G subscriptions will be available in all regions in 2023.
  • In 2023, 48 percent of subscriptions in North America and 34 percent in North East Asia are expected to be for 5G.

I think that for some regions these predictions may be a bit optimistic. Many operators are struggling with finance and revenue, especially as the pricing going down due to intense competition. It would be interesting to see how these numbers hold up next year.

While China has been added to North-East Asia, it may be a useful exercise to separate it. Similarly Middle East should be separated from Africa as the speed of change is going to be significantly different.


Mobile data Traffic Growth and Outlook

  • In Q1 2018, mobile data traffic grew around 54 percent year-on-year.
  • The quarter-on-quarter growth was around 11 percent.
  • In 2023, 20 percent of mobile data traffic will be carried by 5G networks.
  • North America has the highest monthly usage of mobile data per smartphone at 7.2 gigabytes (GB), anticipated to increase to 49GB in 2023.
  • Total mobile data traffic is expected to increase by nearly eight times by the end of 2023.
  • In 2023, 95 percent of total mobile data traffic is expected to be generated by smartphones, increasing from 85 percent today.
  • North East Asia has the largest share of mobile data traffic – set to reach 25EB per month in 2023.

This is one of the toughest areas of prediction as there are a large number of factors affecting this from pricing to devices and applications.

Quiz question: Do you remember which year did data traffic overtake voice traffic? Answer here (external link to avoid spoilers)


Mobile traffic by application category



  • In 2023, video will account for around 73 percent of mobile data traffic.
  • Traffic from social networking is also expected to rise – increasing by 31 percent annually over the next 6 years.
  • The relative share of social networking traffic will decline over the same period, due to the stronger growth of video.
  • Streaming videos in different resolutions can impact data traffic consumption to a high degree. Watching HD video (720p) rather than standard resolution video (480p) typically doubles the data traffic volume, while moving to full HD (1080p) doubles it yet again.
  • Increased streaming of immersive video formats would also impact data traffic consumption.

It would have been interesting if games were a separate category. Not sure if it has been lumped with Video/Audio or in Other segments.


IoT connections outlook


  • The number of cellular IoT connections is expected to reach 3.5 billion in 2023. This is almost double our last forecast, due to ongoing large-scale deployments in China.
  • Of the 3.5 billion cellular IoT connections forecast for 2023, North East Asia is anticipated to account for 2.2 billion.
  • New massive cellular IoT technologies, such as NB-IoT and Cat-M1, are taking off and driving growth in the number of cellular IoT connections.
  • Mobile operators have commercially launched more than 60 cellular IoT networks worldwide using Cat-M1 and NB-IoT.

It is important to look at the following 2 definitions though.

Short-range IoT: Segment that largely consists of devices connected by unlicensed radio technologies, with a typical range of up to 100 meters, such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Zigbee. This category also includes devices connected over fixed-line local area networks and powerline technologies

Wide-area IoT: Segment consisting of devices using cellular connections, as well as unlicensed low-power technologies, such as Sigfox and LoRa

The Wide-area IoT in the table above includes cellular IoT. If you are a regular reader of this blog, you will know that I think LoRa has a bright future and my belief is that this report ignores some of the reasons behind the popularity of LoRa and its growth story. 


Network coverage

  • In 2023, more than 20 percent of the world’s population will be covered by 5G.
  • 5G is expected to be deployed first in dense urban areas to support enhanced mobile broadband.
  • Another early use case for 5G will be fixed wireless access.
  • Today, 3GPP cellular networks cover around 95 percent of the world’s population.

A lot of work needs to be done in this area to improve coverage in rural and remote locations.

I will leave this post at this point. The report also contains details on Network Evolution, Network Performance, Smart Manufacturing, etc. You can read it from the report.

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Some interesting April Fools' Day 2018 Technology Jokes

This year April Fools' Day wasn't as fun as the last one. Couple of reasons being that it was on a Sunday and it coincided with Easter Sunday. Here are some of the jokes that I found interesting.

Sprint's Magic Ball:

It was good to see that the US mobile operator joined the party this year. Their magicball (based on their highly successful Magic Box) advert was really good. Here is the video:



Good to see that they managed to squeeze in references to 5G and small cells

Official site: http://newsroom.sprint.com/sprint-magic-ball.htm


T-Mobile Sidekicks Re-booted:


T-Mobile USA has consistently come up with the best tech pranks. Last year they had the OneSie with Human HotSpot and BingeOnUp the year before. This year the re-booted sidekicks was the joke of the day. The video is embedded below. As the description says, T-Mobile’s Sidekick gets a remake! Inspired by the past but stepping boldly into the future, it has revolutionary AI, headphones that double as chargers, personalized GPS guidance by John Legere, and more!



Official site: https://www.t-mobile.com/offers/sidekicks


The Chegg Osmosis Pillow:


"A top-secret team of Chegg engineers from Zurich spent two years developing a new patent-pending revolutionary proprietary method of making memory foam using special blends of matcha and lavender. Thanks to their discoveries, Chegg’s memory foam actually improves your memory. Got a final exam tomorrow? Sleep on it. Got a lab report due? Sleep on it. Need to outline your entire thesis? Sleep on it."

Official Website: https://www.chegg.com/play/memory-foam-pillow/


Pindrop TonguePrinting:


"Tongueprinting technology analyzes thousands of tiny bumps called papillae, as well as factors such as shape, size, and temperature to accurately identify yourself by licking your phone. This technology will be the mouthpiece of Pindrop’s latest authentication and anti-fraud solutions." Video:


Official website: https://www.pindrop.com/resources/video/video/tongueprinting/


Roku Happy Streaming Socks: "Do messy snack hands keep you from using your Roku remote? Meet the new Roku Happy Streaming Socks with built-in motion sensors, plus toe-toasting and anti-loss technology."


Official Website: https://blog.roku.com/roku-happy-streaming-socks


The other jokes were, well, not very funny but here are some worth mentioning...

Virgin Voyages Wa-Fi: "Here at Virgin Voyages we are excited to be bringing underwater WiFi, or as we call it “Wa-Fi” service, to all Virgin Voyages ships." Website: https://www.virginvoyages.com/wa-fi.html

Logitech BS Detection Software: "Today, I’m proud to announce that we are taking video calls to a whole new level with the introduction of Logitech Business Speak (BS) Detection software. Logitech BS Detection revolutionizes our meeting capabilities with built-in artificial intelligence (AI) that flags the…well…BS in business communications. "

Website: https://blog.logitech.com/2018/03/30/logitech-revolutionizes-business-communication-with-the-introduction-of-business-speak-detection-software/

Josh Ultra by Josh.Aihttps://www.cepro.com/article/josh.ai_josh_ultra_premium_voice_control

Jabra Sneakershttps://www.jabra.com/jabra-sneakers


Genetic Select by Lexus: Introducing Genetic Select by Lexus in partnership with 23andMe. The world’s first service that uses human genetics to match you with the car of your genes. http://www.lexus.com/geneticselect/

Google Maps is adding a Where’s Waldo? mini-game for the next week: Link.

Google Japan's Gboardhttps://japan.googleblog.com/2018/04/tegaki.html

Google Cloud Hummus API - Find your Hummus!: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0_5X6N6DHyk

Tech21 Flexichoc casehttps://twitter.com/Tech21Official/status/979392283106824192

Audi Downsizing Assistanthttps://twitter.com/AudiOfficial/status/979991696657203201

Lego VacuSorthttps://twitter.com/LEGO_Group/status/980369210789507072

Did I miss any good ones?


Related Posts:

Friday, 29 September 2017

Smartphone Wi-Fi Analytics for Travel Route Optimisations

Transport for London (TFL), the local government body responsible for transport in London, which also runs the London Underground (known as Tubes) has been using smartphone Wi-Fi data to work out how people travel on the stations.

They did the trial and collected data in 2016 and have also openly talked about it (see this talk for example), they have now published their findings which is available here. One of the interesting findings for example is that 18 different routes taken by customers between King's Cross St Pancras and Waterloo - and many people don't use the shortest route changing Tube lines

Its interesting to think that because many people do not have their Wi-Fi switched on while outside and many others who put their phone in plane more while in the underground (no mobile coverage, in case you are wondering), this data is probably not as detailed as it could have been.

Nevertheless, there is a talk of bringing Mobile connectivity into the underground network. Once its there, the combination of data could be far more valuable.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Smartphone Batteries Round-up: Technology, Charging & Recycling

Back in 2013, I spoke about Smart Batteries. Still waiting for someone to deliver on that. In the meantime I noticed that you can use an Android phone to charge another phone, via cable though. See the pic below:


You are probably all aware of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 catching fires. In case you are interested in knowing the reasons, Guardian has a good summary here. You can also see the pic below that summarises the issue.


Lithium-ion batteries have always been criticized for its abilities to catch fire (see here and here) but researchers have been working on ways to reduce the risk of fire. There are some promising developments.


The electrochemical masterminds at Stanford University have created a lithium-ion battery with built-in flame suppression. When the battery reaches a critical temperature (160 degrees Celsius in this case), an integrated flame retardant is released, extinguishing any flames within 0.4 seconds. Importantly, the addition of an integrated flame retardant doesn't reduce the performance of the battery.

Researchers at the University of Maryland and the US Army Research Laboratory have developed a safe lithium-ion battery that uses a water-salt solution as its electrolyte. Lithium-ion batteries used in smartphones and other devices are typically non-aqueous, as they can reach higher energy levels. Aqueous lithium-ion batteries are safer as the water-based electrolytes are inflammable compared to the highly flammable organic solvents used in their non-aqueous counterparts. The scientists have created a special gel, which keeps water from reacting with graphite or lithium metal and setting off a dangerous chain reaction.


Bloomberg has a good report as to why we’re going to need more Lithium.

Starting about two years ago, fears of a lithium shortage almost tripled prices for the metal, to more than $20,000 a ton, in just 10 months. The cause was a spike in the market for electric vehicles, which were suddenly competing with laptops and smartphones for lithium ion batteries. Demand for the metal won’t slacken anytime soon—on the contrary, electric car production is expected to increase more than thirtyfold by 2030, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Even if the price of lithium soars 300 percent, battery pack costs would rise only by about 2 percent.

University of Washington researchers recently demonstrated the world's first battery-free cellphone, created with funding from the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) and a Google Faculty Research Award for mobile research.

The battery-free technology harvests energy from the signal received from the cellular base station (for reception) and the voice of the user (for transmission) using a technique called backscattering. Backscattering for battery-free operation is best known for its use in radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, typically utilized for applications such as locating products in a warehouse and keeping track of high-value equipment. An RFID base station (called a reader) "pings" the tag with an RF pulse, which allows the tag to harvest microwatts of energy from it—enough to return a backscattered RF signal modulated with the identity of the item.



Unfortunately, harvesting generates very little energy; so little, that you really need a new standard. For instance, Wi-Fi signals transmit continuously, but harvesting that energy constantly will only enable transmissions of about 10 feet today. Range will be the big challenge for making this technology successful.

So we wont be seeing them anytime soon unfortunately.

Recycling of materials is always a concern, especially now that the use of Lithium-ion is increasing. Financial Times (FT) recently did a good summary of all the companies trying to recycle Lithium, Cobalt, etc.

Mr Kochhar estimates over 11m tonnes of spent lithium-ion batteries will be discarded by 2030. The company is looking to process 5,000 tonnes a year to start with and eventually 250,000 tonnes — a similar amount to a processing plant for mined lithium, he said.

The battery industry currently uses 42 percent of global cobalt production, a critical metal for Lithium-ion cells. The remaining 58 percent is used in diverse industrial and military applications (super alloys, catalysts, magnets, pigments…) that rely exclusively on the material.

According to Wikipedia, The purpose of the Cobalt (Co) within the LIBs is to act as a sort of bridge for the lithium ions to travel on between the cathode (positive end of the battery) and the anode (the negative end). During the charging of the battery, the cobalt is oxidized from Coᶾ⁺ to Co⁴⁺. This means that the transition metal, cobalt, has lost an electron. During the discharge of the battery the cobalt is reduced from Co⁴⁺ to Coᶾ⁺. Reduction is the opposite of oxidation. It is the gaining of an electron and decreases the overall oxidation state of the compound. Oxidation and reduction reactions are usually coupled together in a series of reactions known as red-ox (reduction-oxidation) reactions. This chemistry was utilized by Sony in 1990 to produce lithium ion cells.

From Treehugger: An excellent investigative piece by the Washington Post called “The cobalt pipeline: From dangerous tunnels in Congo to consumers’ mobile tech” explores the source of this valuable mineral that everyone relies on, yet knows little about.
“Lithium-ion batteries were supposed to be different from the dirty, toxic technologies of the past. Lighter and packing more energy than conventional lead-acid batteries, these cobalt-rich batteries are seen as ‘green.’ They are essential to plans for one day moving beyond smog-belching gasoline engines. Already these batteries have defined the world’s tech devices.
“Smartphones would not fit in pockets without them. Laptops would not fit on laps. Electric vehicles would be impractical. In many ways, the current Silicon Valley gold rush — from mobile devices to driverless cars — is built on the power of lithium-ion batteries.”
What The Post found is an industry that’s heavily reliant on ‘artisanal miners’ or creuseurs, as they’re called in French. These men do not work for industrial mining firms, but rather dig independently, anywhere they may find minerals, under roads and railways, in backyards, sometimes under their own homes. It is dangerous work that often results in injury, collapsed tunnels, and fires. The miners earn between $2 and $3 per day by selling their haul at a local minerals market.

There is a big potential for reducing waste and improving lives, hopefully we will see some developments on this front soon.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Smartphones, Internet Trends, etc

Every few years I add Mary Meeker's Internet Trends slides on the blog. Interested people can refer to 2011 and  2014 slide pack to see how world has changed.


One of the initial slide highlights that the number of smartphones are reached nearly 3 billion by end of 2016. If we looked at this excellent recent post by Tomi Ahonen, there were 3.2 billion smartphones at the end of Q1 2017. Here is a bit of extract from that.

SMARTPHONE INSTALLED BASE AT END OF MARCH 2017 BY OPERATING SYSTEM

Rank . OS Platform . . . . Units . . . . Market share  Was Q4 2016
1 . . . . All Android . . . . . . . . . . . . 2,584 M . . . 81 % . . . . . . ( 79 %)  
a . . . . . . Pure Android/Play . . . . 1,757 M . . . 55%
b . . . . . . Forked Anroid/AOSP . . . 827 M . . . 26%
2 . . . . iOS  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 603 M . . . 19 % . . . . . . ( 19 %) 
Others . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24 M  . . . . 1 % . . . . . . (   1 %)
TOTAL Installed Base . 3,211 M smartphones (ie 3.2 Billion) in use at end of Q1, 2017

Source: TomiAhonen Consulting Analysis 25 May 2017, based on manufacturer and industry data


BIGGEST SMARTPHONE MANUFACTURERS BY UNIT SALES IN Q1 2017

Rank . . . Manufacturer . Units . . . Market Share . Was Q4 2016 
1 (2) . . . Samsung . . . .  79.4 M . . 22.7% . . . . . . . ( 17.9% ) 
2 (1) . . . Apple  . . . . . . . 50.8 M . . 14.5% . . . . . . . ( 18.0% ) 
3 (3) . . . Huawei  . . . . . . 34.6 M . . . 9.9% . . . . . . . (10.4% ) 
4 (4) . . . Oppo . . . . . . . . 28.0 M . . . 8.0% . . . . . . . (   7.1% ) 
5 (5) . . . Vivo . . . . . . . . . 22.0 M . . . 6.3% . . . . . . . (   5.6% ) 
6 (9) . . . LG  . . . . . . . .  . 14.8 M . . . 4.2% . . . . . . . (   3.3% ) 
7 (7) . . . Lenovo .  . . . . . 13.2 M . . . 3.8% . . . . . . . (   3.8% )
8 (8) . . . Gionee . . . . . . . .9.6 M . . . 2.7% . . . . . . .  (   3.5% )
9 (6) . . . ZTE  . . . . . . . . . 9.2 M . . . 2.6% . . . . . . . (   5.2% ) 
10 (10) . TCL/Alcatel . . .  8.7 M . . . 2.5% . . . . . . . (  2.4% ) 
Others . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 80.2 MTOTAL . . . . . . . . . . . . . 350.4 M

Source: TomiAhonen Consulting Analysis 25 May 2017, based on manufacturer and industry data


This year, the number of slides have gone up to 355 and there are some interesting sections like China Internet, India Internet, Healthcare, Interactive games, etc. The presentation is embedded below and can be downloaded from slideshare



Sunday, 21 May 2017

Research on Unvoiced Speech Communications using Smartphones and Mobiles

A startup on kickstarter is touting world's first voice mask for smartphones. Having said that Hushme has been compared to Bane from Batman and Dr. Hannibal Lecter. Good detail of Hushme at Engadget here.

This is an interesting concept and has come back in the news after a long gap. Even though we are well past the point of 'Peak Telephony' because we now use text messages and OTT apps for non-urgent communications. Voice will always be around though for not only urgent communications but for things like audio/video conference calls.


Back in 2003 NTT Docomo generated a lot of news on this topic. Their research paper "Unvoiced speech recognition using EMG - mime speech recognition" was the first step in trying to find a way to speak silently while the other party can hear voice. This is probably the most quoted paper on this topic. (picture source).


NASA was working on this area around the same time. They referred to this approach as 'Subvocal Speech'. While the original intention of this approach was for astronauts suits, the intention was that it could also be available for other commercial use. Also, NASA was effectively working on limited number of words using this approach (picture source).

For both the approaches above, there isn't a lot of recent updated information. While it has been easy to recognize certain characters, it takes a lot of effort to do the whole speech. Its also a challenge to play your voice rather than a robotic voice to the other party.

To give a comparison of how big a challenge this is, look at the Youtube videos where they do an automatic captions generation. Even though you can understand what the person is speaking, its always a challenge for the machine. You can read more about the challenge here.

A lot of research in similar areas has been done is France and is available here.


Motorola has gone a step further and patented an e-Tattoo that can be emblazoned over your vocal cords to intercept subtle voice commands — perhaps even subvocal commands, or even the fully internal whisperings that fail to pluck the vocal cords when not given full cerebral approval. One might even conclude that they are not just patenting device communications from a patch of smartskin, but communications from your soul. Read more here.


Another term used for research has been 'lip reading'. While the initial approaches to lip reading was the same as other approaches of attaching sensors to facial muscles (see here), the newer approaches are looking at exploiting smartphone camera for this.

Many researchers have achieved reasonable success using cameras for lip reading (see here and here) but researchers from Google’s AI division DeepMind and the University of Oxford have used artificial intelligence to create the most accurate lip-reading software ever.
Now the challenge with smartphones for using camera for speech recognition will be high speed data connectivity and ability to see lip movement clearly. While in indoor environment this can be solved with Wi-Fi connectivity and looking at the camera, it may be a bit tricky outdoors or not looking at the camera while driving. Who knows, this may be a killer use-case for 5G.

By the way, this is not complete research in this area. If you have additional info, please help others by adding it in the comments section.

Related links:



Thursday, 31 March 2016

Smartphones: It came, It saw, It conquered


Smartphones have replaced so many of our gadgets. The picture above is a witness to how all the gadgets have now been replaced by smartphones. To some extent hardware requirements have been transferred to software requirements (Apps). But the smartphones does a lot more than just hardware to software translation.

Most youngsters no longer have bookshelves or the encyclopedia collections. eBooks and Wikipedia have replaced them. We no longer need sticky notes and physical calendars, there are Apps for them.

Back in 2014, Benedict Evans posted his "Mobile is Eating the world" presentation. His presentation has received over 700K views. I know its not as much as Justin Bieber's songs views but its still a lot in the tech world. He has recently updated his presentation (embedded below) and its now called "Mobile ate the world".

Quite rightly, the job is not done yet. There is still long way to go. The fact that this tweet has over 600 retweets is a witness to this fact. Here are some of the slides that I really liked (and links reltaed to them - opens in a new window).
While we can see how Smartphones are getting ever more popular and how other gadgets that its replacing is suffering, I know people who own a smartphone for everything except voice call and have a feature phone for voice calls. Other people (including myself) rely on OTT for calls as its guaranteed better quality most of the time (at least indoors).

Smartphones have already replaced a lot of gadgets and other day to day necessities but the fact is that it can do a lot more. Payments is one such thing. The fact that I still carry a physical wallet means that the environment around me hasn't transformed enough for it to be made redundant. If I look in my wallet, I have some cash, a credit and debit card, driving license, some store loyalty cards and my business cards. There is no reason why all of these cannot be digital and/or virtual.
A Connected Car is a Smartphone on/with wheels.


A connected drone can be considered as smartphone that flies.
The Smartphones today are more than just hardware/software. They are a complete ecosystem. We can argue if only 2 options for OSs is good or bad. From developers point of view, two is just about right.
Another very important point to remember that smartphones enable different platforms.

While we may just have messaging apps that are acting as platforms, there is a potential for a lot more.

Here is the presentation, worth reflecting on each slide:



If you haven't heard Benedict Evans speak, you can refer to a recent video by him on this topic:



Related posts on the web: