Exclusives : World Economic Forum Hails Fundamental 6G Technologies

World Economic Forum Hails Fundamental 6G Technologies

The World Economic Forum at its meeting in Dalian, China, has released its annual Top 10 Emerging Technologies that will positively impact society in the next three to five years. Of these ten emerging technologies, three are closely linked to the development of 6G. These are:

  • Integrated Sensing and Communications [ISAC]
  • Reconfigurable Intelligent Surfaces [RIS]
  • High Altitude Platform Systems [HAPS]

The list covers a highly diverse array of other technologies from alternative livestock feeds to carbon-capturing microbes. It also includes two other areas which relate to the evolution of telecoms: “Privacy-enhancing technologies” and “Immersive technology for the built world.”

To build the list, the WEF selection process sorted from among 300 initial candidate technologies to a set of 70 options which were then selected from on the basis of, as the WEF says:

Novelty: The technology is emerging and at an early stage of development but is not yet widely used.

Applicability: The technology is potentially of significant use and benefit to societies and economies.

Depth: The technology is being developed by more than one company, with the focus of increasing investment interest and excitement.

Power: The technology is potentially game-changing to established ways and industries.


Beyond Communications

While the three technologies listed above are all going to be relevant for effective Beyond-5G services and capabilities, the technologies have applications outside of telecoms as well as within it.

For example, HAPS are clearly able to offer benefits in terms of delivering telecoms services where there is no current coverage. However, they can also play host to systems for environmental monitoring (such as measuring ground temperatures or dryness and pollution) and disaster management, providing real-time information of what’s happening on the ground.

The argument for Integrated Sensing and Communication is an interesting outlier. While other emerging technologies highlight new forms of utility, the WEF argues that development in sensors and communications have previously proceeded in parallel, and that ISAC can produce efficiencies by reducing the demand for multiple devices and systems. While this might be true it overlooks the fact that information from sensing can improve the performance of communications systems, while the data from comms signals can enrich sensor data.

ISAC is one of the ITU’s ‘Usage scenarios’ for 6G. While RIS and HAPS are not explicitly named – and, of course, could have applicability in 5G settings as well – the technologies are likely to mature in parallel with 5G-Advanced and 6G as solutions to deliver on coverage and reliability requirements, and especially as a set of lower-cost alternatives to extending and densifying current infrastructure.

All in all, it’s worth taking time to look through. While the proposals for different technologies have been put forward by eminent researchers, 6GWorld is given to understand that the document reflects the perspectives and perception of the WEF judges. It can be enlightening to see, in a few paragraphs, what people not immersed in the telecoms industry make of emerging telecoms capabilities.

Image courtesy of WEF Top 10 Emerging Technologies of 2024 document.




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