Putting Wi-Fi 6 to the Test

Putting Wi-Fi 6 to the test: How fast can it speed up your home devices?

Originally Appearing in USA Today, Mike Feibus, December 18, 2019

If you’re like many Americans, your home broadband connection is much faster than your cellular service. And you’re convinced it’s the other way around. The reason for the perceptual mismatch isn’t raw data rates, which are typically several times faster on broadband. Rather, it’s because traffic on the slower service – that is, cellular – is much more intelligently managed. So before you pile on the cable company, you should know that this time, at least, it isn’t really their fault. It’s bad Wi-Fi.

Wi-Fi 6, the latest-generation wireless networking tech, is billed as the cure for crowded home networks. Just now coming to market, Wi-Fi 6 is packed with sophisticated management features designed to keep all the devices on your home network humming. So in theory, at least, the more computers, smartphones, tablets, thermostats and voice assistants you have on your network, the more Wi-Fi 6 should be able to help.
To put that to the test, I’m evaluating Netgear’s new Orbi Wi-Fi 6, which appears to be one of the first whole-home mesh network available with the latest-generation wireless tech.

Is broadband really faster?

Yes, it’s true: U.S. broadband speeds are more than 3.5 times faster on average than mobile internet, according to Ookla’s Speedtest measurements. Yet a recent Deloitte survey found that 34% of Americans believe their cellular data service is faster than their home connection, while only 21% said that home was faster.

Credit LTE for that. The fourth-generation cellular technology is packed with management features to ensure all our smartphones, tablets and smartwatches are getting the data they need when they need it. Next-generation 5G cellular promises even better management for seemingly instant responsiveness – and much faster connection speeds, to boot.

It’s a much different story at home with your broadband internet connection. Internet speeds are already fast – and getting faster. At the same time, though, the number of devices is growing. Voice assistants, security cameras, connected thermostats and smart deadbolts all are clamoring for attention from a Wi-Fi network that was built to feed loads of bandwidth to just a few PCs.

Wi-Fi 6 Command and Control

Wi-Fi 5, or 802.11ac, was the first generation of Wi-Fi developed with an eye toward managing traffic. And Wi-Fi 6 takes that much further. Wi-Fi 6 greatly enhances a Wi-Fi 5 feature called MU-MIMO, for example, which boosts speed and reliability. Wi-Fi 6 also incorporates a 4G/5G cellular technique called OFDMA, which lets the router slice up capacity according to demand.

That way, a light bulb listening for an on/off command would get a fraction of the spectrum than, say, esports streaming on a game console. Altogether, the new and expanded features enable Wi-Fi 6 routers to manage 100 devices at once.

But there’s a catch

The benefit you’ll see by upgrading to Wi-Fi 6 isn’t just about how many connected devices you have on your home network. It also has to do with how hip those devices are to the Wi-Fi 6 community concept.

Older devices, for example, won’t know they can share Wi-Fi spectrum using OFDMA. So they’ll just take an entire channel, whether they need it or not. And they won’t know they can get their performance-minded tasks done in no time with MU-MIMO. So they’ll stay on the network longer, adding to congestion.

The silver lining here is that a Wi-Fi 6 router installed today will keep getting better as you upgrade your electronics. The latest smartphones and laptops are already moving quickly to Wi-Fi 6. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for locks, cameras, thermostats and other smart devices. Many of those ship with Wi-Fi 4, or 802.11n.

Bottom line

If you have a Wi-Fi 4-capable router and at least 10 devices connected to it, expect to notice a dramatic improvement in network performance with a router like the Orbi Wi-Fi 6. But even if you bought a Wi-Fi 5 router a year or two ago, and then went all-in on the connected home, you should see still some benefit today. Wi-Fi 6 does have some management features that benefit any network, like the ability to limit the drag on network performance from older devices.

Which is what I’ve seen so far with Orbi Wi-Fi 6. Setup was easy, even with more than 30 connected devices in the house. Network responsiveness at the far corners of the house is improved even over a year-old Orbi system.

Thus far, though, the biggest benefits I’ve seen are improvements in lag times with the apps that control the smart stuff. I find those seemingly interminable delays to be among the most annoying aspects of the connected home phenomenon. I hate – hate! – sitting in the driveway waiting for those apps to get to the point they’ll let me turn on the cameras and lock the doors. The lags are better now with Orbi Wi-Fi 6. But they’re still there.

That could change over the long haul, as more devices are equipped with the latest wireless tech. One day, in fact, Wi-Fi 6 could be just the thing to boost home network performance to the point we all understand that our faster internet connection is actually faster than the slower one. But if that happens, don’t worry. By that time, I’m sure we’ll have something else we can blame on the cable company.

New report: “Wi-Fi is better than cellular”

Originally Appearing in Wi-Fi Now Events Blog, Claus Hetting (Wi-Fi Now CEO & Chairman), November 6, 2019.

A couple of weeks ago Wi-Fi Now Events reported on a new mobile services study released by mobile analytics company Tutela – but we may actually have missed the importance of one of the findings: Unlicensed band services in the US (by MVNOs) outperform cellular, which runs on billion-dollar dedicated bands. That consequential finding was yesterday clearly articulated by consultant and analyst, Dr William Webb on LinkedIn.

Wi-Fi (unlicensed) bands are free and can be used by anyone, while mobile broadband spectrum often costs billions of dollars and realistically can only be acquired by huge telcos. The argument in favour of spending billions of dollars on spectrum – and in turn allocating more licensed spectrum to mobile broadband – has always been that the quality of mobile services (as consequence of exclusive access to bands) is better than anything running on unlicensed bands.

Turns out that the assumption is false – and that this is now documented.

“Wi-Fi is better than cellular,” says Dr William Webb.

The basis of the findings is recent report by mobile analytics company Tutela. The consequences of the findings are articulated in a recent LinkedIn blog post by analyst, consultant, and former regulator at Ofcom UK, Dr William Webb.

In the blog post Dr Webb says the following: “…the performance of Wi-Fi is seen further into the Tutela report, where they provide performance data for Wi-Fi hotspots alone. Altice achieves 87%/96% while Xfinity gets 86%/97%. Both of these are substantially better than the average of the MNOs.” (for more about the methodology and use of percentage scores, see the report itself).

The conclusion is that “Wi-Fi is better than cellular,” Dr William Webb says.

Regulatory decisions on 6 GHz are approaching

The report’s findings and Dr Webb’s analysis are timely and consequential as regulators are approaching final decisions on releasing the 6 GHz band to unlicensed use. The FCC initially voted strongly in favour of releasing 1.2 GHz of spectrum in 6 GHz to unlicensed use (Wi-Fi) but have recently been pressured by mobile industry giants, including T-Mobile, Ericsson, and Huawei.

Some mobile industry giants contend that the upper part of the 6 GHz band should be allocated for cellular use, while Huawei and Ericsson are attempting to introduce a new ITU work item on 6 GHz for mobile services, which could delay the international expansion of regulation on unlicensed 6 GHz bands by several years.

Quality metrics for Wi-Fi services delivered by US MVNOs. For all the details click on the image to see the Tutela report. Source: Tutela.

As the Internet of Things and Proptech Takes Off, Red Bison Provides Extreme Connectivity as a Service

Originally Appearing in The Registry, October 14, 2019. Author: Meghan Hall

Technological innovation has disrupted the commercial real estate industry in a myriad of ways, from how tenants search for homes, to Blockchain to virtual reality. Increasingly, technology is also finding a home within the built environment, inside of buildings and infrastructure previously deemed as non-technical. Proptech companies can now provide specific data points on everything from energy efficiency to how tenants utilize their property on a day-to-day basis. By many accounts, technology’s impact on the commercial real estate industry has been largely positive, and one company, Seattle-based Red Bison, is striving to help landlords, property owners and managers recognize the impact and importance of technological integration into real estate assets through its in-building networks.

“There’s a tremendous amount of opportunity and activity in this space right now,” explained Kip Spencer, original co-founder of OfficeSpace.com, and now executive vice president at Red Bison. “Office buildings are becoming supercomputers. Buildings originally primarily functioned as buildings, but now there is incredible data that is eyeopening, and it is this huge open space that nobody has really seized. I think what we are doing is really disruptive relative to this industry.”

Red Bison, founded in 2014, offers Extreme Connectivity as a Service through its high-performance fiber optic network. According to Admiral William Owens, Red Bison’s cofounder and executive chairman, the idea to form Red Bison arose after an extensive Naval career and years of industry experience acting as chairman of the board of CenturyLink for ten years and as CEO of companies such as Nortel and Teledesic. Through these avenues, Owens was exposed to advanced communications networks,
something he generally found lacking in buildings throughout the United States.

“I have been very concerned over the years as to why the United States is failing in technology,” said Owens, who pointed out that the United States ranks 37th in the world for mobile connection speeds, thereby impacting digitization of certain industries, including commercial real estate. “Our buildings do not run as fast as other nations, like South Korea, Hong Kong, some parts of China, or like some of the smartest cities in the world, like Kigali, Rwanda…So with the realization that we are not doing too well in
the United States, and that we need to do better with finding ways to be engaged with the large structures in our country, and seeing lots of companies that have the ability to do this, we started Red Bison about 5 years ago.”

In many other countries aside from the United States, connectivity, where wireless internet has almost attained the status of a public utility, countries invest heavily in bandwidth and wireless infrastructure.

“In other countries, billions of dollars are spent from the government on research and development and support to companies that do these kinds of things, to make sure that companies are keeping up with the innovation of the world,” continued Owens.

Despite the United States’ lag in broadband capacity and technologies, Spencer noted that companies and property owners are eager to learn more about Red Bison’s offerings and the opportunity to enhance their building performance—and also increase employee productivity. Because of tenant and market demand, such technologies will quickly transform from the exception to an industry standard.

“Brokers are telling me that they have got clients that go on tours, the tenant is a tech firm, and they walk in the door and do a speed test, and will choose assets [based on that],” said Spencer. “That is real; that is happening, and that is going to happen a lot more. So, not only do you want to make sure the asset remains strong from a tenant attraction standpoint, but it will be a requirement.”

Spencer and Owens estimate that the value of Red Bison’s network, for a 500,000 square foot asset, is about $400,000. However, Red Bison provides the capital for the installation of the network while building a working relationship with building owners and tenants, who maintain ownership of the data that Red Bison’s network can collect.

“[Other networks] were piecemeal; there was no ubiquitous, single, high-quality network in any building,” said Owens. “And just like our bodies need a nervous system to function, buildings need a fiberoptic nervous system to make a big difference. So, we decided that is our business model…. It is not too cheap to build out a fiber network, but if you have that nervous system, then everything will change for the building. All of
the sensors that go on that network, the security systems, there’s huge economy for the building owner.”

The goal is to provide hundreds of gigabits to every user in the building, not just to the building itself, explained Owens. Doing so can not only increase productivity, but also serve as a sound basis for different proptech companies.

“There are hundreds of proptech companies out there, and we see ourselves as not just a propetch company, but we want to energize all of the proptech that is available because we have the network to bring it all into the building,” said Owens. Red Bison, like other proptech companies, can also provide additional services such as security management and machine learning capabilities.

Red Bison is currently working on several projects in the San Francisco Bay Area that will be delivered in the next several months. The firm has also partnered with CBRE as a preferred provider. Owens hopes to expand the company’s reach across the country, catering not just to major technology companies, but smaller businesses in less urban environments looking to improve their efficiency.

“We are really trying to be selective out of the gate here to work with players that really understand [the product], going in at the top level and developing a true partnership structure,” said Spencer. “…That is our ultimate goal here, to provide the highest performing asset possible. And if you start with that, it is amazing where the conversation goes.”

Wi-Fi vs. ZigBee and Z-Wave: Which Is Better?

Originally Appearing in how-to-geek.com, October 6, 2019
Author: Josh Hendrickson

For most of the modern smarthome era, ZigBee and Z-Wave have been the dominant communication protocols. But now, Wi-Fi is a strong contender, and more Wi-Fi smart gadgets arrive every day. So, which should you use? The answer is complicated.

Wi-Fi Is Taking Over the World

We’ve written a great deal about Z-Wave and Zigbee, what each protocol does, and why you would pick one over the other. But in the past, Wi-Fi as a total smarthome solution wasn’t a serious consideration. We even warned that Google and Amazon were trying to kill the smarthome hub and covered the difficulties you might encounter with dozens of Wi-Fi devices.

Until recently, if you wanted a smarthome, either Z-wave or ZigBee was your best bet. You picked a protocol and tried to stick with it. And most smart hubs support both, so, when necessary, you could use both in your home. Wi-Fi devices didn’t have much support or centralized hubs to tie all the gadgets together.

But that changed this year—a fact that was evident at CES. It seemed that every smarthome manufacturer touted Google and Alexa integration, and focused on Wi-Fi radios instead of Z-Wave or ZigBee. Now, for every Z-Wave Lock on the market, there’s a Wi-Fi alternative, often from the same manufacturer. But not all things are equal between the protocols.

Z-Wave and ZigBee: The Kings of Local Processing

When you build a smarthome, you have to ask yourself how much you want the cloud involved. All Wi-Fi smarthome gadgets depend on the cloud to work. You need dedicated apps, and the closest you can get to a centralized experience is syncing your devices with Alexa or Google.

But with the right hub, like Hubitat, Homeseer, or OpenHab, you can create a smarthome that doesn’t rely on the cloud. This means that even when the internet is down, you can still control your smarthome. And when you control your smarthome locally, it also works faster. You’ll notice a dramatic difference between the time you send a command and it happens, like turning on the lights.

Z-Wave Has Fewer Congestion Problems

Z-Wave devices in the U.S. are less prone to interference issues than either Wi-Fi or ZigBee. That’s because Z-Wave runs on a different radio frequency—908.42 MHz—while both ZigBee and most Wi-Fi smarthome devices communicate over 2.4 GHz. It’s easy for the 2.4 GHz spectrum to get crowded and suffer issues.

Z-Wave avoids this problem entirely as it only has to contend with itself, even if you add more and more Z-wave devices.

Z-Wave and ZigBee Are Single Points of Failure

Even when you use a cloud-dependent hub, like Wink or SmartThings, Z-Wave and ZigBee products benefit from company clouds involved in the process. Your hub does all the work, so if the company that manufactures your Z-Wave lightbulbs or ZigBee smart locks quits, your devices will keep working.

Wi-Fi devices, on the other hand, depend on multiple clouds. The manufacturer of the gadget provides a cloud and a dedicated app. And if you control your smarthome with Alexa or Google, their cloud is involved, too. But unlike a smarthome hub, Alexa and Google Assistant don’t control Wi-Fi devices directly—the various clouds talk to each other.

This means if either side calls it quits, your device does, too. We saw this recently when Best Buy chose to leave the smarthome business. Insignia branded plugs, lightbulbs, and even a smart freezer all lost their smarthome capabilities. With Wi-Fi, anything in your smarthome can break which, in turn, can lead to everything in your smarthome breaking.

ZigBee and Z-Wave, though, have a giant and singular point of failure: the hub you use to control them. If that fails, either because the company quits or it just breaks, your whole smarthome goes with it.

Wi-Fi Devices Have a Lower Barrier of Entry

Smart hubs can be a challenge to learn how to use. Unfortunately, that’s unavoidable because they’re incredibly powerful and capable of advanced automation. But that’s not necessarily the case with Wi-Fi devices. You can pair them with Alexa or Google Assistant, which are designed to be as user-friendly as possible.

While Google Assistant and Alexa routines aren’t as powerful as some smart hubs, they’re good enough for the average smarthome. When you do need something more complicated, IFTTT and Yonomi work well with Alexa (but not Google, unfortunately).

It’s more likely your family and friends have encountered the Google Assistant or Alexa app than a more esoteric smart hub app. That familiarity gives them a leg up in learning to interact with your smarthome.

Wi-Fi Devices Are Typically Less Expensive

In keeping with the low barrier of entry, Wi-Fi devices often cost less than their Z-Wave and ZigBee counterparts. When you directly compare Wi-Fi plugs with Z-wave Plugs, Wi-Fi Bulbs with ZigBee Bulbs, and Wi-Fi light switches with Z-Wave light switches, you see a noticeable difference in price.

That isn’t to say Z-Wave and ZigBee are always more expensive—Schlage’s Z-Wave lock actually costs less than its Wi-Fi lock. But often, that’s because the Wi-Fi variant is newer—when the Schlage Z-Wave lock was released, it was sold at the price the Wi-Fi lock sells for now.

Building a smarthome doesn’t have to be expensive, but it can add up. If you spread out your purchases over time, it softens the blow. But choosing Wi-Fi due to the lower cost makes sense, too.

Z-Wave and ZigBee Devices Don’t Work with Every Hub

Just because you buy a Z-Wave or ZigBee device and own a smart hub that works with both, it doesn’t mean they’ll work together. That’s why hubs continually release updates for new device compatibility.

But if your hub doesn’t add new devices (like Wink), or is just slow to release updates, you might be out of luck. You can try to program the device as a generic one, but that won’t always work.

With Wi-Fi devices, you don’t have to wait or check to see if it works with your favorite voice assistant. Instead, the effort of compatibility moves from the “hub” (Alexa or Google Assistant) to the device manufacturer.

Manufacturers of Wi-Fi devices can rely on APIs provided by Google and Amazon to make everything work together. That’s less work overall because, at most, they only have to account for two scenarios. Z-Wave and ZigBee hubs are often vastly different, and the amount of work necessary to sync everything together changes from hub to hub.

If you want to ensure the devices you own will always work in your smarthome, Wi-Fi now has a clear advantage, thanks to Google and Alexa.

So, Wi-Fi or Z-Wave and ZigBee?

Whether you should go with Z-wave and ZigBee or Wi-Fi depends on what’s more important to you when it comes to your smarthome experience. If you want everything to work with Google or Alexa and don’t want to add smart hub complications, then Wi-Fi devices are the best option.

But if you want local, cloudless control—and a smarthome you can fine-tune to the most advanced specifications—ZigBee and Z-Wave win.

Once you know what you want in your smarthome, the choice becomes obvious.

How technology is disrupting the real estate industry

Originally Appearing in front blog (frontapp.com)
Author: Vishal Vibhaker

When Marc Andreessen famously said, “Software is eating the world,” that statement included our houses, office buildings, and yards, too.

Technology touches every aspect of the real estate industry today. Buyers can see a birds-eye view of a neighborhood 2,000 miles away through drone footage. You can buy a house online without ever taking out a pen to sign a contract. Searching for new listings is as simple as downloading an app, choosing your location, and awaiting notifications with options.

More than 70 percent of today’s buyers search for homes online, and 85 percent of real estate agents use texting to get work done. Digging to find information on schools, demographics, and crime statistics is a task of the past — now websites and apps make this data accessible, so it’s easier than ever to make informed decisions.

Below are some of the top technologies that are changing the landscape of the real estate industry today and tomorrow.

Top tech trends shaping the future of real estate


Blockchain makes it possible for people and companies to process major transactions without going through intermediaries like credit card companies, banks, or governments.

As you can imagine, real estate almost always counts as a “major transaction”. If blockchain fulfills its promise in real estate, it can bring security, transparency, and efficiency to real estate transactions. Two places blockchain is expected to make the biggest splash? 1) Tokenization and 2) smart contracts.

1) Tokenization in real estate means using cryptocurrency to split assets into tokens that are stored on the blockchain. aXpire COO Matt Markham gives a great explanation of tokenization in real estate on Hacker Noon. It creates two big changes:

Landlords can sell off just a portion of their property and investors to resell their shares on the open market through secondary exchanges.
Individuals from various income levels and locations can have access to investment opportunities that used to be out of reach.

2) Smart contracts bring together transactions completely between the buyer and the seller (or renter and landlord). Buyers can submit their information on an encrypted block directly to the seller, rather than going through a bank, for instance. Removing middlemen, and human interaction in general, can both speed up the transaction and reduce the chance for fraud. Sea Foam Media’s Chloe Diamond details more on smart contracts and blockchain in real estate.

Sharing economy

It’s no secret that remote work is on the rise, and the sharing economy is growing with it. Rather than buying a car, why not lease one (or take a Lyft, GetAround, or a Spin scooter?) Instead of purchasing furniture for your startup office, why not rent some desks for a year before your team outgrows the space?

Since people are less concerned with owning physical goods and properties, a new crop of businesses have sprouted around the real estate industry to facilitate mobile and shared lifestyles:

Modern real estate companies like Zeus enable businesses to rent furnished homes for extended stays — and home owners to lease their spaces to businesses.
Co-working companies like WeWork have made it possible for businesses to not have to sign ten year leases on office space and deal with the hassles that come with that.
Companies like CasaOne enable individuals and businesses to rent furniture on a monthly basis rather than spending full price to buy it and reselling it later.

Artificial intelligence

While Rosie the Robot Maid isn’t buzzing around giving property tours just yet, artificial intelligence is impacting the real estate industry in less obvious ways every day — through machine learning (ML). With ML, computers can learn from data, rather than being programmed to do certain tasks. In real estate, ML is helping influence smarter business decisions through pattern recognition — to determine information such as when a property or neighborhood will become popular.

Speeding up the sales process

Virtual reality

For agents and brokerage companies, virtual reality has the potential to speed up sales cycles by allowing clients to get a better sense of a property and putting agents in touch with buyers further along in the buying cycle.

VR for real estate allows people to try before you buy — without spending time and money traveling to scope out properties. Instead of using high quality photos or 360° video, forward-thinking realtors offer clients 3D virtual property “tours.” Thanks to aerial drone footage and 3D technology, clients can “step into” a space to experience the scale of rooms, climb into showers to make sure the shower head is high enough, and walk out to check out the neighborhood.

In the past, agents had to spend time and money staging a space, but soon that might not be the case. Instead, clients will be able to personalize a room with virtual furniture.

CRM software

Software like Salesforce, PipeDrive, Base, and countless other CRMs for real estate help agents keep track of emails, calls, and the progress you’ve made with your prospects. You can get a clear sense of your pipeline, and quickly identify the areas where you need to take action. Once a deal has been won or lost, you can easily report on results and use that data to forecast revenue.

The rise of mobile

Mobile apps

Ordering food? Catching a ride? People do everything on their phones today, and they expect to browse, buy, and sell real estate from the palm of their hand, too.

With real estate apps like Zillow and Redfin, clients and agents have a centralized platform to browse, buy or sell a property, find an agent, and get notified when a new listing hits the market. Their platforms house data for real estate discovery, property values, mortgages, and more.

Mobile apps are disrupting the renovation space, too. With companies like Thumbtack and Handy, it’s easier than ever to hire a landscaper, painter, plumber, cleaner, or any type of professional contractor to work on your property.

Improving the tenant experience

Internet of things

Properties house loads of data on the way people live. Through the internet of things, technology now lives inside non-technical things like doors, light switches, locks, and more.

Once you have systems and sensors in place, every action a tenant makes becomes a data point that can be used to improve their experience. For example, property managers can gather data to understand:

When do they prefer to have the heating on?
Where are the areas with the highest foot traffic at different times of the day?
Which spaces are used the most?

Real estate management used to require a lot of paperwork, from maintenance requests to insurance documents. Now all this paperwork lives in the cloud, which enables property managers to track trends and improve the way they manage properties. Owners can monitor a premise in real time and control security features remotely. They can send out reports on utility interruptions or control building temperature from afar.

Channels for connecting with clients and tenants

Now there are more options than ever for communicating with clients and tenants, and being available on many channels makes it easier for clients to reach you anytime, anywhere. Agents and property owners are using email in addition to:

SMS texting tools like Twilio
Live website chat tools like Drift and Intercom
Social media messaging through Facebook and Twitter
Client communications tools like Front to manage email and every other channel efficiently in one place

Technology is shaping the real estate industry for the better

PwC’s yearly trend report for real estate suggests, “If people don’t recognize technologies are existing and, moreover, how to integrate them, opportunities are being missed.” From shortening the sales cycle to providing a top-notch tenant experience, technology will continue to transform the way we buy, sell, and search for real estate.