Computational Photo Chips in Huawei Smartphone

Huawei’s new Honor 6 Plus features a dual camera on the back and sub-$400 price tag, at least in China.

The Honor 6 Plus is equipped with two rear shooters, dubbed “Symmetrical dual camera technology“. The rear camera can take 13 MP shots, but actually consists of two 8 MP sensors with huge 1.85 micron pixel size, and a dedicated ISP tasked with merging and interpolation. One of the cameras features an f/2.0 autofocus lens, while the other sports f/2.4 and fixed focus.

Huawei claims 0.1s focusing time – the use of two sensors with two lenses allows more light to be gathered and improves focusing speed.

The Honor 6 Plus features a 5.5″ 1080p display, 1.8 GHz octa-core Kirin 925 chipset, 3 GB of RAM, a microSD slot for expansion, and a 3600 mAh battery along with a dedicated image signal processor (ISP).

The HTC One (M8) also has a Duo Camera system, but HTC uses their second, 2-megapixel camera for depth of field information. The sensor analyzes the distance and position of elements within a photo, and generates a depth map, which is embedded within each photo.

Computational photography chips such as the Movidius Myriad 2 aim to bring high-end vision and computational imaging applications to smart phones with features such as melding still and video panoramas, real-time HDR, synthetic zooming, depth perception and other features. Movidius claims that using its technology adds less then $10 to the cost of a mobile device.

H.265 encoding, available on Qualcomm’s 810 smartphone processor can reduce HD bandwidth by 50%. Portland’s Elemental Technologies can do the number crunching in the cloud, which could bring real-time computational video to all manner of devices. SpaceCurve continuously fuses geospatial, sensor, IoT, social media, location, and other streaming and historical data while making the data immediately available for analytics.

OpenVX provides mobile developers with an industry standard API to deliver embedded computer vision and computational imaging chipsets that can keep UAVs on track.

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The Honor 6 Plus will be up for preorder as soon as tomorrow from the Huawei mobile shop, with shipping starting a week after. Pricing is pegged at 1999 yuan (~$323) for the 3G version, and 2499 yuan (~403) for the 4G LTE one. No word on availability in the United States, but expect a bunch of smart phones with computational chips that feature synthetic zooming and other features next month at CES in Las Vegas.

Sigfox Building 900 MHz M2M Silicon Valley Network

Sigfox, a startup based near Toulouse, France, hopes to raise more than $70 million to build a national network in the US for the Internet of Things. SigFox picked the Bay Area to demonstrate their IoT wireless network that promises to link anything to the Internet, from smoke detectors to dog collars and bicycle locks.

Sigfox will cover the San Francisco peninsula, from its urban tip to Silicon Valley, some 40 miles to the south. It will use the unlicensed 915-megahertz spectrum to provide connectivity. Sigfox hopes to close funding early next year. Sigfox technology already covers the whole of France, most of the Netherlands, and parts of Russia and Spain.

They now cover 420,000 square miles in Europe with ranges that run from a couple of kilometers for underground water meters to 500 km for connected billboards run by Clear Channel.

Four companies now make Sigfox base stations using 800-900MHz transceivers. The base stations can run for 5-20 years on batteries, but are limited to data rates of 100-600 bits/second, sending a maximum of 140, 12-byte messages a day and receiving no more than four eight-byte messages a day. Sigfox charges operators a subscription rate of $1-16 a year per node based on volume. That’s a fraction of the $1-2/day a cellular link would cost, said Castonguay of Machina Research.

It also has an unnamed partner with whom it hopes to put base stations on satellites for a future IoT network with global coverage.

Around the world cities are beginning to deploy a diversity of M2M sensors to improve the efficiency of transport, lighting, irrigation and refuse collection.

Technology competitors include Neul, recently bought by Huawei, and chip firms such as Broadcom and Qualcomm, who are also tracking the opportunities with the 900MHz version of WiFi.

The upcoming .11ah standard, using the 900 MHz band, is expected to cover many home uses at 10-20 Mbits/s. It will also help WiFi vendors extend into large building networks supporting up to 8,000 connections. Chips are expected to hit the market starting in 2015. NEC is the first company to deploy the new oneM2M service layer standard in a live smart city control center.

The Sigfox standard is proprietary. Competitors include the Z-Wave Alliance, a consortium of leading companies in the home technology space and operates in the sub-1GHz band. It supports data rates up to 100kbps, with AES125 encryption, IPV6, and multi-channel operation. Z-Wave utilizes a mesh network architecture, and can begin with a single controllable device and a controller. Additional devices can be added at any time.

Intel, Broadcom, Samsung, Dell, Atmel and others have joined forces to launch the Open Interconnect Consortium. The intention of the OIC is to create specifications for interoperability. It will encapsulate various wireless standards to enable secure device discovery and connectivity across different devices.

Apple and Google, two of the biggest players in the Internet of Things market, may go their own way.

Google acquired smart thermostat company Nest for $3.2 billion and WiFi-enabled camera company Dropcam for $555 million. Google also announced it partnered with Mercedes-Benz, Whirlpool and light bulb maker LIFX to integrate their products with Google’s Nest.

Meanwhile, Apple announced a smart home framework called HomeKit, which can be used for controlling connected devices inside of a user’s home. Apple’s connected car infotainment system is called CarPlay.

IDC expects the installed base of the Internet of Things will be approximately 212 billion “things” globally by 2020. This is expected to include 30.1 billion installed “connected (autonomous) things” in 2020.

Related Smartmeter articles on Dailywireless include; Qualcomm Buys Silicon Radio, Huawei Buys Neul, Internet of Things: Divided or United?, Wispapalooza: Jim Carlson on White Spaces, Ofcom Announces White Space Partnerships, 802.11ah: WiFi Standard for 900MHz, Facebook Promotes Internet for Next 5 Billion, Super Wi-Fi Summit, FCC Supports National White Space Networking

McDonald’s Gets Softcard

Softcard (formerly Isis), a mobile payment system that competes with Apple Pay and Google Wallet, announced today that it is accepted at more than 14,000 McDonald’s locations around the country beginning today. Smartphone owners can make NFC-based mobile payments at the register and the drive-thru at all McDonald’s restaurants. McDonald’s will also accept Apple Pay.

Last month, Subway also announced a partnership with Softcard to support mobile payments.

Softcard is free to download and is compatible with more than 80 Android handsets sold by AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless. Softcard combines payments, offers and loyalty in one app. Softcard uses the EMV Contactless specification and SmartTap technology to enable payments, offers and loyalty redemption through one tap.

Apple Pay saw more than one million card activations within 72 hours of launch, reports NFC World, and is already the leading NFC payments player in the US, according to Apple CEO Tim Cook. Cook outlined future growth plans for the service at the WS Journal D Live conference this week, including a potential partnership with Chinese ecommerce giant Alibaba.

US pharmacy chains Rite Aid and CVS plan to launch their own CurrentC mobile payment service in 2015, and have stopped accepting NFC payments, blocking mobile payments services like Apple Pay, Google Wallet and Softcard.

Unfortunately, CurrentC is now warning people that hackers have already swiped some of the beta tester’s email addresses.

Mobile proximity payments have to date proven lacklustre despite the hundreds of millions spent on developing these platforms. But loyalty rewards and benefits of the digital wallet is now seen by many as potentially the killer app that will help to finally ignite the long simmering mobile proximity payment market.

Ovum’s research indicates that 53% of consumers globally report they’ve either used or are interested in redeeming offers and coupons with their handsets, while 44% have used or are interested using their mobile device to pay for things in store and restaurants, explains Gilles Ubaghs, Senior Analyst, Financial Services Technology at Ovum.

NWave Joins Weightless SIG

The Weightless SIG, which develops Internet of Things standards for long distance, low cost machine to machine connections, has announced a new parter with NWave technologies joining the group as a technology vendor. Weightless has already picked up some serious backers, including ARM, CSR, and Cable & Wireless.

While many short range M2N solutions are available, such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, ZigBee, Z-Wave and others, they cannot provide long-range coverage.

The IEEE standards group has developed a couple of White Space standards that promise better range. Those include the 802.11af standard, based on Wi-Fi like protocols, for ranges up to 5 km. Additionally, the 802.22 standard, based on WiMax chipsets which incorporate polling, are designed for wireless regional area networks with ranges up to 100 km. But both of those standards appear to be targeting broadband connections.

The Weightless standards, by contrast, delivers a slower, narrow-band solution that connects to more devices and requires very little power. It may even be used on licensed cellular frequencies.

The Weightless standard aims to connect sensors that require long range connections and is targeting applications like vehicles and asset tracking, healthcare and metering.

While improved coverage can be supplied by cellular technology using GPRS, 3G and LTE, cellular costs are high, using more power and bandwidth than desirable. The Weightless SIG uses television white spaces and the lower unlicensed ISM band (800-900 MHz) for improved range using a slower but error-resistant data scheme.

Weightless uses a spreading algorithm to create a longer data sequence when the signal levels are weak. It reduces the data rate and shifts to a simpler modulation scheme to reduce the error rate or increase range. It enables coverage up to 5km (3 miles) to indoor terminals.

The Weightless SIG announced the development of the Weightless-W standard, which uses TV white spaces, last year. This year the the Weightless-N standard, using the unlicensed 800/900 MHz ISM band was announced. It uses Ultra Narrow Band (UNB) technology and operates in ISM band – 868MHz in Europe and 915MHz in the US, and may also use cellular frequencies around 800 MHz.

Professor William Webb, CEO of the Weightless SIG said, “We are delighted to welcome NWave Technologies Limited to the Weightless SIG. NWave is a leader in IoT over ISM spectrum and the company’s deep technical experience in LPWAN connectivity will make a significant contribution to the rapid development of Weightless-N. Bringing proven capability from an existing technology provider to the SIG and merging it with the expertise already established within the group will accelerate the development of Weightless-N as the leading global open standard for machine connectivity over licence exempt spectrum.”

See Dailywireless Whitespace articles, including; Qualcomm Buys Silicon Radio, Huawei Buys Neul, Weightless M2M Standard, Version 0.9, Neul’s Weightless Chip: $12

Qualcomm Announces end-to-end MU-MIMO

Qualcomm today announced 802.11ac Wave 2 solutions with multi-user multi-input/multi-output (MU-MIMO). Qualcomm Atheros will be conducting the industry’s an over-the-air, end-to-end MU-MIMO demonstration using their networking and client-side chips at Broadband World Forum in Amsterdam, October 21-23.

Qualcomm VIVE 802.11ac chipsets with MU-MIMO technology, which Qualcomm Atheros introduced earlier this year are beginning to be released in products. Mobile device manufacturers are also preparing smartphones and tablets to take advantage of these MU-MIMO which can achieve up to three times faster 11ac Wi-Fi, according to Qualcomm.

The Qualcomm Atheros QCA9377 chip extends the performance benefits of MU | EFX to notebooks, TVs, cameras, and other consumer electronics, while Qualcomm’s single-stream 11ac + Bluetooth 4.1 combination chip is designed to provide the best possible performance with reduced power consumption.

Qualcomm says its VIVE is currently the only line of 802.11ac Multi-User MIMO solutions for networking equipment, consumer electronics, and mobile and computing devices. The VIVE Wi-Fi radio is an integral part built into the new Snapdragon 810 and 808 platforms.

Multi-user MIMO allows multiple transmitters to send separate signals to multiple receivers simultaneously in the same band.

Three Quantenna-based 802.11ac products are now available on the market, says Tim Higgins of Small Net Builder. They include the ASUS’ Broadcom / Quantenna based RT-AC87U/R, the NETGEAR’s R7500, and the Linksys E8350, but they currently do not support MU-MIMO. Broadcom’s new 5G Xtream adds another radio to the existing platform, but does not support MU-MIMO.

Qualcomm says AVM will introduce a new FRITZ! Box router based on the Qualcomm IPQ and 4-stream 802.11ac with MU-MIMO products, targeting both retail and carrier segments. Qualcomm Atheros has enabled mobile customers using its 802.11ac products (QCA6174A and WCN3680B) to include Qualcomm MU | EFX in forthcoming smartphones and tablets.

Google Fiber Going Wireless?

Google has applied to the FCC for permission to begin wireless spectrum tests in the San Francisco area. According to Reuters, the company’s looking into a rarely-used millimeter wave frequency that is capable of transmitting large amounts of data, but only if the receiving equipment is in the line-of-sight.

Google reportedly may offer a fast wireless service in markets where it offers Google Fiber Internet and TV service. By beaming Internet services directly into homes, Google would open a new path now dominated by Comcast, Verizon and AT&T.

The Google wireless test, beginning Nov. 13, will apparently include three sites in the San Francisco Bay Area, including one in San Mateo county and two locations a half-mile apart which appear to be on Google’s Mountain View, California campus. It will use the 5.8 GHz frequency, the 24.2 GHz frequency and the millimeter wave bands of 71-76 GHz and 81-86 GHz, according to the application.

The FCC’s meeting on Friday discussed the use of wireless spectrum above 24 GHz for mobile services, including ways the agency can facilitate the development and deployment of technology. Their Notice on Inquiry looks at utilizing frequencies above 24 GHz for mobile use and “5G” applications. The FCC also adopted a Report and Order to facilite and clarify the use of public infrastructure for wireless transmitters.

Google bought Alpental Technologies in June, a stealthy Seattle startup led by ex-Clearwire researchers. Apparently Alpental will utilize 60 GHz 802.11ad and mesh networking.

The FCC loosened some rules governing the 60GHz band last year, saying that it could be used to provide wireless connections of up to a mile at speeds up to seven gigabits per second.

A wireless broadband network is cheaper than fiber. Rather than digging up roads and laying cables to each individual home, transmitters on nearby buildings could enable Google to bring Gigabit internet to more places in less time. Craig Barratt, the former Atheros Communications CEO, is now head of the Google Access and Energy division. He signed off as the authorized person submitting Google’s FCC application.