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Wi-Fi service to monitor, reallocate local router usage

Most government agencies and individual people have set up some form of wireless connectivity in their offices or homes. And if you’re like most people, you’ve probably noticed periods where the bandwidth on that shared connection slows to a crawl, even if the wired part of the network is performing adequately.

The reason could be that applications are hogging too much of the limited available wireless signal, far more than they actually need to. Qualcomm is trying to combat this problem using the cloud, some local intelligence at the router level and the same shared type of information that has been used in the past by other companies in other fields, such as anti-virus software.

To increase connection speeds, the company has unveiled a new service called StreamBoost technology for Wi-Fi, which will soon be making its way into routers and gear created by D-link and Alienware.

StreamBoost users would opt in to a service where their routers would take snapshots of various applications that are running, and then upload that data to the cloud to be analyzed. Qualcomm promises that the data would be anonymous, though oddly enough will still require users to sign up with a username and password.

Thoughts of Big Brother aside, the application will measure whether, say, a movie application requested a 20 megabits/sec pipe but only used 4 megabits/sec the entire time. Currently, most routers will simply give each application whatever it says it needs, so that lots of bandwidth can be allotted to what is essentially empty space in the airwaves.

Once enough data has been collected in the cloud by users, a picture of actual usage patterns will be assembled, and routers will be automatically configured to give each application only what it needs, not simply what it requests. Users will also have some control over what applications they feel should be prioritized on their individual routers, or can simply leave it up to StreamBoost to make sure that every drop of bandwidth is being efficiently assigned.
"Our goal at D-Link is to ensure each consumer has the best possible online experience," said Dan Kelley, associate vice president of marketing for D-Link Systems. "StreamBoost gives us a way to make sure every person using the network will have an optimal experience, regardless of application usage."

The technology is being demonstrated this week at the CES computer show in Las Vegas.

Now, part of me wonders if technology like this is really necessary. We should start seeing gigabit/sec wireless routers become mainstream once the 802.11ac standard becomes commonplace. But I suppose even if you have a huge highway, there’s no reason to weave across several lanes when you don’t need to do so. Also, usage tends to rise with the technology, so we will probably find a way to fill those huge gigabit pipes once we have them. After all, everyone said we would never fill a 10M hard drive when those first came out.

As for the technology itself, this is another example where the cloud comes to the forefront to make a sourcing type of application possible. Anti-virus companies have been doing this for quite some time, where users automatically report and upload the specifics of new viruses encountered so they can be analyzed, and in turn receive patches and updates to help combat those threats quickly.

Some folks might worry about what Qualcomm would do with the data, and the fact that you have to sign up with a username and password is a little troubling. Why make people identify themselves if you are then going to scrub that data to make it anonymous? Seems like an unnecessary step, and one that is sure to reduce the pool of people willing to use the service.

But if it works and does what it claims, it could eliminate wireless bloat, something that will only become an increasing problem as more agencies add wireless routers and more users cut their cords.

Posted by John Breeden II on Jan 07, 2013 at 9:39 AM


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