Beam-steering radio technology could help autonomous cars finally hit the road

A slow mobile internet connection can become a huge obstacle in our ever more connected world. Don’t the internet gods know that you need to play this game now? Don’t they see you’re trying to work your commute? Thanks to the new radio wave guiding technology, your communication problems can be gone for good.

Here’s why your phone is slowing down on the go: You use more data when you’re on the go and use your phone to watch online videos, play a game, or download apps. Ultimately, your ability to connect to the Internet depends on your ability to send and receive strong enough mobile communications signals, and for this, you need antennas to send radio waves with enough power to reach your device.

Currently, providers are trying to meet high demand by sending signals to users at higher frequencies, James Churm, professor of engineering at the University of Birmingham, explains to inverse. But higher frequencies come with another problem: higher attenuation, or a decrease in signal strength.

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“If the antenna is broadcasting data in every direction, the signal strength will be negligible by the time it reaches the user’s phone,” Churm says.

“To counter this problem, high-directional beams of radio waves are used to send signals in only one direction.”

But Churm and his team have another way to efficiently solve the problem. Their innovation in classic radio antennas could accelerate both the Internet of Things and a new era of mobile communications that matter for communications in space and on Earth – 6G.

Ultimately, their devices could make autonomous driving and autonomous vehicle technology a reality by providing cars and other forms of transportation with internet signals strong enough to enable functions such as making complex decisions based on ever-changing traffic conditions.

“The antenna adjusts itself to follow the user.”

what’s new – Churm and colleagues have designed a new antenna that increases data transmission efficiency and unlocks new frequencies for mobile communications. The antenna uses the so-called “beam routing” technology – the antenna can control the deflection of the radio wave that focuses the beam and increases the transmission efficiency. Moreover, it can follow the user as efficiently as a satellite.

They presented the technology at the meeting of the International Federation of Radio Sciences on June 3, 2022.

“This technology could be used to enable 5G systems on the base station side of things and 6G will take advantage of it when that starts in the next few years,” Churum says.

“There are application areas in the Internet of Things, which allow interconnection between automated industrial systems as well as in the home,” he adds.

“The technology can also be adapted for use in vehicle-to-vehicle, vehicle-to-infrastructure, vehicle radar, and satellite communications, making it good for next-generation use in automotive, radar, aerospace and defense applications,” Churm previously said in a statement about the research.

data acceleration

The new radial router is housed inside a gadget roughly the size of an iPhone. Inside there’s a metamaterial, a unique material that’s engineered to interact with waves in specific ways made of a sheet of metal with an array of tiny holes.

The new antenna.University of Birmingham

“Our solution is not only more efficient at transmitting radio waves, but it also requires a much less complex control system which should go towards making systems affordable and ubiquitous,” Churum says.

The new device can provide continuous “wide-angle” beam guidance, allowing it to track a moving mobile user in the same way a satellite dish turns to track a moving object, but at significantly improved speeds.

The new packet routing tool could be part of the solution to existing data limitations. However, while the user is moving, he can move away from the antenna’s line of sight, because the antenna beam is deliberately narrow.

But Churm and his team got the idea: “The antenna adjusts itself to follow the user using packet routing techniques so that service can be maintained on the go,” he says.

“Beam routing also allows the antenna to switch between multiple users within a short period of time, as the base station’s data rate will be much greater than what the user’s device can receive.”

The researchers said their devices are now compatible with the 5G specification used by mobile networks.

beam me

5G has enabled faster mobile connectivity than ever before, but 6G could go even further – and even in space.Lubingio / Moment / Getty Images

Swarun Kumar, professor of electrical and computer engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, explains that packet routing helps improve wireless speed for everyday users of cellular technologies. inverse.

Unlike communication over wires such as an Ethernet cable, where the communication is at any point between two devices, the wireless medium is shared – meaning that each device using the same wireless service can, in principle, “talk to” and “hear” every other device.

“In the cellular context, this means that when base stations are communicating, all phones can, in principle, hear their signals,” Kumar says.

“This makes it difficult for different pairs of devices to communicate simultaneously because they will essentially overlap, i.e. ‘talk over each other’.”

WiFi, 4G, and 5G technologies are already using packet routing to improve speeds. One common technique is to use “dishes” (similar to satellite dishes) that focus directly on the signals along the points of the dish. But the individual antenna elements become smaller and converge as the signal frequency increases, making their design difficult.

Imagine that in the entire restaurant, only one person is allowed to speak at a time. Beam routing allows for parallel wireless ‘talks’.

Kumar says: “The Birmingham team developed a vectorial design at the higher frequencies (the so-called mmWave frequencies) that are increasingly being deployed for 5G and beyond.

“It appears that one of the major innovations in their approach is the efficient use of smart materials to ensure that the overall antenna form factor is small while ensuring high performance.”

Kumar likens radial guidance to a busy restaurant where a lot of people talk. Technically everyone can hear each other, but people at different tables can still have meaningful conversations. That’s because humans can focus on conversations from a certain direction.

“Beam routing is a similar idea—focusing the direction of the wireless signal toward the intended recipient,” Kumar says.

“Think of them as wireless equivalents of horn amplifiers that direct wireless power in a specific direction. The ‘portability’ of the beam allows the transmitter—to say a cellular base station—to quickly ‘point’ the direction of transmission based on where the cell phone is.”

“This approach works with both transmitting and receiving — the tower can also receive signals similarly by focusing the reception along the direction of any given mobile phone.”

Just as focusing on sounds in a restaurant can help you understand conversations, Kumar says, radial guidance can help with cellular communications. By focusing on specific directions, the signals sent to and received from the user are more robust, which means faster connectivity and higher speeds for users. Also, packet routing allows many parallel conversations between multiple pairs of users without interference.

“The alternative has been to rotate – one device after another – which is a lot slower,” Kumar adds.

Imagine that in the entire restaurant, only one person is allowed to speak at a time. Radial routing allows for parallel wireless ‘talks’ to take place significantly accelerating for all involved.

In sight …

For mobile networks, packet routing could allow for increased data speeds and reliability, says Eric Black, chief technology officer of Pivotal Commware. inverse. Pivotal Commware is a supplier of telecommunications equipment.

Self-driving cars are a technology that feels within reach.PonyWang / E + / Getty Images

This technology can also improve phone battery life because less power is required to send and receive signals.

“The exact benefit we experience depends on the platform design,” Black says.

“Carriers will build their networks on combinations of these differential elements. Some will choose improved data rate and better power consumption, while others may focus on improved range and coverage.”

Says Adel Kidwai, Head of Product Management at EdgeQ Internet Technology inverse Packet routing can be useful for extremely high data throughput applications, particularly 5G mobility applications that require high data ranges.

For example, radial routing can be used for military applications where one needs to route high-bandwidth data in a very short time or a very short distance, Kidway says.

For you and me, VR headset beam routing can be used for the metaverse, where a smooth, immersive experience requires high-bandwidth data transfer at very low latency, Kidway says.

Churm says another potential application is to make self-driving and autonomous vehicle technology more efficient and ultimately safer for passengers.

The radial guidance device and its technology could herald “next-generation automotive radar and communications,” he says, “enabling vehicles to communicate with each other along with their surroundings to enable context-based decision-making for autonomous vehicles.”

horizon It is a newsletter about today’s innovations and ideas that will shape tomorrow’s world. This is an edited version of the June 23 edition. Predict the future through Registration is free.

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