Last year’s CES saw WiGig enabled technologies take a leading role, with VR and Video again being the hot topics in 2017,  WiGig is set for an even bigger show

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CES officially starts tomorrow with the usual press-preview event (CES Unveiled) being held yesterday, with many of the more interesting consumer technologies from the world’s biggest brands showcased for national and gadget journalists from around the world. Last year saw the technology play its first significant role at CES, with a series of ‘world first’ announcements made for products incorporating WiGig (802.11ad Wi-Fi). Handsets, laptops, docks, routers etc were all demonstrated from companies big and small: ranging from Dell and Lenovo to TP-Link and LeTV.

The year eventually culminated in October’s certification of WiGig by the Wi-Fi Alliance

Given October saw the official certification of 802.11ad Wi-Fi (WiGig) and a new report published shortly before Christmas by Grand View Research predicts significant growth for WiGig, reaching a market value of 7.42 billion USD in less than a decade, up tenfold from 2015’s 702.2 million USD, what exactly can we expect from CES this year?

New WiGig announcements

New WiGig chips and CE devices have already been unveiled at the preview day. Top of the list has to be Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 WiGig enabled processor. This uses a 10nm process, to house its 3 billion transistors in a package 35 per cent smaller than the Snapdragon 820, and uses 25 per cent less power than the Snapdragon 821. Includes 2×2 MU-MIMO for 802.11ac, 802.11ad, ultra fast charging and as has been reported, is set to be “the main choice of many manufacturers for upcoming 2017 flagship smartphones”

Video

Films and video are the obvious area. And unsurprisingly, 4K was once again a big topic of yesterday’s CES Unveiled, with launches from Samsung taking centre stage. If we’re to continue to adopt 4K (and we will – especially given USA Today’s headline: “American’s love their TV, and they *really* love 4K”) then we need to be able to get access to the content. Physical mediums (Blu-Ray discs etc) are not the answer as sales have plummeted worldwide. Here in the UK DVD sales, which peaked in 2008 with 252.9 million shipped, had less than half of that in 2014. Blu-Ray’s fall has also begun, with an 8 per cent drop from its 2013 high (of just 18.8 million). For 2015 collectively just 119.6 DVD and Blu-rays were shipped. And this is not unique to the UK, with Variety reporting last year on the decline in revenue from home viewing (sales and rentals of VHS, DVD, Blu-ray plus and streaming and downloads) dropping from its 2004 high of 22 billion USD (VHS and DVD only) to 18 billion USD in 2015. Given Netflix’s 2015 revenue alone was 6.78 billion USD physical media is not an option.

As we’ve discussed previously, streaming 4k is possible with the very high bandwidth packages – 15Mb stable connection minimum, 50Mb realistically needed – so the most likely choice is a home server streaming content to the required screen, be it TV, tablet or phone.

Therefore watch out for new handsets from the high-end manufacturers, Google’s top-end Pixel phones, announced shortly before the WiGig certification, already contain the Snapdragon 821 WiGig enabled processor.  And we’d expect more to follow suit.

TVs and peripherals will play a key role and we’d expect a wave of dongles, media servers, routers, set top boxes and obviously TVs to be on display too. Here, it’s worth noting that Qualcomm (which already has Google on its customer list) has already demonstrated a Chromecast-esque dongle using its WiGig chips.

VR

For me personally, however, I’ll be keeping a keen eye on VR announcements.  Last year had VR as the show stealer, with Cnet highlighting (among countless others) that: “Everyone wanted a piece of virtual reality at this year’s CES” and Time’s John Patrick Pullen reporting that the experience “brought him to tears”. This carried onto IFA, with Mashable stating that “virtual reality took center stage.” And the past 12 months hasn’t seen this interest drop, with consumer searches almost quadrupling, and even having more than twice as much interest as the Internet of Things.  Hence big announcements have been made already here with Lenovo’s holographic VR headset taking many of the plaudits. The airline Jet Blue even used Google Cardboard on its flights to Las Vegas.

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Web searches for “virtual reality” vs “IoT” from January 2014 to 2016.  

The problem that has been highlighted by many, is that these VR headsets require serious computing power to process high-quality graphics on the fly according to your movements. And that means either a very heavy headset that incorporates everything (like the forthcoming Sulon Q), or requires you to be tethered to the PC (like Oculus, HTC and Sony) and even then these still weigh around half a kilo.

Plus, nothing draws you out of an immersive gaming experience like taking a step and being tripped by the cable; dragged back by the USB and HDMI cables connecting you to the PC or – worse still – having the PC crashing onto the floor when you don’t get pulled back quickly enough.

WiGig is the natural answer here as the only certified wireless standard capable of transmitting these HD graphics to the twin screens (each typically 2160 x 1200 pixels with a refresh rate of up to 120 frames per second) with no buffering, little compression and a very-low latency that is essential in gaming. This allows the weighty hardware to be contained in the PC with free movement around the room.

We can expect interesting things here from Intel, whose Project Alloy was shown at its Developer’s Forum last year. This, like the Sulon Q, brought a powerful processor and graphics card into the VR headset. What was also shown at the time, albeit reported less extensively, was another prototype bringing WiGig into the headset. As Slashgear put it, this “leaves the the heavy lifting to a separate PC as normal, but simply cuts the cord.”

And there are likely to be several others taking this approach. We’re already in conversation with several VR system developers from China and other regions, that are specifically looking to WiGig as a way to free the user and lighten the headsets without any effect on performance, graphics or latency.

Other applications

It won’t just be these that see the standard reach the predicted 7.42 billion USD market value by 2024. Fibre to the home replacements are already being developed to cut the cost of rolling out ultra-high-speed broadband. And of course 5G technologies.

I, along with our CEO, Henry Nurser, will be in Las Vegas throughout CES for customer meetings. If you would like to discuss how WiGig could be adopted into your chip or CE equipment please drop us a line either via our contact page or our regional sales channels.

Mark Barrett, CMO Blu Wireless Technology