Pokémon GO craze raises concerns about AR/VR

While the augmented reality game is having less of an effect on network traffic than you might expect, it’s just the first AR game to reach mass global popularity. We’re likely to see more such apps turn up in the enterprise, with implications for both networking and storage platforms.

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From Manila to Toronto to Tokyo, Pokémon GO is raising concerns about traffic.

A lawmaker in the Philippine capital recently argued against banning provincial buses from certain roadways. He said people making frequent roadside stops to catch virtual Pokémon characters “pose more of a threat” to traffic flow than road-hogging buses.

In the Greater Toronto Area city of Vaughan, a police helicopter captured video of a Mercedes driving erratically and making several turns in the middle of the road just after 3 a.m. When cops stopped the driver, he admitted he was chasing Pokémon.

About a week after Pokémon GO launched in Japan, police across the country had issued more than 400 citations to people for driving while playing the augmented reality game on their smartphones.

What tech types want to know is what kind of impact the Pokémon GO craze is having on network traffic.

Less than you might have guessed. Although the game has seen its popularity explode overnight (there are already an estimated 21 million daily players in the U.S. alone), a study by P3 Communications indicates the average player uses only 6MB of data per hour, “which is fairly low,” according to the researchers.

Yet we have to consider that Pokémon GO is just the first AR game to reach mass global popularity; others will follow. The same will happen with certain virtual reality games and apps. The latest Cisco research shows IP traffic associated with AR and VR applications (including gaming) quardrupled in 2015 — that’s pre-Pokémon GO, remember — and is expected to grow 61-fold by 2020.

In the near term, video will likely have a much bigger impact on network traffic than AR/VR, says Varun Chhabra, head of product marketing at EMC Corp.’s advanced software division. As he told us in an interview, however, the huge success of a consumer AR game like Pokémon GO will probably lead to more such apps in enterprise scenarios as well.

“I suspect there are lessons to be learned by enterprises about how to handle large amounts of small data being collected, streamed and analyzed in real time,” he said. “This has obvious implications for both networking and storage platforms.”

During peak usage times, Chhabra said a key worry is making sure your enterprise network can scale to handle massive amounts of data “coming in from customers using a killer app, as well as data moving on the internal network between various analytics apps.”

With AR, VR, video, mobile apps and Internet of Things traffic all heading down the future pipeline, “most customers are finding it very hard to be able to accurately predict peak network traffic and storage capacity requirements,” he said.

That’s why Chhabra sees many enterprise network managers taking a look at software defined networking (SDN) and software defined storage (SDS).

“The promise of SDN is to help convert off-the-shelf servers into high-performance networking equipment in response to a spike in traffic,” he explained.

And, there are other options besides SDN and SDS for optimizing network traffic management, ranging from network function virtualization (NFV) to mobile edge computing (MEC).

It’s something the folks at Nintendo might want to think about. Frustrated players looking for their Pokémon GO fix in Japan, Holland, Britain and the U.S. have had to bide their time after spikes in traffic crashed the servers Nintendo uses to run the game.

Unlike the roadway chaos in Manila and Tokyo, that’s one Pokémon GO traffic jam that could definitely be tackled with technology.

Image: iStock

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