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.

T-Mobile Rolling Over Unused Data

T-Mobile today announced its Un-carrier 8.0 Data Stash, for postpaid (contract) customers where unused data automatically automatically rolls over to the next month for up to a year. Data Stash is included at no extra charge for new and existing T-Mobile customers – individual, family or business – on an eligible postpaid Simple Choice plan who buys extra high-speed data for their smartphone or tablet.

T-Mobile will start every Data Stash with 10 GB of 4G LTE data – for free. Once you’ve used up that Free Data Stash, any unused high speed data − rounded up to the nearest megabyte – will start to roll into your Data Stash automatically every month. T-Mobile says there’s no limit to how much data you can collect in your Data Stash.

T-Mobile US also announced:

  • Their LTE footprint now reaches 260 million Americans, expanding to reach an additional 10 million people in just the last 60 days.
  • Wideband LTE (with bandwidths in excess of 10 MHz), is now available in 121 metropolitan areas, including New York City, giving customers more capacity and up to a 50 percent boost in speeds.
  • T-Mobile’s newly acquired 700Mhz spectrum is now available in Cleveland, Colorado Springs, Minneapolis and Washington, D.C., improving in-building coverage and extending coverage .

According to Chief Technology Officer Neville Ray, 2015 will be the year their low-band spectrum comes fully to life, more than doubling their LTE geographic coverage and adding support for many more devices on 700 MHz (Block A) spectrum. He says their smartphone customers are now using an average of 3.5 GB per month, leading all other wireless providers.

Yesterday, C Spire announced Pay-As-You-Go Rolling Data plans for pre-paid users. Their three new plans offer consumers with no annual contract a choice of price points – $40, $55 and $65 a month – for 2 GB, 4 GB and 6 GB of rolling data and unlimited talk, text and photos along with automatic data overage protection and optional top-up data passes on the company’s nationwide 4G + LTE mobile broadband network. C Spire is the sixth largest wireless provider in the United States and the largest privately held wireless provider in the United States.

Cricket Wireless is hoping a $100 bill credit will attract customers from Cincinnati Bell, MetroPCS, Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile, Sprint, and T-Mobile. New customers must switch from the aforementioned carriers, purchase a new device, and activate a new line of service on a qualifying rate plan in order to receive the credit. The credit will be applied at the end of the first billing cycle. Cricket’s service plans cost $40-$60 per month, depending on options.

300 Million Smartphones Sold in Q3-14

Gartner today published its Q3 global mobile phone numbers. A total of 301 million smartphones sold in Q3, up 20% on a year ago. Within that, Apple’s and Samsung’s combined smartphone share totalled 37%, down 7 percentage points from the same period a year ago.

Mobile phone sales overall were 456 million — flat from Q3 2013. Within the smartphone space, China’s Xiaomi made its way into the top five for the first time with a sharp rise over a year ago, while the world’s biggest OEM, Samsung, declined.

Android continued to increase its market share with a rise to 83% with IOS rising to 12.7%. On the other hand, Windows lost market share.

By the end of 2014, eMarketer expects 1.76 billion people will own and use smartphones, up more than 25% over 2013. By the end of 2018, half of all mobile users are expected to have smartphones, some 2.7 billion people.

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

AWS-3 Auction: Now $43.8 Billion

The FCC’s AWS-3 spectrum auction has now racked up provisional winning bids now topping $43.8 billion. There are also signs that the auction will end shortly, reports Fierce Wireless. The auction for 65 MHz of spectrum, some of which would be shared by incumbant users, started Nov. 13.

At the close of round 94 today, the total provisional winning bid amount came in at $43.814 billion. The auction will continue until there are no new bids or waivers in a given round.

The auction has already quadrupled its reserve price and tripled some pre-auction estimates. According to analysts at Jefferies, after 91 rounds, the paired spectrum in the AWS-3 auction was at $2.65 per MHz-POP and unpaired spectrum at 50 cents per MHz-POP.

Proceeds will pay for FirstNet, the interoperable first responder network as well as for deficit reduction.

The success of the AWS auction bodes well for Treasury, and the big broadcast TV auction next year (FCC NPRM). That auction will put some 120 MHz of UHF TV channels (near Channels 30-50) on the auction block. The FCC more recently indicated it was planning on selling only 84 MHz. TV group owners (who never really “owned” the spectrum in the first place), will get a piece of the action for selling their slot and moving their channel to UHF Channel 29 or below.

The FCC proposed this month that the TV auction would meet an average price per MHz-POP benchmark of $1.25 for “Category 1 licenses” in the 40 largest license areas by population, with about 84 MHz of spectrum being cleared in the auction.

The FCC earlier assumed 100 MHZ of spectrum would sell at about $1.50 per megahertz POP with a forward auction revenue of $45 billion. That figure now looks overly conservative. The TV auction could have nearly twice the amount of paired spectrum as the current AWS auction (100 MHz vs 50 MHz) and generate twice the Mhz/Pop.

The MHz/pop figure is derived by multiplying the number of megahertz associated with a license by the population of the license’s coverage area. For nation-wide coverage you’d multiply times 300 million Americans.

Will next year’s TV auction generate in excess of $100 billion? Perhaps. But somebody’s going to have to pay for it.

Skype Language Translator Announced

Today, Microsoft announced the first phase of the Skype Translator preview program which provides real-time language translation using a voice synthesizer. The preview program will kick-off with two spoken languages, Spanish and English, and 40+ instant messaging languages will be available to Skype customers who have signed-up via the Skype Translator sign-up page and are using Windows 8.1 on the desktop or device.

Skype Translator was demonstrated between two elementary school classes—one in Washington and one in Mexico City. “Mystery Classroom” allowed the students guess where their school was located and discover the potential to break down language barriers and bring people together. Skype was acquired by Microsoft for $8.5 billion three years ago.

Skype Translator relies on machine learning, which means that the more the technology is used, the smarter it gets.

The training data for speech recognition and machine translation comes from a variety of sources, including translated web pages, videos with captions, as well as previously translated and transcribed one-on-one conversations. Microsoft says the advent of Deep Neural Networks (DNNs) for speech recognition, pioneered by Microsoft Research, dramatically reduced error rates and improved robustness, finally enabling the use of this technology in broad contexts such as Skype Translator.