Wireless technology will have a major impact on component development for emerging products and applications, including robotics, drones, autonomous vehicles, and next-generation medical devices. It also means that product designers may need to sharpen their skills in new technologies over the next five years.

Technology trends in wireless communications are being driven by several potential challenges and opportunities, according to market research firm Gartner Inc. These include spectrum congestion, wireless protocol longevity, wireless security, system architecture such as edge computing, power consumption and cost.

Here are 10 wireless technology trends expected to play a major role over the next five years, according to a new Gartner report, "Top 10 Wireless Technologies and Trends Driving Innovation."

1. Wi-Fi
Wi-Fi will remain the primary high-performance networking technology for homes and offices through 2024. For example: Gartner expects more than 1.5 billion Wi-Fi chips to be shipped in 2020. Wi-Fi will also find new roles such as in radar systems or as a component in two-factor authentication systems.

2. 5G Cellular
While 5G cellular systems are starting to be deployed in 2019 and 2020, it will take five to eight years for a full rollout. The technology can complement Wi-Fi and become a more cost-effective option for high-speed data networks in large sites such as ports, airports, and factories. A key advantage is its ultra-reliable low-latency communication, which has great potential for real-time critical control functions and communications such as vehicle-to-vehicle and drone applications.

3. Vehicle-to-everything (V2X) wireless
V2X wireless systems will enable traditional and autonomous cards to communicate with each other and with road infrastructure. In addition to exchanging information and status data, V2X can also provide a wide range of services, including safety functions, navigation support, driver information and fuel economy. There are two main V2X technologies in 2019: the Dedicated Short-Range Communication (DSRC) standard, based on Wi-Fi using the IEEE 802.11p standard, and Cellular Vehicle Connectivity (C-V2X).

4. Long-distance wireless power
The first generation of wireless power systems did not provide the user experience that manufacturers expected. The need to place a device at a specific charging point is only marginally better than charging via a cable, although there are several new technologies that can charge the device from a distance of up to 1 m or on a table or desk. Expect remote wireless power to eliminate power cords for desktop equipment.

5. Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) Networks
LPWA networks provide energy-efficient and low-bandwidth connections for IoT applications to extend battery life. Current LPWA technologies include Narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT), Long Term Evolution for Machines (LTE-M), LoRa and Sigfox, often supporting very large areas such as cities or countries. IoT manufacturers use low-cost modules to implement small, low-cost, battery-powered devices such as sensors and trackers.

6. Wireless Sensing
Wireless sensing technology can be used in a variety of applications from medical diagnostics to smart homes. Wireless signals can be used in sensing applications such as indoor radar systems for robots and drones or virtual assistants to improve performance when multiple people are speaking in the same room.

7. Enhanced Wireless Location Tracking
A key trend is that wireless communication systems can sense the location of devices connected to them. The upcoming IEEE 802.11az standard will enable high-precision tracking with an accuracy of about 1 meter and is expected to be a feature of future 5G standards. Location sensing integrated with the core wireless network can provide multiple benefits, such as reduced hardware cost and power consumption, as well as improved performance and accuracy compared to other systems such as fingerprinting and inertial navigation.

8. Millimeter Wave Wireless
Millimeter-wave wireless technology operates in the frequency range of 30 to 300 GHz with wavelengths ranging from 1 to 10 mm. The technology can be used for short-range, high-bandwidth communications by wireless systems such as Wi-Fi and 5G. Key drivers include the need for more spectrum and higher bandwidth.

9. Backscatter network
Backscatter networking technology can send data with very low power consumption, targeting small networked devices. Backscatter networks operate by re-modulating ambient wireless signals. As such, it will be used in areas saturated with wireless signals and requiring relatively simple IoT devices, such as sensors in smart homes and offices.

10. Software Defined Radio (SDR)
SDR moves much of the signal processing in a radio system from the chip to the software so that the radio can support more frequencies and protocols. Although the technology has been around for years, it never took off because it was more expensive than specialized chips. Gartner expects SDRs to grow in popularity as new protocols emerge. It will enable devices to support old protocols and add new ones through software upgrades.

Gartner will present more findings at the upcoming Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo 2019 conference.

Reviewing Editor Huang Haoyu

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