From self-driving cars to 5G: making sense of tech 2018

The electronics industry has been abuzz with exciting technology.  You can’t go a day without news on self-driving cars, 5G networks, augmented reality, and IoT.  Terms are being created so fast that it can be confusing as to what all this means.   In this article, we will try to organize things in a simple three-layer pyramid.

Figure 1 shows our pyramid model. It is easy to get lost with all the trending applications (the top layer) and all the standards (the bottom layer) created to support those applications.   The middle layer is key to making sense of the trending applications.   By mid-2018, all trending applications are connected and cloud-enabled.  We are seeing very different demands on the network that surpass traditional demand on the network in the past.  We will examine three emerging profiles in networking.

Big Data / Big Media 

Covers the data intensive and streaming media intensive applications. This includes 4K/8K/16K streaming video, augmented and virtual reality, AI-enabled media and data analytics.  Big Data and Big Media is also pushing the need for edge and distributed computing.

Big data and big media is characterized as always on, highly redundant, and possessing fast data speeds.  From a pure networking perspective, this profile can be thought of as scaled-up version of the tradition network – with drastically different technology to support it.  This includes fiber optics, terrestrial and satellite backhauls, and even transcontinental submarine telecommunications cables.


The standards to watch for Big Data/Big Media networks are:

  • Wired–
    • Wired Ethernet backhaul is getting faster with nbase-T (5Gbps, 10Gbps, and beyond).
    • Wireless–
      • Wireless LAN (local area network) will reach 10Gbps with the latest Wifi standard 802.11ax. Final Wi-Fi certification based on 802.11ax is targeted for 4Q of 2019
      • 5G serves as the next generation of WAN (wide area network).  This is important where edge computing is needed.  The first 5G specification and standard was ratified Dec 2017; driving infrastructural adoption in 2018 and broad adoption beyond that.
      • Infrastructure – Broadly shaped by the Open Compute Project in terms of self-healing networks and software defined networking (SDN).   Emerging standards include
        • USB Superspeed+ (USB 3.1 + Type C) supports the physical connected storage scenarios
        • ITU-T Y.3600 – the first standard covering big data and cloud computing requirements
        • IEEE VRAR – the IEEE working group on Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality


Mobile Net 

Covers the networking on the move.  This includes drones, self-driving cars, and non-media applications running on mobile devices.


The mobile net is characterized as always on, mid-range, with good-enough data speeds.  Mobile networks are not always redundant and not guaranteed to have a steady data rate.  Services have to anticipate periodic drops in the network – so self-healing and recovery need to be considered.


The standards to watch for Mobile Net networks are:

  • Wired–
    • Devices are not usually wired. But for transfer of traditional media, files and data backup, USB Superspeed+ (USB 3.1 + Type C) and Thunderbolt 3 are the two-main direct connect standards.
    • Wireless–
      • On the WAN side, where most mobile units live; 5G and Lora are both coming standards.  5G promise better performance with lower drain on battery.  Lora provides a peer to peer / peer to gateway that can, in open space, reach as far at 5 – 10 miles.
      • Wireless LAN (local area network) will be covered by 802.11 ax.  The adoption of ax will depend on cost and the ever-growing needs in the incoming streaming media.  Bluetooth 5.0, ratified in 2017, is also keeping pace with local audio and media streaming.
      • Infrastructure–
        •  Most of the infrastructure is deployed by LTE / 5G wireless.  Because mapping and location is one of the major features in mobile applications; standards like GPS and OGC (Open Geospatial) shape part of the networking requirements.




Covers the growing needs of IoT (internet of things) phenomena – with the proliferation of smart tags, cameras, microphones and other sensors deployed on even the most traditional of products.


Characterized as packets of information sent in bursts across a mesh of networks before reaching either a small cell / femto cell or an edge gateway that has access to a Big Data network.

The standards to watch for IoT/Mesh networks are:

  • Wired–
    •  Pedestrian versions of Ethernet, serial and USB still linger in industry specific ways.  For example, Modbus, BACnet and LonMark are interop standards that target industrial automation.
    • Wireless–
      •  Z-Wave and Zigbee have served the smart home market for many years. But as range and applications have expanded into commercial, industrial and utilities; alternatives in Lora, Bluetooth Mesh, Wi-Fi Mesh.  There is also, depending on industry, still the use of proprietary-like networks.
      • Infrastructure–
        •  Unlike the other two network types; IoT/Mesh can vary widely in infrastructure deployment depending on application and industry.  In the security industry, Onvif for cameras and PSIA for physical security allow the blending of rich analytics done locally; and transferring only events/status data to the central site.    In the wearable market, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) may take on information rich tagging. In classification and detection, LIDAR (light detection and ranging) will hit a wide range outdoor imaging application with needs that are more like IoT Mesh than Mobile Net.


We hope that this simplistic networking profile model will help readers organize technology terms and trends.  Consider:

  1. With changing trends, new and more important networking demand profiles could emerge.
  2. A different pyramid could be created based on storage/data demand profiles, compute demand profiles, and any number of tech performance metrics.
  3. We at Suntsu are very excited to see what the future brings.

Contact us for more information!


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