Home / Blog / Low Latency and Low Power Communications

Low Latency and Low Power Communications

These two areas are important for Autonomous Systems (if you are interested in technology trends and roadmaps for their application to Autonomous Systems take a look at the White Paper II of SAS).

In the White Paper III, in preparation, we are taking a look at present market and its short term evolution,

Low Latency Communications

The well-known graphic representing the three selling points for 5G: larger bandwidth, high density and low latency. Source: ITU-R Recommendation M.2083

Low latency communications is a demand raising from autonomous systems to be able to react promptly to changes in the environment and to unexpected situations. Latency is tied to the technology used and even more to the overall architecture adopted. 5G has this requirement etched in its specification and low latency, has indicated in the figure, is one of the three main selling point for 5G. However, the question is what is the size of the market, i.e. how much it is willing to pay for low latency.

As shown in the figure the areas that demand, or at least benefit, from lower latency communications are autonomous vehicles, industry automation (collaborative robots) and some health procedures (like robot assisted surgery requiring haptic feedback). To a lesser extent XR applications and gaming may require low latency (and surely benefit from it).

Answering what is the actual market in this area, however, is tricky. The global market for those segments is in the hundreds of billion $ (medical robots 15B$, connected cars 100+B$, media, entertainment and XR 200+B$, robotics in manufacturing 15B$) but how much of those market would be captured by low latency communications is highly debatable. Even more uncertain is the market captured by 5G because of low latency performance.
It is worth noting that recent trials carried out by Deutsche Telekom and Nokia indicate that to ensure low latency in the 5G architecture one would need to enable computing at edge (i.e. move DB and processing to the wireless tower).

This would also push for autonomous systems to embed communications network functionalities, effectively becoming network nodes and creating networks at the edges.

Low Power Communications

The healthcare LPWAN market is predicted to grow at a CAGR of over 65% during the forecast timeline. Growing adoption of the IoT in healthcare institutions increases the demand for a reliable communication infrastructure that will support IoT device connectivity.

The low power communications, including wide area networks, LPWAN, is expected to grow exponentially from the 1.5B$ of 2018 to 65B$ in 2025.

As shown in figure on the side, the market con be split in several areas, communications platform, services, asset tracking and smart building (installation and operation). Actually, the Low Power communications can use a number of different communications protocols and systems, from Narrowband (NB) IoT, LoRaWAN (Long Range Wide Area Network), SigFox to LTE-M and in a few years 5G (see figure 8). Among these LoRaWAN have the bigger market share (50% in 2018) because they use unlicensed spectrum and are suitable for applications generated low traffic volume (which is typically the case for IoT).
The rise of interest, and market, is due to the increasing penetration of IoT, and Industrial IoT, from 2019’s 3+ billion of (directly) connected IoT to the 14 billion expected in 2025.

Among the many technologies enabling autonomous systems, Low Power communications is one of the most important to foster their dissemination and operation in any environment. Besides, low power communications support pervasive IoT and in turns this generates data that can be used both by autonomous systems to make sense of the environment (emerging intelligence and awareness) and by ambient orchestrators. These data are also feeding into the digital twins, making shadowing more and more accurate, again, a feature that enables more autonomy (and performance) to autonomous systems.

Split of low power communications in terms of connection technologies (left) with LoRa taking the lion’s share, and in terms of application areas (right) with a predominance of smart cities applications. Source: IDTechEx

Significant areas of application for LPWAN are the healthcare sector with a 65% CAGR till 2025 and industrial/smart cities application with a 50%+ CAGR.

The area of smart cities is the one grabbing most of the market and it is also, along with industry and health care, the one that will see most growth in the next five years in relation to autonomous systems.

Unlicensed spectrum dominates, it remains to be seen if there will be a shift towards licensed spectrum once 5G will become pervasive and chips will drop in price beyond 2025. The feeling in the group is that the trend towards the use of unlicensed spectrum will continue also in the second part of the next decade.

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the Industry Advisory Board within the Future Directions Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.