In one of the many private suites at IDF 2011 in San Francisco, Intel and Ubiquisys were demonstrating a range of applications that harness the power of EdgeCloudTM technology. This is a new breed of intelligent devices, first announced by Ubiquisys and Intel in May, that closely integrate femtocell-powered small cell technology with a powerful compute platform.
During a break in their meetings the engineers filmed a couple of these apps themselves. The camerawork may not be the best, but it amply demonstrates the powerful benefits of this emerging hybrid technology. The eagle-eyed will notice that the small cell and compute platforms are in separate boxes for these demos – the first fully integrated devices will be shown at Mobile World Congress in February.
The first app in the video is an edge cache, where the intelligent small cell actively manages a store of popular media downloads to reduce the load on the backhaul. The extent of backhaul traffic reduction will depend on the individual cell’s location, but early indications are that edge caching, combined with compression, will make a big difference.
This is important because in a small cell environment the wireless data speed is no longer the limiting factor. A typical 14.4Mbps small cell hotspot does not suffer the usual performance degradation caused by distance and contention, and so provides a data experience many times faster than is possible from a distant macro mast. Instead, the limiting factor will usually be the backhaul connection to the internet, and this will often be variable quality DSL broadband. Edge caching and compression dramatically reduce the incidence of backhaul limitations on the user experience, but make no demands on processor or battery power from the phone.
The second app demonstrates a retail geofence application. Geofencing is a hot topic at the moment, not least because it uses technology to maximise the advantage of having a physical store where you can get immediate satisfaction. The principle is compelling – by recognising the presence of a potential customer, the store can make a time-limited offer to drive trade. Today’s technology drawbacks are battery-draining A-GPS that too many smartphone users keep turned off, users who don’t have any location tech on their phones, and centralised notification methods that are often too slow to make the offer before the customer has moved on.
An EdgeCloud geofence app has two main advantages. First, the femtocell has a presence API that allows the app to recognise all 3G customers, regardless of whether they have GPS or WiFi or a specialist app running. Second, the retail offer, in this case a simple text, is made direct from the EdgeCloud device, guaranteeing immediate delivery.
These applications demonstrate the rapid development of EdgeCloud devices and the potential for associated applications. We’ll be showcasing the full range of these apps at Mobile World Congress.