Forward thinkers at High Tech Summit: Lars Dittmann, Professor, Head of the section for Communication Technology at DTU Fotonik.
Until today, entertainment has been the main driving force behind the development of the internet. The winners have been those able to provide entertainment services at low cost. However, Internet-of-Things (IoT) is about to change the scene.
“As we move into production gear communicating at a factory, autonomous vehicles communicating in traffic, or digital health care applications, the demands for reliability, availability, and security will increase drastically. This will trigger a professionalization of the internet.”
Says Lars Dittmann.
First and foremost, IoT communication will have to take place significantly faster in comparison with todays’ internet. Currently, the typical delay time is about 200 milliseconds. This is no problem when downloading a movie or performing normal communication like e-mails or talking over Skype. But when two autonomous vehicles meet in traffic, the consequences could be fatal.
“The vehicles will need to exchange a couple of messages to “agree” on the correct way for them to proceed, especially if they are from different manufacturers. At the current communication speed, they may already have crashed before they are aligned. Realistically, we have to lower the delay time to no more than 10 milliseconds,” says Lars Dittmann, adding:
“To an outsider, getting from 200 to 10 milliseconds may not sound that difficult, but trust me; this will take radical changes in technology.”
We have to “slice” the internet
More specifically, we will have to abandon “same-internet-for-all”. Instead, different user segments should be able to purchase different levels of speed, reliability, etc. In the communications industry this is known as “slicing”.
“Take Industry 4.0. Any modern manufacturing facility already has a functioning control system. While it may be desirable to take things to the next level with IoT, this won’t happen if the IoT system has lower quality than the existing system. Increased delay times or fall-outs can just not be accepted. But if the network provider is able to guarantee the industrial client priority over the private customers, the quality can be just as good or better,” explains Dittmann.
This arrangement should be okay with the private customer who is compensated by a lower price in return for accepting an occasional slower download of a movie. Still, slicing is not straightforward, Lars Dittmann stresses:
“Todays internet is not ready. We can do some segmentation by pushing certain parts of the current infrastructure to the limit. But for slicing to really work, we need to change the fundamental, physical network infrastructure quite radically.”
Narrow solutions are too expensive
While the challenge is huge, so are the potential benefits:
“Since internet-based solutions are not sufficiently trustworthy today, we see bodies responsible for critical services like fire-fighting, police, railroads etc. all operating their own tailormade communication services. These solutions are reliable but not surprisingly, they are really expensive. If all the funding for such narrow applications were pooled, this would provide the foundation for a public solution which could satisfy the various needs of different user segments at different price rates.”
This is easier said than done, Lars Dittmann admits:
“People tend to think in solutions for their own domain, be it police, railroads, digital health care, etc. We need to get them thinking across domains and interact with the communications industry and academic research. Hopefully, the High Tech Summit can serve as a forum for initiating such discussions!”
“It’s no use closing your eyes to the changes. We need to constantly keep up and try to influence the process.”
Professor Jan Madsen, DTU Compute