Enabling 6G network technology

Using 6G network technology could improve both low-power technologies for communication and machine learning analytics for preservation.

IMDEA Networks has recently been awarded the coordinated project ENABLE-6G of the national call UNICO 5G. The project consists of two sub-projects, RISC-6G and MAP-6G, and it will be developed by a group of researchers collaboratively led by Dr Domenico Giustiniano and Dr Joerg Widmer. This grant will allow the Institute to continue with pioneering research in the field of networks and contribute to the development of the next generation of 6G technology.

6G network technology

Future 6G networks are estimated to go far beyond the capabilities of 5G network technology, involving a vast number of connected devices, significantly higher performance requirements, and support for detailed object and environment sensing in addition to communication. As a result of this, 6G networks will need to embrace new capabilities.

RISC-6G sub-project

The RISC-6G sub-project will address this problem by aiming to improve wireless communication, provide environmental sensing, and significantly lower the per-device energy footprint to avoid a huge increase in overall network power consumption.

Two key technologies will be explored to achieve these ambitious objectives, namely low-power visible light communication (using LED lights to transmit data across the visible spectrum), and reconfigurable intelligence surfaces (retrofitting surface on walls with communication capabilities).

“Integration of intelligent reflective surfaces (RIS) will improve network capacity and more import resilience to link disruption, thus improving mobile services on which citizens and industry rely,” explained Joerg Widmer, PI of one of these projects. “At the same time, the improvement in wireless sensing made possible through RISs will enable entirely new services, for example in remote healthcare and environment monitoring.”

MAP-6G sub-project

On the other hand, the MAP-6G sub-project will contribute to the concept that 6G will allow full sensory immersion in cyberspace. However, this will also require the handling of the deluge of data to enable not only significantly improved network performance but also substantially more complex services.

In particular, a concept that is envisioned for 6G by 2030 is the one of a digital twin, which consists of a virtual representation of a physical object in its real-time digital counterpart. While highly promising, these new services and analytics may also pose a threat to privacy.

MAP-6G will design native privacy-preserving machine learning mechanisms for 6G applications to manage the vast amount of data generated by services in 6G networks. “Project solutions will leverage emerging concepts like ‘federated learning’ for sharing with the network infrastructure only the metadata that is necessary to provide these services while shielding personal data,” added professor Giustiniano.

What this means for the future of mobile networking

The final demonstrators will integrate the developed modules within the mobile network using testbeds comprising data servers, edge nodes, and end-user devices, with the help of the industrial partners in the project.

The innovation of the coordinated project will develop favourable market conditions that will create a sustainable business for all players in the value chain and will boost Spanish, European, and global market growth.

“A large percentage of the budget is allocated to the industry through competitive tender calls, with the objective of supporting the applied research of the project and fostering market adoption. This will not only benefit the partners directly working on the project but also other potential stakeholders, thanks to dedicated activities that will be performed in the project for community development to attract Small and Mid-size enterprises (SMEs) and start-ups,” concluded Professor Giustiniano.

This research will also benefit the development of commercial equipment, industrial-grade prototypes as well as more flexible and open experimental platforms, useful for early-stage 6G proofs of concept. In short, the ENABLE-6G project started in January 2022, and the solutions that will be designed can be incorporated in the pre-6G systems that are expected to be ready for deployment around the same time of the conclusion of the project (December 2024).

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