Researchers in Germany believe that the big advancement in 6G won’t just be faster speeds – it could also be collaborative AI capabilities.
Back in February, US President Donald Trump tweeted that he wanted “5G, and even 6G, technology in the United States as soon as possible”. And we all laughed because of course there is no such thing as 6G. But there will be one day, and as we reported to you late last year, efforts are already under way to figure out just what 6G is – or ought to be.
Interestingly, many researchers are looking beyond the obvious notion that 6G will be faster than 5G and use different frequency bands. And some are increasingly of the opinion that what will really set 6G apart from 5G is artificial intelligence.
According to MIT Technology Review, two researchers at Jacobs University Bremen in Germany – Razvan-Andrei Stoica and Giuseppe Abreu – have published a paper that examines the limits of what 5G can do, and reckons that AI and machine learning will shape the evolution of 6G, while 6G’s speed and performance gains will enable new AI-powered apps that 5G can’t support.
A specific example is self-driving cars – which is interesting, as autonomous vehicles are one of the most ballyhooed scenarios that 5G is supposed to enable.
But while 5G provides the ultra-low latency required for self-driving cars, it will struggle to support coordination of such vehicles in major urban centers once they become the rule rather than the exception. That will require autonomous cars – perhaps millions of them – to collaborate with each other as well as their surroundings and solve complex problems on the fly in real time, reports TR:
The self-driving vehicles of the future will need to be aware of their location, their environment and how it is changing, and other road users such as cyclists, pedestrians, and other self-driving vehicles. They will need to negotiate passage through junctions and optimize their route in a way that minimizes journey times.
That’s a significant computational challenge. It will require cars to rapidly create on-the-fly networks, for example, as they approach a specific junction—and then abandon them almost instantly. At the same time, they will be part of broader networks calculating routes and journey times and so on. “Interactions will therefore be necessary in vast amounts, to solve large distributed problems where massive connectivity, large data volumes and ultra low-latency beyond those to be offered by 5G networks will be essential,” say Stoica and Abreu.
If 6G networks can support collaborative processing of huge amounts of data in real time, the paper says, the same capability could be applied to other things, like network optimization, financial-market monitoring and planning and artificially intelligent agents.
Meanwhile, at the very first 6G Summit – which took place in a ski resort in Finland in March – Peter Vetter, head of access research at Nokia Bell Labs and a Bell Labs Fellow, expressed a slightly different take on how AI will shape 6G. In essence, Vetter imagines 6G will be more like “a network with a sixth sense” that will serve to enhance the human condition, according to this report from Finland’s University of Oulu:
“It will be a network not only enabling connectivity but the infrastructure will be used as a sensor that will infer state and meaning to augment humans and machines. Understanding what is happening in a room, for instance, opens up new applications for things like energy management or health monitoring,” Vetter explains.
[…] “This means enhancing our ability to think with augmented intelligence, enhancing our sensing capabilities, deduce meaning, making predictions with artificial intelligence – in short, enhancing our human existence. To connect the actions in the world beyond human capabilities, you need a nervous system, and the next-generation network will be the nervous system that connects all of these,” Vetter says.
Which sounds like fun.
Anyway, all of this is still a decade or two away, so there’s still plenty of time to roll out 5G and put it through its paces to see what it can and cannot do besides offer faster speeds than 4G (which isn’t always a given, apparently).