Gaining speed for our future world

To go faster, we need to go higher. When it comes to high-end wearables and machines in the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), reliable connections with extreme throughput are essential to realize the futuristic world of automated factories and people roaming around in virtual reality. Millimeter waves (Mmwaves) are the way to go, but they have some challenges that need to be solved before the technology can be considered fully reliable.

Using MmWaves to go faster

The keys to fully unlock the potential of the two earlier mentioned wireless applications, are extreme data throughput, ultra-low latency, and very high reliability. Older wireless technologies, such as 3G and 4G, won’t be able to fulfill the extreme requirements that the world of tomorrow requires. By using higher frequencies, more data can be transferred, as mmWaves have a larger bandwidth than lower frequencies. Combining that with the new 5G (and beyond) standards, connections with ultra-low latency and a large bandwidth can be established.

Overcoming the challenges

As mentioned earlier, using higher frequencies can transfer bigger amounts of data. One of the downsides of this millimeter waves technology is that it highly depends on line of sight. Objects between transmitter and receiver will harm the overall reliability of the connection. MmWaves do offer the wide bandwidth which would be highly useful for many applications. But when using the technology for large scale deployments, challenges arise for establishing a reliable and fast network.

High-end wearables and their potential

Augmented reality and virtual reality will create a new powerful user-interface for the Internet of Things. In other words, most of the IoT devices in your home or outdoors will work in combination with these high-end wearables. In the corner of your eye you will be able to see everything you need to buy from the grocery store, as your fridge keeps track of the food that is inside of it, for example. Or you can step into a completely virtual world using virtual reality glasses that, because of the ultra-low latency provided by 5G (and beyond), make the experience seem extremely realistic.

A growing number of connected people

One of the benefits of mmWave technology is that the antenna components are small, and thus perfect for smaller devices. As mostly high-end wearables need the wider bandwidths for transmitting high-definition video streams, the technology is especially attractive to these devices. By 2020, 40% of the smartphones will be replaced by high-end wearables, which is just in time for the roll-out of 5G. This means that a growing number of people will be connected to the internet through these high-end devices, which from a resource and interference management perspective will cause a challenging environment for mmWave technology. By creating a system for multi antenna operations, and by developing an in-depth understanding of the propagation environment of crowded areas with many people needing fast connections, the researchers hope to improve the reliability and connectivity of mmWaves for high-end wearables.

Establishing a reliable network

Another application where reliability, connectivity and extreme throughput are important, and thus mmWaves would be highly useful, is the Industrial Internet of Things in the fields of logistics, manufacturing, mining, and transportation. Smart sensors communicate on a regular basis, giving important information about the ongoing operations. However, other applications that require a wireless connection have stricter requirements when it comes to communications reliability, availability, and latency. For example, to be able to control a mining machine from outside a mine, you need a reliable and high definition video signal. In addition, latency needs to be ultra-low, as giving commands to the machine needs to be instant to prevent any problems that may occur due to delayed commands.

Therefore, to guarantee constant connectivity, connections through diverse stationary and mobile machines need to be established. A network of receivers and transmitters will guarantee the constant connectivity that can deliver high throughput and low latency.

Another important part of IIot is energy consumption. When connectivity is reliable, fast, and has low latency, more complex tasks can be offloaded to an edge cloud computing infrastructure. More demanding tasks no longer have to be done by the battery powered machines, which will in turn make energy consumption by these mobile, battery powered machines more efficient.

The upcoming research conducted by the University of Oulu's Centre of Wireless Communications and its partners, aims to overcome these challenges, so that these technologies can fully unlock the potential of high-end wearables and the Industrial Internet of Things, which will completely change the world as we know it.

International cooperation

A consortium, consisting of Associate Professor Antti Tölli from the University of Oulu, Professor Robert Heath from the University of Texas in Austin, and Dr. Olga Galinina from Tampere University of Technology (TUT), is conducting research, funded by the Academy of Finland and the National Science Foundation, as part of the WiFiUS (Wireless Innovation between Finland and US) framework. Part of the work is carried out in the PRISMA project, which is a joint project with TUT (Associate Professor Simona Lohan and Dr. Sergey Andreev) and is also funded by the Academy of Finland. The research project is aimed at the fundamentals of communication in millimeter wave wearable links at the physical layer and medium access control layers. The project also aims to develop new mathematical tools for estimating millimeter wave channels and devises new algorithms for communicating in millimeter wave multiple antenna channels incorporating array constraints.

WiFiUS Project team members meeting in Austin Texas in April 2108 (Jarkko Kaleva, Antti Tölli, Sergey Andreev (TUT), Robert Heath (UT Austin), Olga Galinina (TUT)).

 

More information: Associate Professor, D.Sc. (Tech) Antti Tölli, antti.tolli (at) oulu.fi

Text: Tijmen Bult

Last updated: 11.9.2018