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OPPO declares war on batteries, plans a battery-free future

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Source: Unsplash, Limor Zellermayer

OPPO published a whitepaper detailing its plans to create a new system that wouldn’t rely on batteries, instead, it would draw power and harvest energy from radio waves emitted by cell towers, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and other sources. OPPO’s goal is to lower the maintenance of IoT (Internet of Things) devices and reduce environmental waste.

OPPO shared a whitepaper that shares how it can go battery-free by using a “zero-power communication” technology system that can power small IoT devices. The paper describes the harvesting of RF (Radio Frequency) to power devices that don’t require too much energy to function. OPPO expects zero-power communication to be the next big thing in the next generation of new low-powered IoT devices.

“In recent years, 3GPP have standardized series of technologies on IoT (Internet of Things), which achieves the design targets of low cost, low power consumption, massive connection and deep coverage. These IoT technologies can well meet the requirements of diverse scenarios. However, there are still many other scenarios that require the terminal to have ultra-low power consumption or even zero power consumption, ultra-low cost, very small size etc. With techniques such as RF power harvesting, backscattering and low power computing, zero power communication can well meet these new requirements. Due to its excellent characteristics, zero-power communication is expected to become one important candidate of next generation technology on Internet of Things.”

The paper also describes how such a technology could work in practice. By harvesting radio frequencies such as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and cellphone signals, the technology could technically provide infinite power to devices. As a result of the new powering mechanism, these devices could become smaller, offer better durability, and even cost less – since there could be fewer components needed to assemble and need to make these gadgets work. This technology could essentially provide battery-less devices with “ultra-low power consumption.”

“Zero-power communication technology utilizes key techniques such as RF energy harvesting, backscattering communication and low-power computing. Zero-power communication obtains energy by harvesting radio waves in the space to drive the terminal. Therefore, the terminal can be battery-less without using conventional batteries, so it can effectively reduce the size and cost of the terminal. Furthermore, backscattering communication and low-power computing technologies make the terminal achieve an extremely simplified RF and baseband circuit structure, which can greatly reduce the terminal cost, terminal size and circuit energy consumption. Therefore, zero-power communication is expected to achieve battery-less terminals to meet the communication needs of the Internet of things with ultra-low power consumption, very small size and ultra-low cost.

Due to its good characteristic of battery-less, such kind of terminal is named zero-power terminal and the corresponding communication procedure is called zero-power communication.“

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It’s worth mentioning that drawing power from the air isn’t a new concept, and technology has been in development and in research for several years. Samsung also has a TV remote that harvests energy from 2.4GHz Wi-Fi signals, and both Motorola and Xiaomi demonstrated similar technologies in the past (via Android Authority). The new OPPO concept could turn TV remotes, smartwatches, smart GPS trackers (such as AirTags) wireless earbuds, and many more modern wearables and low-powered devices into devices that could potentially go battery-free, and harvest energy from frequencies that are around us.

It remains to be seen what’ll happen in the next decade or so, but this technology will likely see major developments from large technology companies to provide battery-less devices that can communicate more effectively, provide ultra-low power consumption and reduce costs.

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What is 6G and are we ready for it?

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Taking a speedtest and displaying 6G in the background Source: Background: Unsplash, Frederik Lipfert, Pocketnow

It may seem strange that we’re already talking about 6G, even though 5G has only just become mainstream in most developed regions. Technology is advancing at a fast rate, but it’s worth mentioning that, like 4G and 5G, it will take another decade until we see faster speeds that aim to make our lives easier and more connected. We’ve recently posted a report talking about a research that found that less than half of the Americans use a 5G device and 5G connection.

Another recent report published by BusinessKorea (via GSMArena) mentions that South Korea wants to take steps to excel and lead the next generation of mobile networks. The 5G development was mainly fueled by companies such as Nokia, Ericsson, and Qualcomm, but HUAWEI, T-Mobile, AT&T, ZTE, Verizon, and Vodafone all played major roles in refining, fine-tuning, and producing related hardware to ensure it met the standards and requirements.

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The BusinessKorea report states that the South Korean government wants to come up with a 6G prototype in 2026, and the commercial, final product is expected to roll out between 2028 and 2030. This means that we’re about a decade away from seeing 6G become the new mainstream network. The Presidential Transition Committee said:

“When it comes to future economic growth drivers, the current government is focusing on non-memory chip, future car and biotech and healthcare,” it said, adding, “The new government is planning to add 6G communications, secondary battery, display, defense and aerospace, advanced nuclear power plant and digital content.”

The timeline suggests that we could see 6G technology become the “next big thing” by around 2030, assuming that everything goes according to plan, and that the world can safely recover from the pandemic and the global shortages.

What is 6G?

Cell tower with Source: Background: Unsplash, Vyacheslav Shatskiy, Pocketnow

5G operates at about 28GHz and 39GHz frequencies, which is much higher than the 700 MHz-2500MHz used for 4G networks. The next generation of 6G is expected to operate above 100 GHz, which is twice the amount of the highest 5G frequency that is currently used for the mmWave implementations.

6G will focus on improving 5G, and it will make it more reliable, improve and promise zero latency, increase the peak data rate, and be at least twice as much more energy efficient. Samsungposted a chart that compares 5G (light blue) to the expected 6G implementation (dark blue).

Samsung 5G vs 6G chart Source: Samsung

6G is expected to bring a mind-blowing 1 Tbps speed (1,000 times the bandwidth of a typical Ethernet port) and latency of under 100 µs (or one 10,000th of a second). The chart above clearly shows how much faster and better 6G is expected to be compared to the existing 5G technology. We hope to see a significant leap in terms of advancement, but it remains to be seen how our infrastructure and how services will adapt the technology to let users take advantage of the faster media that will be available as a result of the new network.

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How are we doing with 5G?

Global Smartphone Sales Penetration by 5G and 4G
Global Smartphone Sales Penetration by 5G and 4G
Source: Counterpoint Research

Counterpoint research reports that “​​Sales penetration of 5G-capable smartphones reached 51% globally in January 2022, surpassing the penetration of 4G smartphones for the first time, according to Counterpoint Research’s Global Monthly Handset Model Sales Tracker.” Regions such as China, North America, and Western Europe are the biggest drivers of the growth, and China had the highest 5G penetration in the world at 84% in January, 2022.

The iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 series of devices were the main reason for the increased penetration in North America, but Samsung also played a major role with its affordable and high-end Galaxy devices. Qualcomm and MediaTek also managed to bring 5G to the more affordable mid-to-high-end smartphones in the $250-$400 range, and they’re also slowly making their way into the more budget $150-$250 devices.

5G devices have become cheaper and more common, but 5G speeds are still only just slightly faster than 4G. Although that’s expected to improve in the coming years, it remains to be seen what impacts it will have on businesses that require gigabit speeds to operate efficiently.

5G didn’t bring the massive changes like 4G did when it replaced 3G, but it made the networks more stable, and it does offer significantly faster speeds – even if the average customer isn’t yet ready to take advantage of the gigabit speeds, other than downloading a few Netflix movies in a few seconds.

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Apple & Meta reportedly gave sensitive data to hackers pretending to be govt officials

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Meta, the parent company of Facebook, and Apple reportedly gave away sensitive information to hackers who were pretending to be law enforcement officials. The data passed to hackers includes the user’s address, phone number, and IP address, according to a report from Bloomberg. The data was shared multiple times with hackers in mid-2021 in response to the falsified emergency data requests.

How hackers gained access to the data?

In the modern-day world, every person uses at least some service from these big tech companies such as Google, Apple, and Facebook — even criminals. Law enforcement officials, in a bid to obtain some information about a culprit, often request these big tech companies to share data with them so as to help them with the case. While such requests require a subpoena or search warrant to be signed by a judge, emergency data requests don’t.

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Hackers took advantage of this loophole. The hackers first targeted the emails of the law enforcement officials. After gaining access to the email ID of the government officials, the hackers then submitted requests to these big tech companies in order to obtain sensitive information. While big tech companies generally verify these requests, in some cases slip-ups can happen, and thus data was shared with hackers.

According to a report from Krebs on Security, hackers selling government officials’ email ID online is increasing day by day. The buyers are specifically looking for email IDs to target social platforms and extract sensitive information about users.

According to the report, Apple received 1,162 emergency data requests out of which Apple responded to 93% of the requests. On the other hand, Facebook received over 21,500 requests out of which 77% of the requests were answered.

Smartphone malware Source: Pexels

Who did this?

The question arises, who actually did this? The report from Krebs notes that the majority of such hackers are teenagers. Some are believed to be the masterminds behind the group Lapsus$ — the same group which targeted NVIDIA, Samsung, and Microsoft. Though such attacks are believed to be carried out by a cybercriminal team called the Recursion Team.

The Recursion Team has since dissolved and it is believed that some of the hackers have joined Lapsus$. The report notes that hackers repeatedly targeted these companies and extracted sensitive information for over seven months starting in January 2021.

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What do Apple and Meta have to say about this situation?

In a statement to The Verge, Meta’s spokesperson said that the company reviews “every data request for legal sufficiency and use advanced systems and processes to validate law enforcement requests and detect abuse. We block known compromised accounts from making requests and work with law enforcement to respond to incidents involving suspected fraudulent requests, as we have done in this case.”

On the other hand, Apple’s spokesperson said:

“If a government or law enforcement agency seeks customer data in response to an Emergency Government & Law Enforcement Information Request, a supervisor for the government or law enforcement agent who submitted the Emergency Government & Law Enforcement Information Request may be contacted and asked to confirm to Apple that the emergency request was legitimate.”

Is there anything that can be done about the situation?

Gene Yoo, chief executive officer of the cybersecurity firm Resecurity, says that it’s very difficult to find a simple solution for this. There is no centralized portal to submit such requests as every agency has different ways of handling data. The report from Bloomberg cites that ‘ Fulfilling the legal requests can be complicated because there are tens of thousands of different law enforcement agencies, from small police departments to federal agencies, around the world. Different jurisdictions have varying laws concerning the request and release of user data.’

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Until a solution is found, companies and law enforcement should collectively take up responsibility for such incidents, and let the users know that their data has been compromised so there is no damaging effect of the data that the hackers have gained. Though data leaked this time only includes, the user’s address, phone number, and IP address, it shows that hackers can easily gain access to a lot of data. The big tech companies and governments around the need to come up with a solution because a lot of data is at stake.

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Intel to invest €33 billion in European R&D and chip manufacturing facilities

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Intel today announced the first phase of its plans to invest as much as €80 billion ($88 billion) in the European Union over the next decade, and more than €33 billion in the next few years.

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