New 6G challenges inspire cross-disciplinary innovation

Bold research developments will support communication in the future

Addressing these physical and technical limitations will require leaps of innovation, but promises of applications powered by advanced 6G connections spur creative solutions.

Adaptive technology solutions are a major area of ​​research. Instead of focusing on optimizing the bandwidth of a single device, for example, 6G will use neighboring devices to help provide the necessary bandwidth and reduce latency. This 3D signal shaping focuses on combining and processing wireless signals from multiple sources, based on their proximity to the end user.

The new semiconductor materials will help manage device space requirements as well as handle wider frequency bands. Although it requires complex engineering, one promising approach combines traditional silicon circuits with those made from more exotic compound semiconductors, such as indium phosphide. In addition, researchers are looking for ways to alter the environment with reconfigurable smart surfaces (“smart surfaces”) that can improve signal propagation to modulate signals in real time to deliver better bandwidth and lower latency.

Another method of research that relies on artificial intelligence to manage networks and improve communications. Different types of network usage (texting, gaming, streaming, for example) create different types of network requests. AI solutions enable the system to predict this demand based on behavioral patterns, rather than always requiring engineers to design with the highest levels of demand.

Nichols sees great potential for networks from improvements in artificial intelligence. “Today’s systems are so complex, with so many levers that must be pulled to meet diverse demands, that most optimization decisions are limited to first-class tweaks such as more locations, updated radios, better connectivity, more efficient data gateways, and some users are constrained,” Nichols says. . By contrast, using AI to deal with optimization, he says, presents an “important opportunity to move to autonomous, self-optimizing, and self-regulating networks.”

Virtualization and dual digital technology are promising tools that will not only help in the innovation of 6G but will be further enabled by 6G once it is established. These emerging technologies can help companies test their products and systems in sandboxes that simulate real-world conditions, allowing equipment makers and application developers to test concepts in complex environments and create product prototypes for 6G networks.

While engineers and researchers have proposed innovative solutions, Nichols notes that building 6G networks will also require consensus among technology providers, operators and carriers. As 5G networks continue to be deployed, players in the industry must create a coherent vision of what applications the next generation network will support and how their technologies will work together.

However, it is this collaboration and this complexity that may generate the most exciting and enduring results. Nichols notes that the breadth of engineering disciplines required to build 6G, and the industry collaboration necessary to launch it, will drive exciting multidisciplinary innovation. Because of the resulting demand for new solutions, the path to 6G will be paved, in the words of Nichols, with “a tremendous amount of technical research, development and innovation from electronics to semiconductors to antennas for radio network systems to Internet protocols to synthetic. From intelligence to cybersecurity.”

This content was produced by Insights, the dedicated content arm of the MIT Technology Review. It was not written by the editorial team at the MIT Technology Review.

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