AP-S/URSI 2016 – Nerds in Paradise!

I am an antenna nerd! I am the kind of guy for whom the pure thought of solving Helmoltz equation in spherical coordinates make me happy! There are however not so many of us left, so in order not to get completely extinct, we set up a cunning plan to make our community bigger:

“Let’s arrange conferences in really nice places and let everybody who submits a paper be accepted”!

This year’s IEEE Antenna and Propagation Symposium was no exception: held in the exotic Waldorf Astoria resort in Fajardo in Puerto Rico, the conference hosted more than 1500 oral and poster presentation, a handful of invited speeches, visits to Arecibo and a dozen short courses

You may suggest that it is bad for science with conferences that accepts almost any paper and does not maintain the highest possible scientific standard (all papers are still peer reviewed tough)? I think it is the opposite: in contrast to the MTT and COMSOC societies, APS every year allows hundreds of young students come to a scientific meeting within their chosen field, to get to present papers, listen to and meet with all the world leading experts, and be inspired to do research! This is the way to ensure the future of our nerdy business!

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VTC 2016 Spring – a skeptical view…

Recently, I had the opportunity to participate in the VTC 2016 Spring event in Nanjing China http://www.ieeevtc.org/vtc2016spring/. I had not been to a VTC meeting since 2008 so my expectations were high!

However, in contrast to the city of Nanjing, the former Chinese capital with a history of more than 5000 years, there was not much to be excited about at the conference. To be honest I believe that IEEE and VTC needs to think about how to select papers in the future.

My criticism is based on three observations:

  1. Minute technical contributions
  2. Unawareness of previously published results
  3. Unawareness of existing technology

1. In engineering academic research is mainly about producing graduates – not technical results. However, it would be good if papers at least had something to contribute to the industry.

One example: at this conference there were 9 sessions about MIMO, in total 45 papers. I could be mistaken but as far as I understand, no one presented any measurements. Instead they present simulations based on assumptions that I, in several cases, am very skeptical to, e.g. perfect CSI…

2. Reading through the list of references, I find that in most of the papers, no reference is older than 5 years and very rarely is any reference to any study conducted outside the authors own lab. Maybe it is because my own 1997 paper on beamforming was completely missing, but I do beleive that there has been some work done particularly on multiple antennas allready some 20 years ago..

3. After sitting through numerous technical sessions presenting irrelevant results related to non realistic scenarios, my expectations were high for the Panels! How wrong I was:

In the “High Mobility Communications” Panel, the panellists discussed connectivity to high speed trains and showed a most remarkable ignorance regarding technologies and suppliers of curent systems in us in Europe, Middle East, North and South America.

I do hope that it will take less than 8 years before I participate in VTC again! Hopefully, I will then be able to report something exciting!

stadler

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Johannesberg Summit 2016

As usual, you can follow all talks live in May 10 -11  here!

 

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Towards cashless society

The 4th Cashless Society Roundtable took place in Copenhagen, on 7-8 of April 2016. This year the event was hosted by the Department of IT Management at Copenhagen Business School (CBS).

The event participants mainly represented academic researchers in the field of mobile payment services. However, several presentations were given by industry represenatives (e.g. Nets and Danske Bank).

It also needs to be mentioned that the majority of participants were from Scandinavian countries (Denmark, Sweden, Finland). And these countries can illustrate the process how the society becomes cashless.  For this reason, not surprisingly, that the event started with a presentation “Sweden as a Cashless Society” by Niklas Arvidsson (KTH, Indek). This was an overview of Swedish way towards cashless society and analysis of reasons that caused this process. Then Stefan Henningsson (CBS) discussed how banks try to meet new challendes in his pesentation “Open API at Saxo Bank”.

The next section was dedicated to the discussion of legal issues and regulation of mobile payments and financial markets by a Danny Gozman (a researcher from Great Britain). A representative of Danske Bank presented their concerns about forthcoming Payment Service Directive 2 (PSD2) and challenges that it may cause.

A separate session was dedicated to the discussion of Bitcoin and blockchain. Academic researchers from Finland presented their approach to study of Bitcoin. And a master student of CBS presented interesting findings of his research how media in two countries (USA and Sweden) presents Bitcoin and blockchain.

Nets presented their input in the development of MobilePay – the most successful mobile payment service in Denmark.

Some more researchers touched upon mobile payment services in Scandinavia.

  • Jan Markendahl (KTH, ICT) spoke about changes and transformations of previously successful SMS ticketing service in Sweden. Due to different regulatory and market reasons this service has almost disappeared.
  • Håkan Klaes Alm (University of Borås) was speaking about payments used at points of sales and attitudes of users to these services in Sweden.
  • I presented a comparison of competition strategies of NFC-based mobile payment service providers in Sweden and Lithuania.
  • Kalina Staykova (CBS) presented a research framework for analysis of mobile payment platforms using examples of MobilePay (Denmark) and Pingit (GB) services.
  • Finally, Ben Eaton (CBS) spoke about evolution of electronic ID in the Scandinavia.

To sum up, the amount of cash in-use in Scandinavia is decreasing. The most common ways of payments are bank cards and mobile payment solutions. Some merchants refuse to accept cash already today. However, when people are asked what they think about cash they respond that cash must remain available, that cash is a humin right, and that they want to have cash even if they do not use it.

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5G on the way

5G has been a rather hot research topic for a while and this trend stays unchanged or even gains more momentum in Globecom 2015 in San Diego. Indeed, there were 4 tutorials dedicated to 5G and a couple more related topics like green network, fog network, full duplex, quantum communications, etc. There’are also several workshops for 5G and many more technical 5G symposiums. Meanwhile, there’re also growing focuses on IoT, indoor networks, caching, etc.

Commercialization of technologies is getting faster and faster than ever, even results from fundamental research. It is not clear who is leading, academia or industry. Those who discover something first and commercialize fast will earn huge returns quickly. For example, in the presentation, “indoor mm-Wave Channel Measurements: Comparative Study of 2.9 GHz and 29 GHz”, Qualcomm reported similar measured channel properties of 2.9 GHz and 29 GHz in indoor environment and is still trying to figure out why! But measurement is measurement! Theory always need to be corrected to follow facts. If the reported results are true and may even be universal for a broad band of spectrum, a lot will have to be changed.

Peiliang and I presented our recent research results on “‘Area Spectral and Energy Efficiency Analysis of Cellular Networks with Cell DTX'”. The research on the SE and EE of the overall network has always been a challenging area because of its complexity in analysis and non-concavity from interference terms.
However we successfully obtained the network spectral efficiency and energy efficiency as functions of network traffic load.
It is shown that the network spectral efficiency increases monotonically in traffic load, while the optimal network energy efficiency depends on the ratio of the sleep-mode power consumption to the active-mode power consumption of base stations. If the ratio is larger than a certain threshold, the network energy efficiency increases monotonically with network traffic load and is maximized when the network is fully loaded. What’s more, the power ratio threshold depends solely on the wireless channel propagation, i.e. path loss exponent
α. For example, the ratio is 56% for α = 4, indicating that in this propagation environment, if the sleep power consumption is more than 56% of the active mode power consumption, the network should be always fully loaded to maximize network energy efficiency, as sleeping won’t save you much. Otherwise, there is an optimal load that the network should work on so that the energy efficiency is maximized.

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Does it get any Smarter? Let 5G decide on that!!!

A Smart City is often defined as an innovative city that uses ICT and other means to improve quality of life, efficiency of urban operations and services, and competitiveness, while ensuring that it meets the needs of present and future generations with respect to economic, social and environmental aspects . The question then would be what is the role of ICT in this “smartization” process?

[Source: Smart Cities Council India]

[Source: Smart Cities Council India]

In this sense, what is commonly asked from ICT is typically a “supernatural” platform that does many things like sensing, connecting machines, collecting data, making smart decisions, and commanding back the machines. Considering 5G as the paradigm shift in ICT that is supposed to enable many things, such as Smart Cities, this system should then include many high technical requirements that are highly integrative with other industries.

But wait!!!!
Who are we talking about here? It seems like it is forgotten that ICT is not a person but it is a system of systems. So shouldn’t cities expect these needs from ICT representatives? What I mean here is those companies who are “making” ICT; e.g. MNOs, Vendors, and Service providers. So let’s ask these entities to “smartize” the solutions.

At the same time, it is a challenge to convince the Telecom actors to take the Red Pill! The advanced 4G,  sorry the 5G is just around the corner and we should keep in mind that 5G and ICT will only play the enabler-support role for making Smart Cities happen and not much more; so would the telecom actors.

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Is the “Sharing Economy” already dead?

It seemsBosch-18V-DDB181-Drill-Driver that the idea of sharing a household item that you do not need that often, say a power drill, a power washer or a ladder with your neighbor is something that everyone intuitively understands and want’s, but unlike sucesses like Uber and Airbnb,  businesses based on this type of sharing has a hard time taking off.  In an article on Fastcompany.com, writer Sarah Kessler provides an interesting analysis .  One key reason is probably  the fierce competition on the web by vendors of equipment and the hazzle to physically retrieve the gear :  “For a drill, which by the way now costs $30, and you can get it on Amazon Now …, is it really worth your time to trek potentially 25 minutes to go get something that you spent $15 to use for the day, and then have to trek back? For most people on the sharing platforms, the answer was no.

Time is obviously money also for the private person.

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Summarizing Globecom 2015

This shouldn’t come as a surprise but Globecom 2015 was all about three intertwined topics: 5G, IoT and mmWave. Most of the panels and presentations I attended on each topic ended up discussing in terms of the other two. For instance, at the panel on “​5G mmWave Communications: Myth or Reality” it was discussed if mmWave could solve the challenges for ultra-reliable communications and massive MTC; the common conclusions were simple, in terms of penetration and coverage, non-mmWave could be more economical for these cases and the scenarios would finally determine their usability. In any case, what stroked me was the need to constantly bring all topics into the same pot.

At the executive forum on “When will 5G be real?” an answer was hardly given to the question, but Satish Dhanasekaran from Keysight Technologies made a comment that has been implicit in the 2015 conferences I attended, “never before has there been so much consideration for scenarios and business models as we see now in 5G”. It’s true, and it is partly due to the recent trend in to engage with industrial customers, talking to stakeholders to figure out want they need for the next communication systems (as discussed here).

An afternoon panel on “5G Cellular-IoT Challenges and Opportunities” exceeded the organizer’s attendance estimation, with an overloaded room where, rather than revealing new proposals, many of the known statements on the area were reiterated. This clearly shows a year of convergence on the position of key players regarding IoT and its implications for 5G. Nokia’s Amitava Ghosh made a distinction between “Cellular-IoT” and “IoT in 5G”. The former being a solution currently under development to address issues in the area of massive MTC and the latter considered to be a complementing set of technologies to target the challenges of  low latency and ultra-reliability. On the same panel, Anthony Soong from Huawei made a clear point in the need to be able to increase service agility, by transforming core network; highlighting the need to speed up the service rollout which is currently taking around 18 months compared to 6 months it takes to rollout IT services. Interestingly, his presentation covered the challenges previously explained by Jens Zander regarding critical MTC and their vision to move towards mobile edge cloud computing.

IMHO, the best panel I attended last year was at Globecom, Wearables: Our Experiences and Thoughts for the Future. The panel was simultaneously moderated by Nikhil Jain from Qualcomm and Upkar Dhaliwal from Future Wireless, with the usual 10 minutes presentations and following discussion.

Ryan Barnett from Google opened the presentations to talk about Android Wear, their iOS for wearable devices; Google decided to start with a wrist device to be able to create an ecosystem, but their vision remains open to target other form-factors in the near future. Ryan made emphasis on the fact that current wearables need to be paired with smartphones or computers in order to transfer their data and they are not yet stand-alone (in terms of communication), which would be an interesting solution to have available in the future for certain devices. What might seem obvious but caught my attention was a comment on the physical limitations, the fact that absolutely every single part of a wearable device is constrained in terms of the battery requirements, even the modules and sensors that are added must be carefully considered because they end up taking precious space that could be used for battery room; every physical component added means less space for battery. From Google’s standpoint, what is important to consider is that users want more personalized experienced with wearables, this will result in having many brands and styles available in the market if they want to have the necessary user adoption. But this is somehow contradictory to the fact that users don’t want smartwatches to be single-purpose devices, they want a bit more capabilities in them.

Nikhil Jain, VP, Technology at Qualcomm presented the Toq Program, which emerged from the idea that a watch is a device in direct touch with the user’s body and they wanted to leverage on that; to be able to say something interesting from sensing the body signals.

Joseph Paradiso from MIT Media Lab presented so many interesting projects on wearable technologies that there was hardly any time to take notes, but most of them can be found under the Responsive Environments Group, he many times insisted that the future of interaction lies on wrist gestures like this one or this other.

For Intel, Patricia Robb talked about the differences when entering the wearables market, which was truly different in the way to interact in the new ecosystem, with totally new partners that expected different timelines, IP rights, opinions, relationships, ecosystems and business models. But more importantly, Patricia emphasized the distance between tech gear and fashion; if wearable elements could consider the relevance of fashion as part of their development, they would stand on their own, regardless of the technology underneath them. For her, it was important to highlight that as long as you try to go after each case with a single device, you will end up with a big device closer to a smartphone. Based on experiences, they have decided to go for single-purpose, or what she referred to as purpose-build, devices to address different services.

Mohit Bhushan from Mediatek had a different agenda, he discussed Fitbit as a good example in the wearable market but the next frontier is to enter the health industry. Fitbit uses basic sensors that are actually present in every large device (smartphone). The reason to focus on the health sector is because the potential is at large; with reliable biosensor becoming available which can give more extractive value.

On a similar note, Klaus Doppler from Nokia targeted the medical devices but in terms of the radio challenges, which majorly use BLE; they stream the sensed data to the smartphone and from there is goes up to the cloud. They have run experiments to see the performance of BLE in the presence of many devices in proximity and they show that BLE works great even when many active devices are used, but as soon as you turn on that single WiFi AP in the vicinity, only a small number of those BLE devices could be supported. Connectivity and reliability is important to be ensured and the technology is not mature yet in this regard.

Yet another perspective was given by Peter Atwal from, Incode Consulting. For him, the current open questions that cannot be overlooked are: 1) who is the service provider 2) how many dollars I can make from every product I carry and display? That’s the question from retailers, but how do you engage them to sell wearables? these questions remain open and will certainly dominate the debates to come.

Summing up, the insights given at the wearable’s panel were tremendous. I’m closing with 5 comments heard at the panel, some food for thoughts:

  • Every Christmas I get a new [wearable] one but I never engage, I lose interest or think is too intrusive. This is a gimmick right now.
  • People that buy Fitbit don’t need them. It’s just a fancy accessory. Looking for specific medical cases is more important.
  • I don’t need a thing to tell me how much I move, I already know that. But as soon as I need assistance, they play out.
  • There is a difference between information and entertainment sides. For entertainment, the connectivity is just not enough yet.
  • Use case innovation to solve problems. Form interdisciplinary teams to really understand and improve lives by actually solving an existing problem.
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Northstream’s Predictions for 2016!

Bengt Nordström, the Guru and CEO of the Strategic Business Advising firm Northstream has now published his predictions of the Mobile Market for 2016. Here is the list:

#1 – The EC’s negative view and ruling on market consolidation stalls M&A activity

#2 – Operators take operational efficiency to the next level: transformational change is here

#3 – Chinese smartphone vendors are rising, not as fast as you would think, but don’t be fooled…

#4 – Wi-Fi calling sees huge increase in service launches

#5 – Cloud giants and mobile operators partner for third party services

#BONUS – IoT starts walking the talk

Read more at:
http://northstream.se/category/insights/prediction/2015/

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Memories from PIMRC 2015

The conference experience began with the Workshop on M2M Communications: Challenges, Solutions and Applications, which was driven by the EIT DIGITAL collaborative project EXAM: Energy-Efficient XHAUL and M2M. We delivered a dynamic afternoon together with partners from Nokia, Ericsson and Aalto University; presentations covered topics on M2M spanning from data aggregation, coverage analysis and cognitive M2M communications. Moreover, a second session was focused on LTE-based M2M Communications. It was interesting to see how the discussions around M2M communication are beginning to loose the sense of naivety, since every presentation was focused on specific solutions for specific scenarios and conditions; adding to the increased level of maturity in the area at the academic and commercial levels.

On the first conference day, the panel on “5G: Opportunities and Challenges in Air Interface, Media Access and Resource Allocation” opened with a loud and clear statement from the moderator: “have you tried voice over WIFI? it sucks! you actually get what you payed for.” Of course, such a statement prepared a comfortable arena for a cellular-inclined panel, remarking on the fact that in many cases WIFI is considered as provided by municipalities, since the technologies are not actually suitable for roaming agreements and subscriptions…

Moving on to the second conference day, during the opening keynote the presentation was about disruptive technologies. A descriptive talk highlighting the importance of IoT in 5G, the relevance of WIFI for indoor scenarios and the unsuitability of WSN compared to the emerging proprietary technologies like SigFox, Cycleo, On-Ramp, and Neul. Interestingly, the presentation included the need to match disruptive technologies with novel business thinking, where there might be an industry shift with vendors dealing directly with industrial customers and then procuring the best operator to provide the connectivity services. This would come hand in hand with a recent trend in the industry to engage with industrial customers, talking to stakeholders to figure out want they need for the next communication systems.

I would like to close with the final remark given at the panel on European Activities on 5G, Looking at Vertical Markets, when the moderator asked a very simple question: what will NOT be on 5G? Two clear answers were given by the panelists: 1) cognitive radio because it is too difficult to ensure QoS and 2) 1ms delay…. Considered to be way beyond 5G. I find it quite difficult to disagree with Prof. Hamid Aghvami on the latter.

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