Wireless Technologies to Watch

SPECIAL REPORT: Smartphones & PDAs

By Barbara DePompa, 1105 Government Information Group Custom Media

Gartner Inc. has reported on several important mobile technologies that will evolve significantly through 2010. These advances – pinpointed as key technologies to watch – will likely have a broad impact on strategies and policies for wireless handheld devices, and must be addressed in federal agency acquisitions.

Mobile User Interfaces (UIs) –
UIs impact device usability and supportability. Suppliers use UIs to differentiate platforms. New and more-diverse UIs will complicate the development and support of business-to-employee (B2E) and business-to-consumer (B2C) applications. Better interfaces will make the mobile Web more accessible on small devices, and will provide a better channel for communications with employees and even constituents.


Location Sensing – Location awareness makes mobile applications more useful and opens up a range of new applications exploiting the location of equipment or personnel. Federal organizations should investigate applications to explore the potential of location sensing, although it may create privacy and security challenges.


802.11n – 802.11n boosts WiFi data rates to between 100 Mbps and 300 Mbps, and the multiple-input, multiple-output technology used by 802.11n offers the potential for better coverage in some situations. High-speed WiFi is desirable to stream media, but it’s also considered disruptive and complex to implement. 802.11n is the first WiFi technology to offer performance on par with 100 Mbps Ethernet wired connections to office PCs, enabling an all-wireless office, and should be considered by organizations equipping new offices or replacing older 802.11a/b/g systems.


Display Technologies – Displays constrain many characteristics of both mobile devices and applications. Several new display technologies will impact the marketplace, including active pixel displays, passive displays and pico projectors. Pico projectors enable new mobile use cases (for example, instant presentations projected on a desktop to display information in a brief, face-to-face meeting). Good off-axis viewing enables images and information to be shared more easily. Passive displays in devices, such as e-book readers, offer new ways to distribute and consume documents.


Mobile Web and Widgets – The mobile Web is emerging as a low-cost way to deliver simple mobile applications to a range of devices. It has some limitations that will not be addressed by 2010 (for example, there will be no universal standards for browser access to handset services, such as the camera or GPS). Widgets (small mobile Web applets) are supported by many mobile browsers, and provide a way to stream simple feeds to handsets and small screens. Thin-client applications are emerging as practical solutions to on-campus enterprise applications using WiFi or cellular connections.


Cellular Broadband – Wireless broadband is driven by the availability of technologies such as high-speed downlink packet access and high-speed uplink packet access, combined with attractive pricing from cellular operators. In many regions, HSPA provides adequate connectivity to replace WiFi hot spots.


Near Field Communication (NFC) – NFC provides a simple and secure way for handsets to communicate across distances, and is emerging as a leading standard for applications such as mobile payment, with successful trials conducted in several countries. It also has wider applications, such as ‘touch to exchange information’ for example, to transfer an image from a handset to a digital photo frame, or for a handset to pick up a virtual discount voucher.


Bluetooth 3.0 – Bluetooth 3.0 will likely include features such as ultra-low-power mode that will enable new devices, such as peripherals and sensors, and new applications, such as health monitoring. Bluetooth 3.0 is intended to support classic Bluetooth, WiFi and ultra-wideband (UWB).