We are truly entering the streaming era where everything, not just our movies, shows and tunes, as well as Augmented Reality (AR) experiences, as Nvidia unveiled recently, are seamlessly streamed from the cloud to anywhere and anything. Now though your smartphone apps are about to get the same streaming treatment, especially as we enter the ultra-fast ultra-low latency era of 5G then 6G, so if you’re the kind of person that, like many of us, resorts to deleting apps when your smartphone’s storage is full then this news will be like streamed music to your ears.
“It’s like how Netflix movies aren’t actually stored on a computer. They are streamed to you as you are watching them,” said Professor Saurabh Bagchi from Purdue University in the US as he talked about his teams newest software that streams application data and code resources to from the cloud to a skinny app on users devices only as and when they need it to.
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“Here the application components, like heavy video or graphics or code paths, are streaming instantly despite the errors and slowdowns that are possible on a cellular network,” he added.
In a study Bagchi and his team showed how their new software, called AppStreamer, cuts down storage on devices by at least 85 percent for popular gaming apps as it seamlessly shuffles data between the skinny app on the users device and the cloud without stalling the game. And in a test most os the participants didn’t notice any differences in their gaming experience.
Furthermore, since AppStreamer works for these storage hungry gaming apps, which could be a boon as we enter the era of streamed games after Google recently launched their cloud game streaming service Stadia, it could work for other apps as well, said Bagchi. AppStreamer also allows the skinny app itself to download faster to a device, he added.
The researchers will present their work later this month at the 17th International Conference on Embedded Wireless Systems and Networks in Lyon, France, and the conference organisers have selected the teams study as one of three top papers.
AppStreamer is a type of software known as middleware, located between the apps on a device and the operating system. The middleware automatically predicts when to fetch data from a cloud server, and AT&T Labs Research provided data from cellular networks for the teams study to help them evaluate which bandwidths AppStreamer would use and how much energy it would consume.
AppStreamer could also help phones make better use of 5G connectivity – high-speed wireless cellular networks that would allow devices to download movies in seconds and handle other data-heavy tasks much faster than the 4G networks currently available to most phones.
Using AppStreamer on a 5G network would mean that an app downloads instantly, runs faster and takes up minimal space on a phone. The researchers also say they designed AppStreamer to use Edge Computing, which stores and sends data from edge servers. These servers, located in spots such as cellphone towers, are closer to a device compared to the cloud. The shorter distance reduces data download time.
Bagchi’s lab researches ways to make edge computing more reliable. Bagchi wrote on those challenges in an article recently published in Communications of the ACM.
The researchers believe that AppStreamer could be good for more than just phones too. In order for self-driving cars to respond to their surroundings more safely, they would need to reliably pull data from servers in milliseconds, and middleware such as AppStreamer could eventually supply this functionality through edge computing on a 5G network.
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