Introducing LTE Direct

The rise of mobile apps has exploded over the last few years. Autonomous, proximity-based applications now represent the latest trend in the mobile app space.

Although there is much excitement around proximity-based applications, they have seen limited mainstream adoption. Why is this so? Well, there are a number of reasons.

The Challenges of Proximity-based Applications

Many applications are cloud-based, over the top (OTT) applications, where a server in the cloud matches GPS co-ordinates from the mobile device to determine proximity. But continuous proximity sensing is not possible with this cloud-based approach, since it implies continuous location tracking and frequent data session setup and tear down.

Read: Mobile Data Services: Give Me Quality, Not Quantity

Additionally, privacy concerns with continuous user location tracking in the cloud have further limited user adoption of these applications. This is where LTE Direct comes in.

What is LTE Direct?

LTE Direct is a device-to-device platform that enables true “continuous” proximity based discovery. LTE Direct is a synchronous system operating in licensed spectrum under the control of the Mobile Service Provider, where devices monitor for service layer announcements (also known as expressions). The synchronous nature of the system allows devices to stay on for an extremely short duration to announce and monitor these announcements. This results in minimal battery drains enabling truly autonomous location discovery.

So what does this mean for the mobile user? LTE Direct works on the principles of:

  • Who’s around?
  • What’s nearby?
  • Is it relevant now?

Why Use LTE Direct?

LTE Direct allows a differentiated hyper-local offering across a large range of applications and services in social searching/matching, venue specific services, geo-fencing, proximity triggered loyalty services/authentication, push advertising, and much more.

For example, a user might be walking through a city, looking for something to eat. Using LTE Direct, he can send out a request for information on those restaurants in the immediate vicinity, serving a particular type of food, that has tables available. Within seconds, he will receive a response only matching his exact, specified request or criteria.

Read: The Numbers Speak: Data Services Equal Profit

Perhaps of even more interest is the way the technology could be used in a natural disaster scenario to address concerns around Public Safety. A key requirement of the first responders in such a scenario is the ability to communicate with each other, even if the macro network itself is unavailable. The distributed traffic scheduling and discovery design of LTE Direct provides the ability for the devices to discover and communicate with each other in these Public Safety scenarios – even where there is no macro network coverage.

The Future of LTE Direct

Will we see LTE Direct anytime soon? The short answer is yes.

LTE Direct is currently planned for 3GPP Rel12, which is schedule to be adopted by leading Mobile Service Providers mid-2014. By then, the number of mobile apps that can make use of such a technology will have increased, with many having being designed with proximity or location in mind.

It will be interesting to see how creative application developers are in their use of LTE Direct. What are your thoughts on the matter? Let me know in the comments below.

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Written by Graham Kunz – Graham on Twitter | Posts by Graham
Graham is Empirix’s European Service Assurance Expert and he’s worked in the tech industry for nearly twenty years. More than 14 years of that time has been in Service Assurance, working with wireless customers and internal teams to understand and capture product requirements, as well as develop and introduce products. His global outlook, wireless technology knowledge and technical know-how provide him with an excellent perspective on the current and future direction of mobility and the wireless industry.

2 thoughts on “Introducing LTE Direct

  1. aru (@arunabh010) says:

    Whats in there for operators ? how they will be tapping consumers and generating revenues using LTE Direct ?

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