John Smee, VP Engineering, Qualcomm Technologies Inc., will share insights on 5G – which is evolving to enable more reliable connectivity with higher performance in and beyond the era of Internet of Things (IoT) – in his keynote at MEMS & Sensors Executive Congress, October 22-24, 2019, in Coronado, Calif.
SEMI’s Maria Vetrano caught up with John to give MSEC attendees a preview of his talk.
SEMI: Why should MEMS and sensors suppliers stand up and take note of the evolution in 5G, particularly 5G NR?
Smee: 5G is the unifying fabric that will connect virtually everything around us. 5G New Radio (NR) is the global standard for a unified, more capable 5G wireless air interface. It will deliver significantly faster and more responsive mobile broadband experiences to users. It will also extend mobile technology to connect and redefine a multitude of new industries, including the IoT.
As tens of millions of MEMS and sensors are the core components providing intelligence and interactivity to IoT devices, suppliers need to understand the capabilities and efficiencies that 5G will bring to connect the wide range of MEMS and sensors.
We should also recognize that we are at the beginning of the 5G era, and 5G technologies will continue to evolve and expand in the coming years to connect new types of devices in increasingly efficient ways.
SEMI: What’s special about the upcoming release of 5G NR, 3GPP Rel-16?
Smee: While the first 5G NR release, 3GPP Rel-15, focused primarily on enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB), it also established a solid technology foundation for continued evolution in Rel-16 and beyond.
With Rel-16, we are seeing 5G NR’s expansion beyond eMBB to address new tiers of IoT services such as industrial IoT (e.g., automation) with ultra-reliable, low-latency communication (URLLC) and cellular vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X) for more advanced use cases, such as autonomous driving. MEMS and sensors are critically important to both types of use cases as they collect the raw information of the physical world, and 5G is the connectivity of these sensors to the network. This makes the technologies inextricably linked.
MEMS and sensors are equally integral to the development of more efficient low-complexity massive IoT devices (MIoT) with in-band 5G NR deployments of enhanced machine-type communication (eMTC)/narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) and the use of the new 5G Core Network. In practical terms, devices that enable smart city use cases – such as smart utility monitoring, connected parking meters, and smart street lighting solutions that support 3GPP Rel-16 – are MIoT devices that will delight city administrators and dwellers with their improved coverage and efficiency.
SEMI: In addition to low-complexity MIoT devices, what other markets will benefit most from the evolution in 5G NR?
Smee: We continue to enhance 5G NR to support the high-performance IoT, including URLLC.
URLLC is one of the many new 5G capabilities that wasn’t possible with the previous generation of cellular technologies, such as LTE. Because it delivers services at very high reliability (i.e., 99.9999%) and ultra-low latency (i.e., sub-1ms), URLLC literally opens up new use cases that that only wired communication could serve in the past. Industrial IoT applications that require a mix of high reliability and low latency, such as robotic arm command and control, are foremost among these new URLLC use cases.
Another example of IoT taking advantage of URLLC is smart grid, where faults in the electricity distribution network require immediate protection and control to ensure safety and avoid equipment damage.
SEMI: How is Qualcomm building on the eMTC/NB-IoT for low-power wide-area IoT (LPWA) – and how will this influence IoT connectivity?
Smee: We continue to evolve eMTC/NB-IoT beyond its initial 3GPP release in Rel-13, making these foundational LPWA IoT technologies more capable and efficient as they become the basis for 5G massive IoT.
The most significant updates to eMTC/NB-IoT include multi-cast and positioning support in Rel-14 and improved spectral/power efficiencies in Rel-15. Multi-cast can help service providers to deliver firmware updates over the air with greater efficiency, which speeds deployment of new features. Positioning can create new values, which can inform end users where their assets/packages are located, potentially safeguarding assets in transit. Improving spectral/power efficiencies offers more power-efficient transmissions, which takes less toll on battery-operated devices.
With Rel-16, we have further optimized eMTC/NB-IoT, which is supported by the new 5G Core Network and is also deployable in 5G spectrum in-band with other 5G NR services.
The evolutionary path ahead for eMTC/NB-IoT enables support for an even wider range of 5G massive IoT devices. New enhancements in the pipeline, such as grant-free uplink and multi-hop mesh, will boost efficiency and coverage area that much more.
SEMI: Where do mobile broadband devices such as ultra-high-definition (UHD) security cameras fall within Qualcomm’s realization of 5G-NR?
Smee: Mobile broadband is at the core of 5G NR. We see it both powering the new generation of 5G smartphones and expanding beyond traditional devices (including always-connected PCs and tablets) to address the needs of high-performance IoT devices such as UHD security cameras.
It’s actually an important part of our vision for 5G to have an industrial network that requires all types of 5G connectivity for devices spanning eMBB (e.g., cameras, laptops), URLLC (e.g., machines) and MIoT (e.g., sensors).
SEMI: What can the MEMS and sensors industry do to prepare for the 5G wave?
Smee: Because 5G can evolve to deliver even better performance and efficiency for connecting sensors in the 5G world, we will see even more widespread adoption of MEMS and sensors into larger numbers of connected applications. MEMS and sensors suppliers, therefore, need to get ready for the 5G wave by preparing to support 5G connectivity in their devices, which will ultimately help to realize the 5G vision of connecting virtually everything in the world around us.
John Smee, Ph.D., is vice president of engineering at Qualcomm Technologies Inc., where he is the 5G R&D lead responsible for overseeing all 5G research projects, including end-end systems design and advanced RF/HW/SW prototype implementations in Qualcomm’s wireless research and development group. He joined Qualcomm in 2000, holds over 100 U.S. Patents, and has been involved in the design, innovation, and productization of wireless communications systems such as 5G NR, 4G LTE, 3G CDMA, and IEEE 802.11. He also leads Qualcomm’s companywide academic collaboration program across technologies including wireless, semiconductor, multimedia, security and machine learning. John was chosen to participate in the National Academy of Engineering Frontiers of Engineering program and received his Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Princeton University and also holds an M.A. from Princeton and an M.Sc. and B.Sc. from Queen’s University.
Smee will present Evolving 5G NR to Connect the Internet of Things on Wednesday, October 23, 2019, at MEMS & Sensors Executive Congress, Coronado Island Marriott Resort & Spa in Coronado, Calif.
Register today to learn how 5G NR will transform the user experience with MEMS- and sensors-enabled devices in IoT, automation and beyond.
Interested in engaging with the MEMS and sensors supply chain? MEMS & Sensors Industry Group is a SEMI technology community that enables the MEMS and sensors industry to innovate, address common challenges and accelerate business results.
Maria Vetrano is a public relations consultant for SEMI.