Mobile World Congress 2012, Day 4
Larry Desjardin- March 1, 2012
They also parked everywhere: sidewalks, terraces, and exclusive parking lots. This was to the benefit of the riders—and to the rest of Barcelona due to reduced congestion. Perhaps telecom network managers could leverage this efficient model in some way. My thoughts drifted as I walked, but soon enough, I was entering the MWC entrance gauntlet for the final time.
Neustar was one such firm. The company offers a cloud-based service to retailers to eliminate the need for customers to carry physical gift cards with them. Gift cards were a $27 billion business in the US last year, but consumers must carry around the cards in their wallets to be useful. Neustar has created a virtual wallet of sorts to eliminate the physical cards. Company reps demonstrated a complete transaction chain to me on an iPhone: from the time the consumer receives the physical card as a gift or purchase, to the simple but secure conversion to an electronic equivalent, to the actual purchase of an item. Very simple. Neustar recently signed the major US carriers, so expect to see this service soon.
Social networking is hot, but how many social networks do we have room for? At least one more: Endomondo is a social sports and fitness network that now has 7 million users. It is a mobile app that is a social motivator on top of a full-fledged personal trainer.
The fitness app runs on your smartphone, using GPS and optional heart-rate monitors. This tracks everything about your workout—distance, speed, heart rate, and so forth. You have a simple dashboard, or you can watch your progress on a map, which is great for cyclists.
The motivation part is twofold. You can track exactly where you are versus your previous workouts on the same route, or versus what your friends have done. Your friends can detect and follow your workout live. But get this: They also can send you pep talks that are read aloud to you in real time! (Friendly harassment is reported to be quite common as well.)
Back in the test world, I swung by the Azimuth Systems booth. Company reps were demonstrating a number of solutions that revolve around the ACE channel emulators. The ACE MX is a MIMO channel emulator that is protocol agnostic. That is, put any signal in, and the user has complete control over the physical properties of the channels, whether Wi-Fi, 3G, or LTE. The emulator is used to test handsets or base stations under real-world conditions.
An interesting aspect of this technology is that a received signal can even be replayed. This enables Azimuth's Field-to-Lab solution, in which users can go to any city in the world, and record the signals using the carrier's favorite drive test system. They can then convert the signals using AzMapper, which ensures that the recording imitates the time variations of the real world. Once the signals are converted, the AzPlayer is used with ACE MX to play back that same environment exactly. Record once, but play back again and again. Very nice.
I then wandered to the TI (Texas Instruments) booth. I was particularly interested in data converters. It is truly amazing what TI is offering as commercial technology. TI recently introduced the DAC34SH84, a quad-channel, 16-bit, 1.5-Gsamples/s DAC (digital-to-analog converter). Four DACs make it possible to synthesize two wideband IQ pairs.
On the capture side, TI is offering the ADC12D1800RF, a dual-channel, 12-bit, 1.8-Gsamples/s ADC (analog-to-digital converter) that can be interleaved to create a single 3.6-Gsamples/s ADC. A typical application would pair the DAC and the ADC to create the baseband signal for an RF cell tower that includes the DPD (digital predistortion) corrections for the power amp. The ADC can sample the signal and feed real time corrections back to the baseband generator.
My thought was that these components can be the core of powerful test and measurement instruments. Indeed, TI reps confirmed that this was a growing market for the company. As this type of data-converter technology evolves, the barriers to entry drop. Expect to see instruments from several vendors using this type of commercial technology.
I asked what the testing challenges were. As you can imagine, they were basically the sum of the tests needed for an ECG and for a cellphone. EPI first introduced the device in Asia and is now pursuing FDA and CE Mark approvals.
The company's particular value-added feature is the cloud service that offers your recorded information to hospitals all over the world. This is a big advantage for international travelers, as a hospital can download a patient's entire cardiac history. Another advantage is that users can take a quick measurement when they feel out of breath or have chest pains. A doctor can then see what was happening to the heart at that exact moment. It's a remarkable device. I tested it myself on the show floor. Eric confirmed that my ECG indicated I was in good health. Back to eating pizza!
As I left the conference, I reflected on what mobile technology was bringing. These past four days I saw technology that ranged from semiconductors to networks, from mobile payments to health monitoring. In the end, it's all about creating safer, healthier, and more fulfilling lives. For all those of you involved in test and measurement, whether the users or the vendors, you deliver the gear and applications that make this possible. T&MW