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Toward Efficient Vertical Industries in B5G/6G Era: Technical Aspect and Standardization Directions

Industrial Technology Research Institute
Samer Talat, You-Sheng Kang, Bai-Chuan Chang, Heng-Ming Hu, Hua-Lung Tsai

 

Introduction

One of the distinct objectives of Beyond 5 Generation/ 6 Generation (B5G/6G) is to provide the vertical industries with a shared infrastructure that besides more efficiently fulfilling their connectivity requirements, raises opportunities for new innovative digital use cases and facilitates the creation of cross-industry partnerships and eco-systems. The research and development community globally has nearly completed the design and specification of architectures, protocols, and mechanisms aimed at fulfilling the diverse and stringent requirements for the realization of a new network generation. It is now crucial that this technology is put into action in real-life trials to validate and demonstrate its value proposition for the vertical industry.

Moreover, given the fact that accommodated personal demands to communicate anywhere, anytime is the essential spotlight, the digital infrastructure shall uprights professional services, vertical sectors, and machine-to-machine communication. Consequently, B5G/6G is expected to lay concrete for the digitalization and transformation of key industry stratum such as smart cities, and public safety. For this purpose, 5G Infrastructure Public Private Partnership (5G PPP) has established a partnership leading to the introduction of 5G infrastructure and the roll-out of 5G services in Europe from 2020 up to today. This includes international project calls on aspects of 5G and information. In this article, we introduced technical aspects of important European Taiwan projects to which the ITRI team had significant contributions. Besides, ITRI’s expert team is watching the promising 6G flagship project (i.e. HEXA-X) as a potential European Taiwan future project collaboration. Finally, we conclude with the insights from HEXA-X on expected 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) standardization guidelines.

 

Article Outline

1. European Taiwan Projects (5G-CORAL and 5G-DIVE)
2. HEXA-X (6G flagship project)
3. 3GPP Standardization


European Taiwan Projects

1. 5G-CORAL(EU-Taiwan Project)

5G-CORAL [1] (5G Convergent Virtualised Radio Access Network Living at the Edge (EU-Taiwan Project)) aims at delivering a convergent 5G Multiple Radio Access Technology (multi-RAT) access through an integrated virtualized edge and fog solution that is flexible, scalable, and interoperable with other domains including transport (fronthaul, backhaul), core and clouds. The major objectives are to:

  • Developed a system model that includes use cases, requirements, architecture, and business models to design and validate the 5G-CORAL solution
  • Designed an Orchestration and Control system (OCS) for dynamic federation and optimized allocation of 5G-CORAL EFS resources
  • Integrated and demonstrated 5G-CORAL technologies in large-scale testbeds making use of facilities offered by Taiwan, and measuring their Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
  • Disseminated and contributed 5G-CORAL results into international research and innovation venues to pave the way for their successful exploitation

1.1 Technical and research challenges

5G-CORAL project ascendancies the edge and fog computing in the RAN. This unique opportunity for access convergence will meet the increase of bandwidth, reduction of the latency, and improvement of the network required by the increasing number of mobile users. In addition, it will contemplate mobile user requirements by employing an integrated, virtualized networking and computing solution where virtualized functions, context-aware services, and mobile user and third-party applications are blended to offer enhanced connectivity and better quality of experience. It is important to highlight that 5G-CORAL overcomes the increasing demand of mobile users/applications through the intelligent integration of edge and fog computing approaches. 5G-CORAL architecture consists of two major building blocks, namely (i) the Edge and Fog computing System (EFS) subsuming all the edge and fog computing substrate offered as a shared hosting environment for virtualized functions, services, and applications; and (ii) the Orchestration and Control System (OCS) responsible for managing and controlling the EFS, including its interworking with other (non-EFS) domains.

Through the 5G-CORAL solution, several KPIs can be achieved, notably an ultra-low end-to-end latency in the order of milliseconds. Moreover, new business prospects arise with new stakeholders in the value chain, notably small players owning computing and networking assets in the local service area, such as in shopping malls, airports, trains, and cars.

1.2 Vertical Trials

5G-CORAL project has been validated in three testbeds.

  • Shopping mall (Taiwan): The goal of the testbed is to verify the developed technologies in dense scenarios by allowing massive connectivity, high throughput, network, and computation offloading, and to provide time-critical services to the users. This also has been adopted in ITRI museum (showroom) as shown in the video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4UoiZPFbEQ4). The visitor to the museum can enjoy efficient Augmented Reality (AR) application to navigate to points of interest as shown in Figure 1.
  • High-speed train (Taiwan): The goal of this testbed is to verify traffic offloading in the high-mobility scenario. One anticipated goal is to provision breakout and mobility functions on the onboard Fog computing devices that could potentially mitigate the burden of passengers’ mobility signaling on the backhaul.
  • Connected cars (Italy): The goal of the connected car testbed is to demonstrate the benefits of 5G-CORAL to Vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communications supported by Fog computing devices nearby or on-board the cars. 


Figure 1 5G-CORAL Distributed Computing AR Demo

2. 5G-DIVE (EU-Taiwan Project)

5G-DIVE [2] (5G-eDge Intelligence for Vertical Experimentation(EU-Taiwan Project)) carries out end-to-end 5G trials aimed at proving the technical merits and business value proposition of 5G technologies in two vertical pilots, namely (i) Industry 4.0 and (ii) Autonomous Drone Scout. These trials will put in action an end-to-end 5G design tailored to the requirements of each vertical pilot. 5G-DIVE’s bespoke design is built around two main pillars, namely (1) end-to-end 5G connectivity including 5G New Radio, Crosshaul transport, and 5G Core, and (2) distributed edge and fog computing integrating intelligence located closely to the user. The intelligent tailored design is envisioned to achieve optimized performance and thus significantly boost the business value proposition of 5G in each targeted vertical application. 5G-DIVE trials target pilots running for several weeks on the premises of the vertical applications in real-life testbeds in Europe and Taiwan. The project has four overall objectives:

  • Design and validate 5G-DIVE technologies for specific applications, including the Industry 4.0 and Autonomous Drone Scouting verticals
  • Design and develop the 5G-DIVE Elastic Edge Platform (DEEP)
  • Perform field trials and showcase vertical use cases
  • Dissemination, standardization, and exploitation of 5G-DIVE

2.1 Technical and research challenges

The main achievement of 5G-DIVE project is to provide verification and validation of the technical merits and business value proposition of 5G technologies, In particular, 5G-DIVE design Elastic Edge Platform. Where, DEEP aims to support vertical industries in day-by-day operations, management, and automation of business processes on-top of an edge and fog infrastructure. This will boost significantly the business value proposition of 5G in each targeted vertical application. Also, 5G-DIVE focus on providing end-to-end 5G connectivity besides distributed edge and fog computing, integrating intelligence located closely to the mobile user. Thus, 5G-DIVE platform spans across an add-on on top of existing Edge Computing Platforms while underpinning vertical industries systems. Consequently, 5G-DIVE will run and manage applications and services without the complexity of building and maintaining the infrastructure typically associated with the delivery of the application. To do so, several strata of DEEP are offered to the verticals for supporting and enhancing the operation and management of their business processes as follows

  • Data Analytics Support Stratum (DASS)  offers the necessary support for processing, storage, and sharing data generated from vertical services operations which can be potentially enriched with a variegated set of context information, both from the local environment and the virtualization infrastructure. Moreover, the locality offered by the Edge Computing Platform can be exploited to process and analyze sensitive data where they are generated, thus enabling strict privacy and low latency response for mission-critical systems.
  • Intelligence Engine Support Stratum (IESS) offers the necessary support for an intelligence engine platform encompassing heterogeneous resources including terminal devices. This allows vertical industries to augment their applications and operations with artificial intelligence techniques for dynamic and mobile environments. This includes machine learning for supporting complex systems, events predictions, finding patterns and anomalies in data as well as raising alerts if need be.
  • Business Automation Support Stratum (BASS) offers the necessary support to the vertical industries to achieve the automation of their business processes by allowing them to plug their OSS/BSS systems into the platform. It allows verifying that a set of end-to-end business processes work as intended by identifying defects early to minimize the business impact. To that end, this stratum helps at ensuring that vertical business processes continue to work, even when mission-critical systems change.

2.2 Vertical trials

Carrying out real-life vertical field trials is part of the overall goal of the project to demonstrate and validate the value proposition for the vertical industry. The project defines two trials, each with two use-cases.

Vertical Pilot 1 – Industry 4.0

Use case 1 - Digital Twin application: a robotic arm will be controlled remotely in real-time using a digital twin located at the EFS, demonstrating the 5G performance and exploiting the low latency and computing capabilities of the Edge and Fog.

Use case 2 - Connected Worker Augmented Zero Defect Manufacturing (ZDM) Decision Support System (DSS): real-time 4K video analysis of production lines to detect possible manufacturing defects, demonstrating the high bandwidth and low latency capabilities of a 5G Fog computing environment.

Vertical Pilot 2 – Autonomous Drone Scout

Use case 1 – Drone Fleet Navigation: evolved navigation system that enables local processing of information and dynamic modification of the trajectory of the drones by a controller using advanced coordination mechanisms (centralized or distributed).

Use case 2 – Intelligent processing of images in the Drones:

integration of drones into the 5G-DIVE platform as volatile moving resources taking benefit of the DEEP building block allowing: (i) image stitching to map a certain area automatically with the help of the Drone fleet; and (ii) pattern recognition of certain events such as the detection of fire in buildings or the detection of human live risks.

 

Figure 2 shows utilizing 5G enabled edge, as well as the 5G-DIVE DEEP platform for aerial disaster relief response system. More details can be found in the demo videos at (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UtIOAqaDXP8 ) and (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eirxWTllzQM&t=10s ).


Figure 2 5G-DIVE Demo for Complete E2E aerial disaster relief system


HEXA-X

HEXA-X [3] is an aspiration 2030 vision and beyond. In particular, it is devoted to investigating the challenges of green market competency, digital involvement, and post-pandemic reality with an intensive focus on health and safety. It is a flagship intelligent fabric of technology enablers connecting the human, physical, and digital worlds. Eventually, HEXA-X aims to secure the physical, digital, and human worlds towards B5G/6G in the following topics

          • fundamentally new radio access technologies at high frequencies and high-resolution localization and sensing;
          • connected intelligence through AI-driven air interface and governance for future networks, and
          • 6G architectural enablers for network disaggregation and dynamic dependability.

1. Technical and research challenges

Six main research challenges were identified in HEXA-X. The challenges shall address the technical foundation (see figure 3) for the wireless systems of the B5G/6G era:


Figure 3 B5G/6G requirements

Connecting intelligence: 6G shall assume a crucial role and responsibility for large-scale deployments of intelligence in the wider society. 6G shall provide a framework to support, enhance, and, ultimately enable real-time trustworthy control transforming AI/Machine Learning (ML) technologies into a vital and trusted tool for significantly improved efficiency and service experience, with the human factor integrated.

Network of networks: 6G shall aggregate multiple types of resources, including communication, data, and AI processing that optimally connect at different scales, ranging from, e.g., in-body, intra-machine, indoor, data centers, to wide areas networks. Their integration results in an enormous digital ecosystem that grows more and more capable, intelligent, complex, and heterogeneous, and eventually create a single network of networks. It will serve various needs, support different nodes and means of connectivity, and handle mass-scale deployment and operation fulfilling a large diversity of requirements with utmost efficiency and flexibility, promoting business and economic growth, and addressing major societal challenges, like sustainable development, and health, safety, and the digital divide.

Sustainability: 6G shall transform networks into an energy-optimized digital infrastructure and will deeply revise the full resource chains of wireless networks for a reduced global ICT environmental footprint. Its digital fabric shall also create the ability to sense and understand the state of the physical world in real-time and as such boost sustainability from the environmental, economic, and social perspectives delivering effective and sustainable digitization tools for global industry, society, and policymakers, in particular after the Covid-19 pandemic, towards a circular economy and a sustainable world.

Global service coverage: 6G shall put digital inclusion as one of the top priorities and encompass efficient and affordable solutions for global service coverage, connecting remote places, e.g., in rural areas, transport over oceans or vast landmasses, enabling new services and businesses that will promote economic growth and reduce digital divide as well as improving safety and operation efficiency in those currently uncovered areas.

Extreme experience: 6G shall provide extreme bitrates, extremely low latencies, seemingly infinite capacity, and precision localization and sensing, pushing the performance of networks a leap beyond what is possible with 5G unlocking commercial values of new technologies at GHz-THz range, supporting the extreme experience of services, e.g. fully immersive communication or remote control at scale, and accelerating the pace of digitization.

Trustworthiness: 6G shall ensure the confidentiality and integrity of end-to-end communications, and guarantee data privacy, operation resilience, and security, building the trust of wireless networks as well as its enabled applications among consumers and enterprises – supporting and promoting European values of security, trust, and privacy protection as well as the technological EU sovereignty goal for fostering an open, trustworthy, and deeper democratic Europe in the digital age.

Trustworthiness: 6G shall ensure the confidentiality and integrity of end-to-end communications, and guarantee data privacy, operation resilience, and security, building the trust of wireless networks as well as its enabled applications among consumers and enterprises – supporting and promoting European values of security, trust, and privacy protection as well as the technological EU sovereignty goal for fostering an open, trustworthy, and deeper democratic Europe in the digital age.

In light of the above challenges, the 6G flagship initiative HEXA-X has been established, by bringing together the key industry stakeholders, along with the full value-chain of future connectivity solutions ranging from network vendors, operators, verticals, and technology providers, as well as the most prominent European research institutes and universities in this domain, streamlining expert forces and creating a critical mass to lead an integrated effort of research and development towards 6G in the various objectives such as the foundation for end-to-end system architecture, radio performance towards 6G, connecting intelligence towards 6G and network evolution and expansion towards 6G.

2. Vertical Trials

HEXA-X has built on top of the aforementioned foundation a set of use cases. These use cases encompass a wide range of usages, from evolutionary ones, extending and enriching the 5G usages with new capabilities, to more disruptive ones, opening up new horizons where 6G could benefit and transform society. These use cases are clustered into families of use cases, according to the type of usage and research challenge addressed. Trustworthiness is a common value shared by all families of use cases, as well as sustainability. Global service coverage is the other value emphasized, and different use cases gathered in a use case family Sustainable development, illustrate how 6G can contribute to the transformation of society, targeting UN sustainable development goals and the EU Green Deal, providing global access to digital services and energy-optimized infrastructures and services. Massive twinning is another use case family involving the massive use of digital twins to represent and control the physical world. The Telepresence use case family covers immersive telepresence for enhanced interactions, involving mixed reality or merged reality, providing an extreme and fully immersive experience. The use case family Robots to cobots includes various use cases involving interacting robots, at home to facilitate everyday life as well as in professional environments to improve the efficiency of processes. 6G will also integrate multiple sorts of networks and handle the complexity and heterogeneity of a network of networks. The use case family Local trust zones encompass different use cases, involving nanoscale in-body networks to wide-area deployment of sensor networks.

3GPP Standardization

Various technology-driven KPIs developed for current and emerging 5G technologies (e.g., peak data rate, ultra-reliability, traffic increase) are seen as valid for 6G with respective increments in capability. However, they should be critically reviewed and new KPIs need to be seriously considered. Initial 6G KPIs have been divided into technology and productivity-driven KPIs and sustainability and society-driven KPIs. The former can be further categorized as latency, jitter, link budget, extended range/coverage, 3D-mapping fidelity, existing tuned 5G KPIs, position accuracy and update rate, cost, and energy-related KPIs. The latter covers the inclusion of vertical players in the definition of requirements and standardization, transparency KPIs (e.g., related to AI), privacy/security/trust KPIs, global use case-oriented APIs, UN SDG inspired KPIs, open-source everything, and ethics KPIs. Based on HEXA-X, we will list insights on 3GPP connected with the current 5G projects as shown in Table 1.

Table 1 3GPP insights toward 6G
 


Conclusions 

In Summary, 5G-CORAL project leverages the pervasiveness of edge and fog computing in the Radio RAN to create a unique opportunity for access convergence using the EFS substrate and the OCS substrate for managing and controlling the EFS. ITRI team utilized 5G-CORAL solution at ITRI museum (showroom) to provide a unique distributed AR experience. 5G-DIVE targets end-to-end 5G trials aimed at proving the technical merits and business value proposition of 5G technologies in two vertical pilots, namely (i) Industry 4.0 and (ii) Autonomous Drone Scout. ITRI team contributed significantly to the scalable DEEP platform for the 5G end-to-end aerial disaster relief response system. HEXA-X is a flagship for 6G vision and an intelligent fabric of technology enablers connecting human, physical, and digital worlds. Six main research challenges were identified as integral parts of the 6G HEXA-X vision: connecting intelligence, network of networks, sustainability, global service coverage, extreme experience, and trustworthiness. 3GPP standardization is moving towards the 6G open issues (suggested by B5G/6G projects) but doesn’t endorse all of them.

References 


[1] "5G-CORAL", [Online] Available at:
https://5g-coral.eu/.
[2] "5G-DIVE", [Online] Available at:
https://5g-dive.eu/.
[3] "HEXA-X", [Online] Available at:
https://hexa-x.eu/.
[4] TR. 38.821, "Solutions for NR to support non-terrestrial networks", Release 16, 2020.
[5] TS. 38.174, "NR Integrated Access and Backhaul (IAB) radio transmission and reception”, Release 16, 2021.
[6] TR. 26.928, "Extended Reality (XR) in 5G”, Release 16, 2020.
[7] United Nations : THE 17 , 2019.
[8] TR. 23.748, "Study on enhancement of support for Edge Computing in 5G Core network (5GC)", Release 17, 2020.
[9] TS. 29.520, "5G System; Network Data Analytics Services",Release 17, 2020.

 

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