Hardware, Software Programs

QualcommAtheros Powers Your Wireless Home at CES 2013


This year, we met with the guys from Qualcomm’s Atheros division. In the past, we’ve done some reporting on both of the technologies that we met with them for this year’s CES 2013. We met with their Skifta and StreamBoost technology projects. As you remember from our previous coverage, Skifta is a software application suite that enables users to stream content from their mobile device to their DLNA enabled media devices and from those DLNA media devices to their mobile device. This is done most of the time over a combination of Wi-Fi and wired technologies and Skifta simply creates an easy way of connecting the two. StreamBoost, as we’ve talked about before, is different because it actually is a software and hardware solution that essentially creates traffic prioritization from the router end using gaming technology from BigFoot Networks.

In my meeting with Gary Brotman of Skifta, we were able to get some more details about the future of Skifta and how they plan to not only expand it’s functionality but how they plan to be profitable. The first thing we talked about was the application’s future. Currently, the application is only available for Android but is currently awaiting Apple App Store approval, once that happens, the userbase should increase significantly.

They plan to pair this software suite, which I’ve personally been using at my home to stream music from my phone, with a hardware solution that they can help manufacturers sell as an upgrade kit. They want to enable not-so-smart high-end audio solutions to be smarter and to enable Skifta-like functionality. Imagine spending $5,000 on a really great sound system, but it simply doesn’t have any way of connecting to your network, Skifta wants to help hardware manufacturers solve this problem. They don’t want to sell the whole solution, just the hardware and software APIs to make it possible.

(note, the Skifta module is the yellow PCB, the green PCB would be designed and made by any host of audio manufacturers)

With this latest implementation of Skifta, a manufacturer can install Skifta’s modules inside of their speakers and enable users to individually control certain rooms or speakers from their smartphone using one extremely easy to use app.

Following our Skifta demo, we got a nice demonstration from Michael Cubbage (formerly of BigFoot Networks) of how QualcommAtheros’ StreamBoost technology was actually powering the entire demo room at CES.

StreamBoost is designed to essentially take the internet connection that you have and allocate varying amounts of bandwidth in order to give the best possible experience at that given moment. It is capable of making such decisions because the different applications are actually being constantly monitored by the router and experience data is being sent back to the cloud servers where the experience data is then crowd sourced and then spat back into all of the opted-in routers. By doing this, users are able to gain new profiles whenever new products or services come out and they are also constantly improving the traffic shaping of StreamBoost.

Michael actually gave us a demonstration of this technology by hooking in a wired Alienware gaming notebook while he was simultaneously running a download and a bunch of other wireless services. He was able to show that using StreamBoost they were able to keep Team Fortress 2’s latency almost unchanged and to still download a file at a relatively fast speed. The green buttons in the screenshot above indicate the user’s experience using that application and are part of the crowd sourced system of profiles and channel bandwidth allocation.

Last but not least, Michael also showed how you can give different devices varying levels of priority so that users on the TV don’t get bumped by users torrenting on the PCs and such. Overall, it’s awesome to think that all of this came as a result of Killer’s BigFoot networking technology for gaming. Now, gaming technology is enabling better routers than ever before. And the awesome thing is that with a Killer NIC or wireless card, the StreamBoost routers, like the one from Alienware are able to gather even more precise data and provide even better traffic shaping for the end clients.