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LIGENTEC participates in 6G project for AV networks

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Sixth-generation (6G) networks are recognised as an enabler of modern digital applications across many sectors, due to their support for high data throughputs, low latencies when transporting and processing information, and seamless network coverage. However, realising these promises depends on the availability of high-performance, compact and cost-effective solutions for practical implementation.

The Horizon-Europe project “6G-EWOC – AI-Enhanced Fibre-Wireless Optical 6G Network in Support for Connected Mobility” has been selected for funding by the European Commission within the second call of the 6G SNS Initiative. 6G-EWOC’s goal is to link innovative, user-oriented research on connected vehicular mobility with near-future exploitation of early-prototype communication, sensing, and computation systems in a growing market with vast potential. The three-year project was launched in January 2024.

6G-EWOC’s mission is to provide the necessary photonic technology to accommodate vehicular awareness of its surroundings through light-based sensing, connectivity among vehicles and road infrastructure through optical wireless communication, a seamless connection to nearby datacentres through high-capacity fibre optics, and real-time computation of the collected roadside data through high-end datacentre technology. Artificial intelligence (AI) will be adopted to enhance the efficiency of several constituent technologies and the orchestration of this vehicular 6G infrastructure.

6G-EWOC will be coordinated by José Antonio Lázaro, professor at UPC Barcelona’s School of Telecommunications Engineering (ETSETB) and researcher at the Advanced Broadband Communications Center (CCABA). “The day will come when vehicles will be able to circulate autonomously as a matter of course, since the technologies necessary to perceive everything around them are evolving rapidly,” says Lázaro. “But the important thing is to go one step further and make future vehicles able to drive autonomously and better than humans.”

This vision requires a pervasive integration of sensing and communication technology to enhance the vehicle’s intelligence, as well as seamless connectivity to modern ICT infrastructure. Connected vehicles need to be able to exchange large volumes of information generated by their powerful sensors, both between vehicles and with datacentres, which are responsible for instantaneously merging everything the roadside vehicles detect at all times.

This notion, which is referred to as “connected mobility”, requires very powerful networks, with the capacity to manage the vast volume of generated information, and the use of various cutting-edge communication and sensing technologies, such as those that the 6G-EWOC project seeks to develop. These technologies range from sensors based on integrated lasers, such as LiDAR, to wireless optical communications for vehicles and street furniture, which become optical 6G antennas.

“Photonics bears the potential for significant performance enhancements, as we will demonstrate through the introduction of a highly miniaturised optical beamformer serving as an optical antenna,” comments Michael Geiselmann, chief commercial officer at LIGENTEC.

In the 6G-EWOC project’s vision, high-capacity optical fibre fronthaul will seamlessly transport the large data volume aggregated along the traffic infrastructure to a nearby datacentre for real-time processing of the situation. AI techniques will organise and orchestrate all data flows to various distributed datacentres. Additional AI tools will merge the information of the vehicles in each area, thus building a part of a 3D map and integrating it with the various results from the distributed computing across all areas. Building on this 6G-enabled vehicular infrastructure, drivers and vehicles will receive a detailed and complete map that enjoys real-time updates, thus making mobility as safe as possible.

The 6G-EWOC consortium comprises 11 partners contributing to the multi-disciplinary research agenda. The Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya BarcelonaTech (UPC) will coordinate the project, while the Centre Tecnològic de Telecomunicacions de Catalunya (CTTC) is the technical manager. AIT Austrian Institute of Technology brings extensive experience in translating lab science into practical applications. Industry partners in the field of semiconductor design and fabrication include III-V Lab and LIGENTEC, who will support photonic design and integration of novel component technology. Two SMEs, Bifrost Communications and Beamagine, will also contribute, while the industrial end-user perspective will be provided by Nokia Bell Labs, Nvidia, Magna, and Cosmote.

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