WiFi and Voice Devices

Project Loon — kind of WiFi related.

WiFi performance can have a big impact on how voice devices perform. Early in the life of the Ubi, we had seen that moving the hardware two or three meters away from the WiFi router could double or more the latency of the device. Since we were working with multiple rounds trips on the Ubi, a every increase in response time could be have a 6x effect.

Over the past ten years, the bottleneck for connectivity has moved closer to the connecting devices. It used to be a last mile problem now it’s a last few meter problem. The problem was compounded when ISPs started to supply cable / DSNL modems that also included WiFi routers built into them. These were usually subpar compared to dedicated WiFi routers but ultimately, it was much less convenient for the consumer to have to buy another device and install it (and then de-activate the modem’s WiFi). Also compounding the problem are the number of devices connecting to the router and the explosion of other WiFi networks that usually overlap from one’s neighbours.

These problems lead to reliability issues — devices going offline even though a WiFi router might show up as offline. Or, lead to latency issues of voice devices that are on these networks.

Fortunately, there are a number of companies that are trying to tackle this, whether it’s D-Link, Asus, Netgear or others. In particular Google’s WiFi device makes it really easy get devices setup. It seems like ISPs might even be incentivized to provide these higher performing devices with their services as it could cut down on help desk calls and increase customer satisfaction.

Like Apple with AirPort, Google’s work with the WiFi device allows it get start to build infrastructure and get lots of data on what devices are in peoples homes, how they’re using it, and even what data is transmitted. Only a small portion of this is exposed through the WiFi app. I could imagine Amazon or others would want to get in the game so that this data could be meshed together to offer better commerce choices.

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