9th Workshop on “5G – Putting Intelligence to the Network Edge” (5G-PINE 2024)

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Motivation

 

The 9th 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/6G 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-/6G-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 purely innovative 5G/6G 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 – already established in the global market – 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). The challenges are however becoming much greater and cover a broader scope of activities if progress beyond 5G (B5G) is taken into account and/or even with “flavors” of “what is to be later called as the 6G”. 

Consequently, the vision of the future 5G/6G Radio Access Network (RAN) corresponds to a highly heterogeneous network with unprecedented requirements in terms of capacity, efficiency, reliability, and 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-like 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 now seen that SON features are being evolved towards a more proactive approach able to exploit the huge amount of data available by an involved (Mobile) Network Operator and to incorporate additional dimensions coming from the assessment of end-users’ experiences and end-user’s behavior. Then, SON can be strongly enhanced through Artificial Intelligence (AI) and/or Machine Learning (ML) 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/6G ecosystem, understanding hidden patterns, data structures and relationships, and using them for a more efficient network management.

Moreover, 5G/6G 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/6G targets at offering rich virtualization and multi-tenant capabilities, not only in term of partitioning network capacity among multiple tenants, but also by offering dynamic processing capabilities on-demand, optimally deployed close to the end-users. Furthermore, the Small Cell (SC) concept will be further enriched in the context of 5G/6G 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 and/or ML-based tools may be the “key issue” for a variety of factors that could ensure the proper development and exploitation of 5G/6G telecommunications infrastructures in modern economies!

 

Current experimental platforms for 5G/6G 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 and B5G 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/6G 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.

Here, the critical challenge for the market becomes the provision of appropriate 5G/6G infrastructures that will have the inherent capacity, capability, reliability, availability and security to provide this seamless life support in a timely and sustainable way. This new network infrastructure has to be capable of connecting people, processes, hardware and computer centres, content, knowledge, information, goods, and other “things” at high speed according to a multiplicity of application specific requirements. For these reasons 5G/B5G is not just an evolution; it is a pure revolutionary process that implicates for appropriate plans and suitable applied measurements!

Although several Releases of 5G specifications have been finalized and related commercial products are already available to a great extent in the global market, the evolution of what is called as Beyond 5G (B5G) networks is a continuous process that has considerable impact on the provision of novel services as well as on the wider electronic communications sector. The support of emerging applications that gradually appear (e.g., Internet of senses, holographic communications, full autonomous driving, etc.) will undoubtedly require the improvement of the offered capabilities of B5G systems in terms of some suitable Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) by at least an order of magnitude, if compared to existing 5G ones. Furthermore, new innovations are closely related to social inclusion and personal well-being, as well as the digital transformation of industries and businesses and are dependent upon the offering of appropriate NetApps. These changes implicate for a flexible and programmable architecture to satisfy the large diversity of use cases and of related applications, practically covering a broad framework of verticals in diverse market sectors. In addition, there are actual trends that the next generation of networks beyond 5G will go from “software-centric” towards the concept of “human-centric”, implicating that human skills, activities and behaviours shall be considered together with the use of automated functions to support them. The expected corresponding benefits can include, inter-alia, reduction of risks, higher rates of compliance, enhanced management support and improved interaction with the involved end-users. Such modern functionalities, however, need to be adopted to the underlying infrastructures in parallel with more advanced security and privacy schemes so that to safeguard sensitive information for the participating users.

Among others, the 9th Workshop on “5G-/6G- 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/6G 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 5G-/B5G-based solutions, especially relevant to verticals?

·      How evolution of innovation at the network edge can support the establishment and the operation of platforms to act as real “5G/6G 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-/6G-oriented scenarios?

·      How to propose suitable business models to fulfill expectations originating from 5G/6G?

·      How can regulation affect the expected 5G/6G deployment and growth?

·      How the can regulation affect the expected 5G/6G deployment and growth?

·      What are the challenges implicated by the fast growth of artificial intelligence and machine learning, especially towards the expected evolution of “Beyond 5G networks”?

·      How B5G networks and applications are expected to create new opportunities for growth in the market and create new paths for revenues?

 

The effort is 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 revolutionize 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.

In addition, the effort is also to be oriented to the context of the to the on-going (5G-PPP/H2020) EU-funded project “MARSAL” (Machine learning-based, networking and computing infrastructure resource management of 5G and beyond intelligent networks, https://www.marsalproject.eu/, Grant Agreement (GA) No.101017171). MARSAL targets the development and evaluation of a complete framework for the management and orchestration of network resources in 5G and beyond, by utilising a converged optical-wireless network infrastructure in the access and fronthaul/midhaul segments. MARSAL proposes a new paradigm of elastic virtual infrastructures that integrate – in a transparent manner – a variety of novel radio access, networking, management and security technologies, which will be developed to deliver end-to-end transfer, processing and storage services in an efficient and secured way. MARSAL focuses on three pillars to enable a new generation of ultra-dense, cost-efficient, flexible and secure networks, that is: network design pillar, virtual elastic infrastructure pillar, and network security pillar. For the network design pillar, MARSAL pushes cell-free networking towards the distributed processing cell-free concept, and enables wireless mmWave solutions, which will be implemented and integrated with existing vRAN elements, while being in-line with the O-RAN Alliance. In parallel, in the fronthaul/midhaul segments MARSAL aims to radically increase the flexibility of optical access architectures for Beyond-5G Cell Site connectivity via different levels of fixed-mobile convergence. MARSAL’s second pillar is built based on the Elastic Edge Computing notion, targeting to optimize the functionality of the Mobile Edge Computing (MEC) and the network slicing management systems via a hierarchy of analytic and decision engines. The aim is to provide a comprehensive framework for the management of the entire set of communication and computational network resources. Under its third pillar, MARSAL will develop novel Machine Learning (ML) based mechanisms that guarantee privacy and security in multi-tenancy environments, targeting both end-users and tenants. This will allow applications and users to maintain control over their data when relying on the deployed shared infrastructures, while AI (Artificial Intelligence) and Blockchain technologies will be developed, to guarantee a secured multi-tenant slicing environment.

The thematic of the workshop touches upon the research domains explored by the EU-funded (5G-PPP/H2020 Work Program) project “5G-INDUCE (Open cooperative 5G experimentation platforms for the industrial sector NetApps, https://www.5g-induce.eu/, Grant Agreement No.101016941).

G-INDUCE targets the development of an open, ETSI NFV compatible, 5G orchestration platform for the deployment of advanced 5G Network Applications. The platform’s unique features provide the capability to the Network Application developers to define and modify the application requirements, while the underlay intelligent OSS can expose the network capabilities to the end users on the application level without revealing any infrastructure related information. This process enables an application-oriented network management and optimization approach that is in line with the operator’s role as manager of its own facilities, while it offers the development framework environment to any developer and service provider through which tailored made applications can be designed and deployed, for the benefit of vertical industries and without any indirect dependency through a cloud provider.

Relevance of the related actions will also be about the framework of the EU-funded (Horizon Work Program) project “OASEES” (Open Autonomous programmable cloud appS & smart EdgE Sensors, https://oasees-project.eu/, Grant Agreement No.101092702).

The massive increase in device connectivity and generated data has resulted in the proliferation of intelligent processing services to create insights and exploit data in a multi-modal manner. Currently, the most powerful data processing operates in a centralized manner in the cloud, which provides the ability to scale and allocate resources on demand and efficiently. Centralized processing and cloud hosting, bound and limit their services and applications to operate in a resource restricted manner, relying usually on large single entities to provide: (i) authentication; (ii) data storage; (iii) data processing; (iv) connectivity; (v) vendor-locked environments for development and orchestration. This significantly limits the user from its data governance and even identity management. In a similar way, existing solutions for edge device authentication require a centralized entity to trust them and authenticate them, rendering a non-portable identification paradigm. OASEES aims to create an open, decentralized, intelligent, programmable edge framework for Swarm architectures and applications, leveraging the Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO) paradigm and integrating Human-in-the-Loop (HITL) processes for efficient decision making. The OASEES vision is to provide the open tools and secure environments for swarm programming and orchestration for numerous fields, in a completely decentralized manner.

The intended context is also affected by the conceptual framework of the EU-funded (Horizon JU SNS Work Program) project “6G-BRICKS” (Building Reusable testbed Infrastructures for validating Cloud-to-device breaKthrough technologieS, https://6g-bricks.eu/, Grant Agreement No.101096954).

6G networks, currently only existing as concepts, are envisioned as portals to a fully digitized society, where the physical and virtual world are blended via boundless Extended Reality (XR), and also as an enabler for the Digital and Green transformation of the European Industries. To support this vision, the network capacity must be increased at least by an order of magnitude, while infrastructures must be transformed into a very dense continuum. Thus, academia and industry have shifted their attention to the investigation of a new generation of Smart Networks and infrastructures. Aiming to win this race towards shaping the next-generation communication ecosystem, a new generation of testbed infrastructures and breakthrough research and technology development is needed, as well as a new generation of testbeds to support future research initiative. To this end, 6G-BRICKS aims to deliver a new 6G facility, building on the baseline of mature ICT-52 platforms, that bring breakthrough cell-free and RIS (Reconfigurable Intelligent Surface) technologies that have shown promise for beyond 5G networks. Moreover, novel unified control paradigms based on Explainable AI and Machine Reasoning are explored.

Aiming to “delineate” the expected transition towards 6G, the 5G-PINE 2024 Workshop will also be supported by the framework proposed by the on-going EU-funded (Horizon JU SNS Work Program) project “6G-PATH” (6G Pilots and Trials Through Europe, Grant Agreement No.101139172).

6G-PATH’s goal is to help foster the further development and integration of new and improved tools and products from EU companies with 5G/6G, while also measuring relevant KPIs and KVIs. To achieve this, seven (7) dedicated testbeds will be part of the project consortium, which will be used by ten (10) use cases spread across four (4) key verticals of the market, that is: Health, Education, Smart Cities and Farming. Moreover, in the detailed context for Financial Support to Third Parties (FSTP), the project envisions the integration of two (2) new pilot sites, extension of the testbeds with ten (10) additional technologies as well as thirty (30) new Use Cases, through Open Calls, to further involve the community and obtain more metrics and outcomes. 6G-PATH plans to work closely with other ongoing/starting SNS JU Stream-B and Stream-C projects in a “feedback” loop, to promote innovation.

Strong feedback will also be provided by the framework of the “DATAMITE” HORIZON project (DATA Monetization, Interoperability, Trading & Exchange, https://datamite-horizon.eu/, Grant Agreement No.101092989), that foresees to revolutionize the European Data Market by helping users, such SMEs, large enterprises and public administrations, to better monetize, govern and enhance the trust of their data, empowering them to become new relevant players in the data economy. DATAMITE empowers European companies by delivering a modular, open-source and multi-domain Framework to improve DATA Monetizing, Interoperability, Trading and Exchange, in the form of software modules, training, and business materials. In particular, this project unleashes the monetization potential at two levels, that is: (i) At internal level, users will have tools to improve quality management of their data, the adherence to FAIR (Findability, Accessibility, Interoperability and Reusability) principles and will be able to upskill on technical and business aspects thanks to the multiple open-source training materials the project will generate; therefore, data will become trustable and more reliable also in other paradigms like Artificial Intelligence (AI), and; (ii) at external level, keeping users in control of their data will provide new sources of revenue and interaction with other stakeholders. DATAMITE will validate its  results in three (3) different use cases with a total of six (6) pilots, demonstrating that the related framework is interoperable and usable in different domains and user needs, as: (i) Intra-corporate, multi-domain data exchange; (ii) data trading among Data Spaces, and; (iii) integration with other initiatives as Data Markets, EU AI-on-demand platform or DIHs. Sectors of prime importance covered by the pilots are: agriculture, energy, industrial and manufacturing and climate.

 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-/6G-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 and SNS JU (Smart Network and Services Joint Undertaking) projects actually having cooperation with Smart5Grid, MARSAL, 5G-INDUCE, OASEES, 6G-BRICKS, 6G-PATH and DATAMITE are also to “join” the 9th “5G-PINE” Workshop, by providing results and/or other experiences based upon their progress.

Some of the 5G-PPP projects of phase 3 and the SNS JU projects of phases 1 and 2 (i.e., those that are relevant to the 5G-PINE 2024 Workshop / AIAI 2024 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 6th 5G-PINE Workshop has been virtually organized in the context of the AIAI-2021 International Conference (Hersonissos, Heraklion, Crete, Greece, June 2021).

The 7th 5G-PINE Workshop has been virtually organized in the context of the AIAI-2022 International Conference (Hersonissos, Heraklion, Crete, Greece, June 2022).

The 8th 5G-PINE Workshop has been organized in the context of the AIAI-2023 International Conference (Léon, Spain, June 2023).

The actual 9th 5G-PINE Workshop is proposed in the context of the AIAI-2024 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 7 main organising projects (i.e.: Smart5Grid, MARSAL, 5G-INDUCE, OASEES, 6G-BRICKS, 6G-PATH and DATAMITE), as well as to the evolution of other EU projects (such as, for example, “6G-INTENSE”, “SUNRISE-6G”, “NANCY”, “AMBITIOUS”, “NEMO”, “DAEMON”, “VITAL-5G”, “5G-ERA”, “SMARTENANCE”).

The 9th 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 covering several among the identified specific topics and possible application areas (as discussed in the section below).