LTE Direct: The digital sixth sense
Oct. 6, 2014
by Mark Ollig

Qualcomm; meaning “quality communications,” is a company which develops new ways to improve communication technologies.

Recently, it distributed a paper and video discussing its mobile-device technology called LTE Direct (LTE-D), which uses no cellular towers, GPS, Bluetooth, or Wi-Fi signaling.

It is a device-to-device, wireless licensed spectrum framework technology to be used for messaging and proximity services (non-voice).

LTE-D technology will connect us with our physical surroundings via digital messages or “expressions.”

“You can think of LTE Direct as a sixth sense that is always aware of the environment around you,” said Mahesh Makhijani, technical marketing director at Qualcomm.

As our physical and digital world continues to merge, a “digital sixth sense” will encompass the next generation of services our mobile devices will provide for us.

The six include:

• Discovering interests important to us.

• sensing our environment and our movements;

• learning our preferences;

• filtering what we are interested in;

• knowing our surroundings;

• interacting with our surroundings, and personal contacts.

LTE-D uses minimal power; making it very battery-efficient.

This technology will be built into the component chip-sets of mobile devices.

I think of LTE-D as a new medium for allowing real-time convergence of devices, people, and their surroundings.

We’re using our mobile phones for accessing content from the Internet.

LTE-D will simplify linking relevant content to people; content will “discover” people in close proximity to where the content originates from.

When comparing LTE-D to Wi-Fi Direct (another device-to-device signaling technology), LTE-D has a greater total radius distance coverage, and will provide more services via the use of its mobile apps (software program applications).

Last year, Apple introduced a similar product called iBeacon; however, iBeacon devices use the Bluetooth signaling protocol, which has about a 164-foot radius – far less coverage than LTE-D.

LTE-D technology will locate a mobile device’s location using “proximal discovery.” As long as the mobile device is in an always-on state; LTE-D will have an awareness of its (and our) surroundings.

So, how will having a technology knowing where we always are help us?

Businesses and consumers will benefit by using LTE-D apps for “proximity services.”

Advertisement apps would be obtained by businesses for getting their messages out quickly to nearby end-user mobile devices using LTE-D consumer apps.

For example, a city coffee shop uses a small proximity beacon device for broadcasting a text expression, using LTE-D signaling.

The coffee shop’s message will be received by any LTE-D enabled mobile device within a 1,640-foot radius.

No doubt, the coffee shop owner hopes the message about their 20-percent discount on a large latté, will entice people within its signaling proximity, to stop in.

People with mobile devices, having the LTE-D feature activated, will be alerted to the coffee shop’s message, and can decide whether to stop in for that large latté – I know I would.

In addition, proximal discovery mobile apps can notify you if your friends are nearby; assuming they have their LTE-D service enabled on their mobile device.

Location targeted advertising could deliver expressions about a special event; such as a concert which would be held in a venue you are currently nearby. A message about the concert would be sent to your mobile device.

Another example is a person with hotel reservations who has their mobile device’s LTE-D enabled, and an app which will digitally communicate with the hotel once they arrive.

Inside the hotel, desk receptionists use LTE-D technology to be quickly informed when this person first enters the building; reservation information would be speedily retrieved, allowing for a smoother and faster check-in.

An LTE-D beacon at an airline check-in counter could be digitally broadcasting individual flight information to specific LTE-D enabled device users.

Visiting tourists in a city would be sent messages regarding nearby local points of interests, events, restaurants, and other business and community places, via timely expressions appearing on their mobile device’s screen.

One Qualcomm document estimated $5.7 billion in revenues could be realized in 2015 using device-location targeted advertising.

Qualcomm explains mobile-device ambient awareness as “the state or condition of one’s mobile app continuously and passively monitoring for relevant value in one’s proximity.”

LTE-D is capable of discovering thousands of LTE-D enabled devices within its coverage area.

I watched Qualcomm’s CEO, Steve Mollenkopf’s opening keynote address before the Uplinq 2014 conference in San Francisco.

Here is the video clip where Mollenkopf mentions LTE-D: http://tinyurl.com/pvkmtyq.

Currently, there are LTE-D operator test trials taking place, with software developers creating and testing new apps using the LTE Direct Software Development Kit (SDK).

Advantages of using LTE-D technology include less mobile traffic vying for the limited resources of a cell tower currently needed for relaying messaging services between devices.

Look for mobile smartphone manufacturers to soon begin including LTE-D and new mobile apps, for this potentially flourishing technology.

“The world around you is full of information, and the phone can use that to predict and to help you in your everyday life,” Makhijani said.

Qualcomm, started in 1985, is based out of San Diego, CA.

Its YouTube video addressing LTE-D’s proximal discovery abilities can be viewed at http://tinyurl.com/lu6z7fp.

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