Since the relatively recent and effective introduction and commercialization of 5G, in 2018/19, the bandwidth requirements in buildings, communities, parks and even cities have been increasing, which has greatly increased communication and cooperation in a wide variety of fields within personal and business spheres, around the world. For academics and R&D experts, however, their attention has already moved on to the potential and future introduction of 6G communication system, but what that will look like is still in development. Essentially, 6G applications will present on options the developing trends of immersion, intelligence and globalization, with eight major business applications forming, such as immersive cloud XR, holographic communication, sensory interconnection, intelligent interaction, communication perception, inclusive intelligence, digital twinning, and ubiquitous coverage.
With some experts have pointed out that the 5G ecosystem is still undergoing its own evolution and that it is, perhaps, too early to talk about the step up to a differentiated 6G concept, the question of how should we define 6G is a valid point. In addition, what kind of impact can 6G bring to society, compared with its forebears in 4G and 5G?
In his latest interview, Dr. Yang Yang, Terminus Group Chief Scientist on the Internet of Things(IoT), shared his view on what 6G is expected to bring to the experience of smart or AI cities. Dr Yang also discussed how 6G will also promote research in AI, communications and other technologies, as well as how it fits into a broader demand for promoting digital-human interaction and accelerate the formation of a society built on that coexistence.
1. For many people, their daily needs can still be met by 4G, and their perception of 5G may yet not be very clear. Is it too early to talk about 6G?
In terms of technical parameters, the bandwidth of 5G is much higher than that of 4G; however, due to a mobile phone's limited screen, the rate of increase is not directly reflected in user needs. This is why many users do not immediately sense that 5G has been greatly improved, compared with 4G.
Perhaps there is a marginal improvement in image quality, but it is not so obvious on mobile phones alone. That said, 5G communication has made great progress in the past three years. In terms of the number of terminals, the deployment of base stations, and the acceptance of users, it has developed very fast, evolving more quickly than 4G, over the same period. The research and development of each generation of communication technology has a timetable, which is planned by the International Telecommunication Union; therefore, 2023 is the key year to standardize and discuss the demand of 6G and, at current estimates, the technology commercialization of 6G may need approximately a decade to be fully realized.
2. How do we define 6G? What will it do that we cannot do now?
In the field of mobile communication, there are many definitions of 6G. A simple way is to increase the core indicators by a factor of 10, in relation to the performance indicators of 5G. This is the view of many academics and developers in the world. In many ways, it is the continuation of our previous thinking of communication – constantly improving the bandwidth, communication speed, end-to-end delay, and other performance indicators, again by a factor of 10. By this relatively simple performance improvement, people will directly feel and notice a significant difference.
3. What are the challenges of promoting the research of 6G? What emerging technologies will 6G promote?
The most important thing at this stage is to work with the International Telecommunication Union and carry out extensive discussion of users' real needs for 6G and complete a demand and application analysis. Personally, I think that if we simply understand 6G as multiplying of the performance indicators of 5G by 10 times, it may not be sufficient to achieve commercial returns in the future, because the improvement of performance needs to lead to a noticeable change in user experience.
For me, a 6G environment would do well to emphasize the users end-to-end integrated service experience, which requires us to integrate different disciplines and technical fields. Therefore, we now have great opportunities for technological innovation and application practice and so I think the quickest development is to integrate technologies in the field of communication, computing, perception, storage and management across borders – to better meet the diverse needs of users.
4. What industries do you think 6G will enable? In what ways will smart cities benefit from 6G technology?
It is hard to have a clear and direct answer on this, but as with the development of 5G, we can see how methods and user experience has been improved but innovations or practical realizations have also been noted. For example, in the original 5G planning scenarios, users were anticipated to have higher and higher requirements for communication bandwidth and speed, but in fact, the resolution of the human eye is limited and, therefore, user experience is not seen in linear growth. 5G also standardizes the scenarios for intelligent manufacturing and IoT, for large connectivity. Now, with the application and promotion of 5G in business, industries have further proposed a 5.5G scenario plan, which is a further improvement of new application scenarios – before moving to 6G.
Besides the 5G applications mentioned earlier, there are also three other proposed applications for 5.5G. One of these is real-time, high-speed, and low-cost Holographic communication, which should be able to meet the high-speed and low-delay requirements of these applications. The second scenario is the integration of communication and perception. This type of communication is ideal for applications such as driverless cars and IoT.
The third component involves video back-transmission, which is when a large amount of information is sent from a terminal to a nearby base station. Before, it was believed that the downlink would only contain a small amount of information due to how many intelligent terminals were being placed in smart cities. With the emergence of these regions, the amount of video that is collected has become more significant. Therefore, it is important that the information is processed and analyzed by the cloud platform.
Of course, as always, user demand and technology development often go hand-in-hand and will continue to dictate how we see this evolution. 6G technology will bring users new experiences in smart cities and related service fields. For example, ubiquitous coverage can be realized by connecting base station equipment to satellites and devices on land, sea and air. In addition, with the close integration of perception, communication and computing technology, through advanced interactive devices such as brain-computer interface, 6G can better achieve the efficient communication between person-to-technology, person-to-person and person-to-robot, based on intention.
All this will undoubtedly bring new service requirements and illuminate technical development routes. This will require ubiquitous and inclusive intelligent hardware and software to achieve real-time processing and intelligent analysis of complex information. In this way, users will certainly be pleasantly surprised to feel see new changes and experiences with 6G will bring to the future work and life, such as immersive XR and holographic communication.
5. Core to its founding mission, Terminus Group has been focused on the innovation of AI CITY or smart cities and communication technology; in your opinion, how has the leadership of the company been a factor in becoming a global leader in this field?
Since joining Terminus Group, just under a year ago, it is apparent to me that the company has been established on a very attractive and competitive entrepreneurial spirit, which is, of course, a direct consequence of the leadership qualities of Victor Ai, the Founder & CEO.
Terminus Group has given me a very good platform for driving innovation in my own research, which can now effectively combine my new ideas and scientific research results with real application scenarios to achieve technology transformation and results landing.
In particular, a large number of AI CITY or smart city application scenarios can promote the continuous precipitation, evolution and optimization of new technologies, and create significant social and economic value through independent scientific and technological innovation. I believe this is the dream and mission of any scientist or engineer.
From a commercial perspective, I've also learned much from Victor, especially on his industry overview and keen observations in the development trends across both the financial and technology markets. Under his leadership, the whole team is driven by a sense of mission that is built around the development and application of new and optimized technology and products that will define the genes and status of future AI CITY or smart city design – all with a human-centric and well-being core.
Of course, there have been many extraordinary challenges over the last few years that have created pressures on all organizations, globally; however, in the past year I have been working at Terminus Group, I have witnessed an incredible courage, responsibility and tenacity of spirit in across all company's employees, which is in itself a product of Victor's leadership. It is an honor to work with colleagues who are all equally committed and driven to accelerate the development of new and optimized products and applications.
6. How to understand Terminus Group's perception of connection, and what’s the company’s deployment plans related to 6G?
Firstly, in terms of AI CITY or smart city applications, we need to constantly meet the various service requirements of customers and provide the most advanced, reliable and scalable new technologies and applications. In the AI CITY being developed in both Wuhan and Chongqing, you can see a deep integration of the most advanced technologies and applications in the industry. Especially with the power and support of TacOS 3.0 (Terminus AI CITY Operating System), various innovative technologies, intelligent algorithms and diversified applications developed and launched by Terminus Group and its ecosystem partners are providing high-quality services to users anytime, anywhere, and across more and more buildings, communities, parks and urban scenarios.
The application of smart cities can not only optimize the management and benefit people, but also provide broad fertile ground and support for scientific and technological innovation and entrepreneurship. Therefore, our current research and development of new products is geared to the needs of future science and technology industry development.
Secondly, in terms of technological innovation of IoT, Terminus Group has participated in the important "Multimodal Network and Communication Key Project". Through industry-university-research cooperation with the best R&D team, we actively carry out technological innovation and product research and development in the IoT field. We firmly believe that these advanced scientific research achievements, once transformed and applied into the current technical framework and product system, will provide users with a rich experience and create significant value to operators, businesses and individuals.
7. Can you imagine what people's life will be like when 6G is fully developed?
With the development of 6G technology, we may live in an environment where the virtual (VR), augmented (AR) and actual reality are more fully integrated. This is different from the metaverse, which emphasizes a purely virtual and digital reality and novel personal experience. In the augmented or integrated scenarios, people will find an increasingly coexistence with AI, robots, and other devices, and they will also rely more on sensor nodes and intelligent terminals to provide them with ubiquitous high-quality services.
Realistic challenges are the driving force of technological innovation
The integration of existing systems and cutting-edge technologies is a major challenge for the industry and the research community. As the rapid evolution of digitalization and the intelligentization of society continues, more scientists are stepping up their efforts to promote their research programs and commercialization.
Through their continuous learning, scientists are able to identify the various requirements of different users in the industry. This will allow them to develop effective solutions and improve the efficiency of their operations. The practical challenges and original problems that prevent society and the industry from developing properly will also be addressed through technological innovation.
Before joining the AIoT company Terminus Group and serving as the Chief Scientist of the Internet of Things(IoT), Dr. Yang Yang has taken the lead in undertaking more than 20 cutting-edge technology research and application demonstration projects in the field of broadband mobile communications and intelligent IoT.
As a lecturer at University College London's School of Engineering, Dr. Yang led the development of a project that involved the use of IoT technology in the testing of gas turbine engines - the WIDAGATE (Wireless Data Acquisition in Gas Turbine Engine Testing). He also worked with Airbus to develop a wireless sensor network solution for aircraft.
From 2014 to 2016, Yang led the development of various technological and scientific projects related to the South-to-North Water diversion project. These projects have been widely applied and popularized in the project's main line, which has realized numerous economic and social benefits.
For the second part of our interview with Dr. Yang Yang, the Chief Scientist of IoT of Terminus Group, we will highlight his journey from academia to industry.
8. You have participated in many business projects during your faculty positions on campus. What drives you to further go in terms of your new industry role?
When I was engaged in scientific research as an academic, I always had an eye on cooperation with business enterprises related to production and research. In addition to projects with Airbus and Rolls-Royce, I also led cooperation with BT (British Telecom), the Toshiba Research Institute (Europe), Selex Galileo, and other companies when working at University College London, and actively applied the advanced IoT technology in different scenarios and fields.
Following this, I was the lead in planning, designing and promoting the implementation of the IoT-related systems of the South-to-North Water Diversion Project. From the beginning of our user demand research, we communicated with many front-line staff to understand the various engineering problems, technical challenges and operation and maintenance difficulties being encountered.
Problems and challenges are the driving force for me to carry out application-oriented scientific research and technological innovation. I hope that through real application and practical problem traction, every scientific research work and every exploration and innovation can play a practical role, solve practical problems, and meet the diverse service needs of users. After fully understanding the multi-dimensional needs of users, I think the biggest technical challenge is how to effectively integrate advanced technologies and existing systems, and use a more open, strong compatibility and good scalability system architecture to achieve high time-efficiency and cost-effective technology iteration and continuous evolution, thereby significantly improving service quality and user experience.
After joined Terminus Group, I saw more opportunities and challenges. In particular, the ever-changing user needs in different application scenarios, such as buildings, communities, parks and cities. This is because they are very similar to my initial communication with enterprise scientific researchers, front-line application engineers and on-site management.
While challenges always stretches our existing knowledge, the opportunity to learn always satisfies my innate curiosity. For me, being able to constantly learn and constantly understand real needs - across borders and industries - while using my knowledge and technological innovation to help people, is the most fulfilling work for me.
In different application scenarios, especially in a large number of digitalization and intelligentization projects and engineering practices, Terminus Group has found and solved many of these original problems and technical challenges, which is a solid foundation and driving force for us to accelerate the new round of technological innovation and application landing. We are very much looking forward to achieving greater breakthroughs and creating more innovations, in 2023.
9. New technologies such as 6G communication will soon be a part of our lives. Some say that mobile phones have become an extension of human arms. From your perspective, how do you view the relationship between people and machines in the future?
The integration of human and machine has become an irreversible trend. A professional term to describe this is called "augmented humanity". The glasses, hearing aids, cardiac pacemakers, exoskeletons, and other equipment people can wear are all designed to help them live better and make up for the own shortcomings.
But where is the boundary between human and machine? If one day a person's heart can be 3D printed to help patients with heart disease and replace the real heart, is he still a biological or "cyborg" or "augmented" person? If one day the thinking habits of the human brain can be changed and some areas of the brain with electrical signals can produce different hallucinations and imaginations, then have human entered a more dangerous situation? This very important issue of technology ethics needs in-depth discussion and has been debated in the field of technology and humanities, as well as among ordinary users. Personally, I prefer a view that the extension of human senses and life should be limited.
10. Outside of work, what do you do to relax?
I love to travel. My wife and I like to travel to different cities, almost every year. On the one hand, we enjoy understanding local customs and culture; on the other hand, the unfamiliar environment can also be a complete diversion from our regular life and this provides for a wholehearted rest.
Like many others, we like European cities very much. If I was to make an analogy, I would say Paris is beautiful due to her architecture, art, and culture. London has a cosmopolitan feel but set against a strong foundation of historic stability. Rome, is like an old man with many interesting stories. Every ancient ruin or majestic building tells a story – and many include unforgettable legends. Barcelona is playful: A city full of imaginative that makes you feel that the art of contrasts, color, imagination and curiosity.
To bring it somewhat back to work: I think the most desirable thing about AI or smart cities is that, through various high-tech means, it can also give full play to a new "urban personality" of creativity and freedom, and make the future cities more fair, efficient, diversified, diversified and sustainable.
11. How do you manage stress in the fast-paced environment of AIoT?
Everyone endures pressure. When I feel pressure, the most important way is to divert my attention. As we grow older, we will gradually find that the final result of many things is not something we can fully control and predict. If we have tried our best, we should accept all possible results - with honesty. The process of dedicated work is the main way to learn from life and society. In this regard, I think everyone needs to understand the dynamic relationship between what they want, what they need, and what they can get.
In terms of relieving stress, I think sports and humor are good intercessors. I am also a big fan of stand-up comedy. Combining a sense of humor with things around us shows a form of great wisdom, a positive attitude to life, and like a good medicine, it can help each of us become happier, healthier and more understanding the many facets of humanity.