This week we’ve been on the show floor at the Intel Developer Forum (IDF) 2012, demonstrating the compelling capabilities of the smart cell. This is a new category of hybrid device developed by Ubiquisys in a strategic collaboration with Intel. Smart cells combine a cellular/Wi-Fi small cell with a powerful communications-tuned computing platform based on Intel® architecture.
At the Small Cells World Summit in London earlier this year, the companies demonstrated a range of applications on a 3G/Wi-Fi model running on the Orange 3G network. At IDF the first tri-mode smart cell was on display, featuring LTE, 3G and Wi-Fi in a single unit.
During the summer the smart cell picked up a prestigious Small Cell Forum award, prompting the following comment from Ken Rehbehn, Principal Analyst, Mobile RAN at Yankee Group:
“It is clear that small cells are a critical tool for building future mobile broadband networks supporting ever increasing traffic loads. However, small cells continue to suffer from the traditional cellular burdens of constrained radio spectrum capacity and challenging mobile backhaul access. Ubiquisys’ smart cell devices overcome these challenges by putting storage and Intel processing power at the edge, enabling local services that no longer require constant backhaul, while also supporting Wi-Fi, thereby adding vital extra capacity.”
How smart cells make a difference – “edge cloud” applications
Using a smart cell application to maintain a local cache of data, informed by and available to both cellular and Wi-Fi users. Environments vary, but backhaul savings of 40% are easily achievable and have been demonstrated.
- Store video/image content locally on first view for subsequent use e.g. YouTube videos and the ad images within Facebook pages.
- Proactively download and store popular content in moments when backhaul is lightly loaded.
Storing specific content on the smart cell and serving it direct to mobile users. Examples include:
- Maintaining location and context related information such as maps and tourist promotions on the smart cell.
- Loading sports clips as they happen in a sports bar.
- Storing broadcast content for ad-sponsored viewing in public places.
- Maintaining rich media ads on a small cell.
Smart cells have the processing power to perform activities that would normally only be possible within the core network, and which are often given as the reason for operators being reluctant to breakout internet traffic at the small cell. They include:
- Anti-virus protection.
- URL filtering.
- Activities that rely on deep packet inspection (DPI).
Apps platform at the edge of the network
In addition to the applications already mentioned, there is a long list of important applications that would work better for operators and users alike if they could run closer to mobile users:
- Local Wi-Fi-cellular policy management – sophisticated, autonomous policy management that can sense relative loading, can work according to complex policies, and can interact with users to reach decisions – all without overloading the backhaul with policy “chatter”.
- Local CDN – content delivery for mobile devices brought closer to users on the move – extending the cloud.
- Local virtual machines – powerful application capabilities that can set themselves up in response to user presence and policy.
- Local upload proxy applications – the proxy application receives video/photo media from the smartphone very quickly, saving battery life and hassle, then gradually uploads it to the social media cloud application.