One of the most exciting recent developments in the broadband evolution has been the rollout of "Smart Wi-Fi" – Wi-Fi-enabled home gateways that optimize the home Wi-Fi experience and enable frictionless remote deployment of software features, essentially utilizing the gateway as a software deployment platform. For the majority of operators deploying this technology today, the focus is on Wi-Fi optimization as this is a critical step to increasing the customer experience and reducing their own operational costs. However, the next step is to deploy new services and features and we have already seen early examples of this, mainly around IoT security (such as Xfinity xFi Advanced Security from Comcast, and Bezeq's IoT security service through Bezeq's new BE router) as well as applications such as advanced parental controls. Omdia expects such application launches to increase over 2020 as smart Wi-Fi platforms become more widely deployed, with an initial focus on FTTH/ultra-highspeed broadband areas (see Figure 1).
However, applications such as IoT cybersecurity and advanced parental controls are increasingly seen by service providers as a way to further enhance the broadband experience, and are therefore provided for free as part of a premium package, rather than as an additional fee.
Ask a service provider or vendor, "so what is the new revenue opportunity?" and nine times out of 10 the answer will be "smart home" – but telcos haven't had much success to date with smart home; so what's changed? Well the answer to that could be "Wi-Fi Doppler" (Wi-Fi motion detection to you and me). Wi-Fi motion detection technology is not new, but is now considered mature enough to be deployed into the mass-market, and leading smart Wi-Fi vendor Plume was one company to launch the feature with its "Plume Motion" on its Smart Home Services platform at CES in January. Wi-Fi motion detection could be a game changer for smart home as it enables existing devices in the home (such as the home gateway, smart speakers, Wi-Fi access points, smart-TVs etc.) to detect granular forms of movement – future applications will be able to detect whether someone is breathing, for example.
Matched with other smart home sensors and devices, Wi-Fi motion detection could be used to significantly enhance existing use cases (especially around home security and assisted living), or create brand new ones. As a very simple example, Wi-Fi motion detection could be used to provide an efficient home security feature in student apartments without the need for a landlord to install any new hardware. The multi-dwelling unit market (MDU) is a sizeable one, but not easy for service providers to crack – perhaps technology advancements such as this could help.
Wi-Fi motion detection isn't of course a silver bullet. Applications and services still need to designed so that consumers will see the value in (and therefore be willing to pay for) them, and of course perceive it as not being intrusive of their privacy. However, it is certainly a technology that is currently receiving a lot of attention and, being focused on Wi-Fi, which is a core part of the service provider's offering, places the service provider firmly at the heart of the supply chain.