6th Workshop on “5G – Putting Intelligence to the Network Edge” (5G-PINE 2021)

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Motivation

 

The 6th 5G-PINE Workshop has been established to disseminate knowledge obtained from ongoing EU projects as well as from any other action of EU-funded research, in the wider thematic area of “5G Innovative Activities – Putting Intelligence to the Network Edge” and with the aim of focusing on Artificial Intelligence (AI) in modern 5G telecommunications infrastructures.

This should take place by emphasizing upon associated results, methodologies, trials, concepts and/or findings originating from technical reports/deliverables, from related pilot actions and/or any other relevant 5G-based applications, intending to enhance intelligence to the network edges.

 

Internet grows into a more “complex” and “sophisticated” entity than it was originally intended to be some years ago. Actually, it is much more than “simply a modern communication system” as it comprises of numerous essential parts and/or “components” of modern networks, platforms, infrastructures and of related (usually innovative) facilities together with multi-generated “content” and a variety of connected equipment and devices. Internet is the essential “core” of our modern world towards creating a real knowledge-based society and a variety of businesses providing numerous challenges for development and growth. New and unexpected applications and services are nowadays emerging from cutting-edge technological developments that “shape” the requirements for future progress and this dynamic evolution makes the entire context of reference “more fascinating”. Internet’s rapid evolution also influences socio-economic, environmental and cultural aspects of modern society. The Future (Internet-based) Networks aim to enable smart connectivity for all, anywhere, at any time at the highest speed and efficiency fulfilling the overwhelming demands of today’s modern societies, but also overcoming challenges about security, privacy, etc.


The convergence of telecommunications and IT systems in future networks will result in open platforms which will enable new opportunities for innovation and new business models for all involved market players (especially for the SMEs). This will, in turn, require more systematic adoption of software defined networking (SDN) concepts to adapt future networks to new requirements allowing continuous and fast innovation cycles in the communication infrastructures and in the Internet as well as for the promotion of modern network and service management features.

In any case, the communication network and service environment of the future will be enormously enhanced and much more complex than the one of today.  The corresponding network infrastructures will be capable of “connecting everything” according to a diversity of application-specific requirements, that is: People, things, processes, computing centres, content, knowledge, information, goods; and all these in a quite flexible, really mobile, and powerful way. Thus, it is expected that the Future Internet (FI) - based context will encompass an intense variety of connected sensors, connected (smart) vehicles, smart meters and smart home gadgets way beyond our current experience of tablet and smartphone connectivity. As a consequence, the forthcoming and purely innovative 5G technological framework promotes the design/establishment and operation of a next generation network that will provide reliable, omnipresent, ultra-low latency, broadband connectivity, and will be able of managing critical and demanding applications/services, which are further modified by new challenging personalized applications, proliferate at an immense rate.

The new generation of mobile and wireless systems, identified as the 5th Generation (5G), intends to deliver solutions to the continuously increasing demand for mobile broadband services associated with the immense penetration of wireless equipment while, simultaneously supporting new use cases associated to customers of new market segments and vertical industries (e.g., e-health and wellness, automotive, energy, industry 4.0, transport and logistics, smart cities and utilities, media and entertainment, public safety, agriculture and agri-food, and many more).

Consequently, the vision of the future 5G Radio Access Network (RAN) corresponds to a highly heterogeneous network with unprecedented requirements in terms of capacity, latency or data rates. To efficiently cope with this enormous heterogeneity and complexity, the RAN planning and optimization processes can benefit -at a large extent- from exploiting cognitive capabilities that embrace knowledge and intelligence.

In this direction, legacy systems already started the automation in the planning and optimization processes through Self-Organizing Network (SON) functionalities. In 5G, also by assessing the dawn of big data technologies, it is envisioned that SON can be further evolved towards a more proactive approach able to exploit the huge amount of data available by a (Mobile) Network Operator and to incorporate additional dimensions coming from the characterization of end-user experience and end-user behavior. Then, SON can be enhanced through Artificial Intelligence (AI) - based tools, able to smartly process input data from the environment and come up with knowledge that can be formalized in terms of models and/or structured metrics that represent the network behavior.

This will allow gaining in-depth and detailed knowledge about the whole 5G ecosystem, understanding hidden patterns, data structures and relationships, and using them for a more efficient network management.

Moreover, 5G aims to deliver intelligence directly to the network edge by exploiting the emerging paradigms of Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) and Edge Cloud Computing (ECC). In particular, 5G targets at offering rich virtualization and multi-tenant capabilities, not only in term of partitioning network capacity among multiple tenants, but also offering dynamic processing capabilities on-demand, optimally deployed close to the end-user. Furthermore, the Small Cell (SC) concept will be enriched in the context of 5G with virtualization and edge computing capabilities, so that to support improved cellular coverage, capacity and applications for homes and enterprises, as well as dense metropolitan and rural public spaces in a purely dynamic and flexible manner.

The potential benefits from such a combined approach of Network Virtualization, Edge Computing and Small Cells with the aim of improving network management, trigger the interest of Communications Service Providers - CSPs (such as Mobile Network Operators (MNOs), Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) and/or Over-The-Top (OTT) content and service providers), by generating the emerging of new business models and allowing them to gain an extra share in the network market by pursuing emerging business models.

Correlation between the above conceptual approach and AI-based tools may be the “key issue” for a variety of factors that could ensure the proper development and exploitation of 5G telecommunications infrastructures in modern economies!

 

Current experimental platforms for 5G in Europe are the results of private and public joint efforts at national and European level. Accelerating trial capabilities and other pilots, the related platforms remain subject to continuous efforts targeting the full 5G picture and future evolutions. As such, actual 5G infrastructure deployment roadmap is highly dependent on the capability to deliver relevant and comprehensive set of platforms addressing remaining gaps & appearing challenges.


From a high-level perspective, one way to “view” the 5G ecosystem can be in terms of Platforms (i.e.: Hardware (HW) and Software (SW)), Services and Use Cases (UCs). For new Platforms and Services to be created and become applicable in the market sector, investment and development are required. More than evident, key decisions need to be taken, both business-wise and technically. Business cases have so to be developed, while tests, trials and evaluations conducted to satisfy the various stakeholders need to be performed. Considering the vertical sectors, these will make use of the new Platforms and Services and will generate innovative Use Cases for their particular sector. Again investment and development will be required (new processes or ways of doing business may need to be considered), key decisions will be taken, business cases will be developed and evaluations need to be conducted.

 

Among others, the 6th Workshop on “5G- Putting Intelligence at the Network Edge” aims to investigate and give answers to the following research questions:

  • What are the requirements for the successful “combination” of the three fundamental concepts, (i.e. NFV, Small Cells and Edge Computing), towards serving more efficient network management?
  • How the above concepts could be correlated to suitable autonomic-cognitive cycles?
  • How SON functionalities can be integrated in modern 5G infrastructures and how such functionalities can be enhanced through appropriate AI-based tools?
  • Which applications/services may benefit most, e.g., Internet of Things and Fog Computing?
  • Which may be the new business models that may arise due to the “Intelligence at the network edge”?
  • How progress at the network edge can support development of eMBB and V2X solutions, especially relevant to global 5G challenges also aiming to serve the automotive sector?
  • How evolution of innovation at the network edge can support the establishment and the operation of platforms to act as real “5G enablers”?
  • What are the security and privacy implications of placing intelligence at the network edge?
  • How to guarantee continuity and quality of service, also within the framework of the wider “quality of experience”, while placing intelligence at the network edge?
  • Are there any foreseen trade-offs, e.g., low latency vs. increase of intra-domain traffic?
  • How to handle the explosion of the traffic and provide the necessary capacity and spectrum?
  • How to flexibly accommodate novel classes of services (IoT, M2M, or content-based, and others which are not known today) whilst keeping low CAPEX and OPEX?
  • How to develop use cases of interest in verticals and to examine opportunities for growth in the broader telecommunications market?
  • How to promote new applications in the fields of network softwarization and virtualization?
  • How to develop the Small Cell-as-a-Service (SCaaS) context in 5G-oriented scenarios?
  • How to propose suitable business models to fulfill expectations originating from 5G?
  • How can regulation affect the expected 5G deployment and growth?

 

The effort is expected to be around the thematic context of the actual EU-funded H2020 project “5G-DRIVE” ( 5G HarmoniseD Research and TrIals for serVice Evolution between EU and China, https://5g-drive.eu/, Grant Agreement (GA) No.814956), which aims at testing and validating the interoperability between EU and China 5G networks for V2X (“Vehicle-to-Everything”) scenarios, being the only EU-funded project in this thematic area. 5G-DRIVE will trial and validate the interoperability between EU and China 5G networks operating at 3.5 GHz bands for enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB) and 3.5 & 5.9 GHz bands for V2X scenarios. More specifically, 5G-DRIVE: (i) Predicts for joint trials and research activities to facilitate technology convergence, spectrum harmonization and business innovation before large scale commercial deployments of 5G networks take place; (ii) aims to develop key 5G technologies and pre-commercial testbeds for eMBB and V2X services in collaboration with the twinned Chinese project led by China Mobile, and; (iii) promotes trials for testing and validating key 5G functionalities, services and network planning, as will be conducted in eight cities across the EU and China. The project “triggers” the roll-out of real 5G networks and V2X innovative solutions, thus driving new business opportunities. Therefore, 5G-DRIVE intends to support 5G harmonization & R&I (Research & Innovation) cooperation between EU and China through strong connected trials & research activities, with a committed mutual support from the China “5G Product R&D Large-scale Trial” project led by China Mobile. The 5G-DRIVE effort will test and demonstrate the latest 5G key technologies in pre-commercial 5G networks. The project will run three extensive trials in Finland, Italy and UK.

In addition, the effort is also to be oriented to the context of the MCSA EU-funded project “MOTOR5G” (MObility and Training fOR beyond 5G Ecosystems, https://www.motor5g.eu/, Grant Agreement (GA) No.861219).

The main objective of the project MOTOR5G is to motivate and skill competitive young researchers through involvement and engagement in a variety of research activities enabling them to work on real-life technical issues, across multiple European countries and organizations, and providing a strong networking opportunity through participation as speakers in conference and workshop events and through engagement with industry and other stakeholders (e.g., standardization). The project focus is upon embedding artificial intelligence into 5G communication systems for the smarter use of network-generated data, the automated enabling of network operators and service providers to adapt to changes in traffic patterns, security risks and user behavior and thus paving the way towards safe and reliable next-generation wireless ecosystems. MOTOR5G considers aspects such as use of drone-based technology for enhanced multi-antenna and data forwarding techniques, use of artificial intelligence for novel adaptive digital beamforming techniques applied on realistic antenna arrays; communications in the millimetre-wave bands, blockchain-based approach to spectrum management and sharing, use of machine learning for enhanced quality of experience, and would in parallel focus on novel business models to sustain profitable operation of beyond 5G ecosystems. Three demonstration scenarios have been planned: localization, drone-based communications, and combined 5G-based video production and video distribution network in a stadium.

The thematic of the workshop touches upon the research domains explored by the EU-funded (5G-PPP/H2020 Work Program) project “5G-VICTORI” (Vertical demos over common large scale field trials for rail, energy and media industries, https://www.5g-victori-project.eu/) (Grant Agreement No. 857201). The project aims at conducting large scale 5G network trials for advanced vertical use cases focusing on Transportation, Energy, Media and Factories of the Future, by leveraging and exploiting existing facilities of ICT-17 infrastructures (i.e. 5G-VINNI, 5GENESIS and 5G-EVE) and the 5G UK test-bed in a Pan-European Infrastructure, where resources and functions are exposed to ICT and vertical industries, and can be accessed, shared on demand and deployed to compose very diverse sets of services in a large variety of ecosystems. Mobile Edge Computing has been identified as a cornerstone network capability for the delivery of the required performance for a significant number of vertical industries, indicatively, for the mission critical services of the Railway industry, for the data-demanding services of modern CDNs (Content Delivery Networks), for the precision-critical services of the Factories of the Future, etc. To this end, research on Mobile Edge Computing and intelligent algorithms is in the core of 5G-VICTORI activities, which span from inter-facility deployments on local, Mobile Edge Computing network infrastructures via intelligent centralized orchestration, up to putting intelligence on network edge towards supporting MEC mobility.

The effort is also related to the on-going (5G-PPP/H2020) EU-funded project Smart5Grid” (Smart5Grid - Demonstration of 5G solutions for SMART energy GRIDs of the future, https://smart5grid.eu/, Grant Agreement No.101016912). 5G is envisioned to be the first global technology standard that will address the variety of future use cases of the energy sector, by ensuring that both the radio and core network performance requirements can be met in terms of end-to-end latency, reliability and availability. Up-to-now, the main discussion for 5G has been to support the next wave of smart grid features and efficiency at the behind-the-meter level, by integrating many low-voltage devices into the power grid through low-cost connections, managing demand and load balance domestically, aiming the reduction of the electricity peaks and energy costs. However, it is expected that, as the emergence of smart grids will grow, a lion share of the growth will take place in the medium-voltage levels: towards secondary substations and distributed energy resources, as well as between secondary substations and primary substation. Smart5Grid aims to revolutionise the Energy Vertical industry through the successful establishment of four fundamental functions of modern smart grids, i.e.: (i) Automatic power distribution grid fault detection; (ii) remote inspection of automatically delimited working areas at distribution level; (iii) millisecond level precise distribution generation control, and; (iv) real-time wide area monitoring in a creative cross-border scenario, thus assisting power grid operators and other energy stakeholders (e.g., smart grid operators, distribution system operators/transmission system operators, energy service providers, etc.). Furthermore, Smart5Grid introduces an open 5G experimental facility, supporting integration, testing and validation of existing and new 5G services and NetApps from third parties (i.e., SMEs, developers, engineers, etc., that do not belong in the consortium) since underpinning experimentation with a fully softwarised 5G platform for the energy vertical industry is one of the key targets of the proposal. Moreover, in order to supply start-ups and newcomers with the opportunity to accelerate their growth in the high impact industry of the energy vertical, Smart5Grid provides an open access NetApp repository, provisioning support and assistance to third parties through a clear and trustworthy experimentation roadmap.

The above “joint approach” is expected to “delineate” a new conceptual approach with dedicated paradigms and scenarios of use of market significance that can serve as “guidelines” for any further evolution process.

Among the “core” aims will be the structuring of a novel 5G-oriented network architecture that will be able to serve not only modern mobile broadband applications/services but simultaneously multiple domains coming from vertical industries, thus promoting 5G inclusion in a variety of market sectors (such as automotive, health, transportation, tourism, agriculture, industry, media and many more).

It is expected that other European 5G-PPP projects actually having cooperation with 5G-DRIVE, MOTOR5G, 5G-VICTORI and Smart5Grid, are also to “join” the 6th “5G-PINE” Workshop, by providing results and/or other experiences based upon their progress.

Some of these 5G-PPP projects  of phase 3 (i.e., those that are relevant to the 5G-PINE 2021 Workshop / AIAI 2021 framework) are to be officially invited to contribute to the Workshop.

The 1st 5G-PINE Workshop has been organized in the context of the AIAI-2016 International Conference (Thessaloniki, Greece, September 2016).

The 2nd 5G-PINE Workshop has been organized in the context of the EANN-2017 International Conference (Athens, Greece, August 2017).

The 3rd 5G-PINE Workshop has been organized in the context of the AIAI-2018 International Conference (Rhodes, Greece, May 2018).

The 4th 5G-PINE Workshop has been organized in the context of the AIAI-2019 International Conference (Hersonissos, Heraklion, Crete, Greece, May 2019).

The 5th 5G-PINE Workshop has been virtually organized in the context of the AIAI-2020 International Conference (Chalkidiki, Greece, June 2020).

The actual 6th 5G-PINE Workshop is proposed in the context of the AIAI-2021 International Conference as a conceptual “continuity” of the previous workshops, but now it should be more oriented to AI-based solutions and challenges, in order to promote solutions for more enhanced network management in modern 5G networks. Among others, special emphasis is to be given to actual trials and related efforts at European and at global level, promoting the validation and adoption of modern 5G-based solution and services.  

This is to take place according to the technical progress and the evolution of the 5G ESSENCE project (as well as to the evolution of other 5G-PPP projects of phase 3 (such as, for example, “5G-EVE”, “5GENESIS”, “5G-HEART”, “5G-TOURS”, “5G!DRONES”, “LOCUS”, “MonB5G”) and/or other invited H2020 projects (such as, for example, “RESISTO”, “FASTER”, “Cyber-Trust”).

The 6th 5G-PINE Workshop intends to realize a framework of an open and interactive cooperation and for exchanging ideas, knowledge and practices between several EU-funded projects (coming from H2020 and 5G-PPP) covering several among the identified specific topics and possible application areas (as discussed in the section below).