It seems that 5G has only just arrived. In fact, the later phases, particularly around private networking are still being rolled out. So, is it too early to start talking about 6G? Nothing stands still in the communication world and researchers are actively exploring the next generation of wireless communication technologies. So although 6G may not be available yet, now is the time that novel techniques and new frequency bands are being explored. As use cases of wireless technology increase beyond consumer handsets to the manufacturing floor or autonomous vehicles, seamless connectivity becomes critical for future business growth. 5G, and soon 6G, will be major catalysts.
What and When?
With 5G still not fully deployed around the world, when can we expect 6G to take center stage? Progression of technologies can move rather quickly and many are anticipating the arrival of 6G by the end of the decade or around 2030. It typically takes about 10 years for a new mobile communication standard to be rolled out. However, research on 6G is well underway, with 6G experimentation ramping up to find solutions for the weakness and limitations identified in 5G (ref: Lifewire).
More Than Just Faster Speeds
6G is the next step in a natural progression of faster and more reliable wireless connections. The 6th generation mobile system standard is expected to be more diverse than previous iterations and some are speculating that it may be able to support applications beyond current mobile scenarios, including virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR), instant communications, the Internet of Things (IoT), and more. It is expected that 6G will adopt a flexible decentralized business model, with local spectrum licensing, infrastructure sharing, and intelligent automated management underpinned by mobile edge computing, artificial intelligence (AI), and block chain technologies (ref: Wikipedia).
6G seems destined to be more than just another wireless network upgrade. Faster speeds, gapless coverage and greater capacity will provide a near seamless, “always on” mobile experience. But 6G could also be the network that blurs the lines between the physical human and digital worlds, crossing over into possibilities only thought imaginable in science fiction. 6G has the potential to change the way we interact with technology, each other, and the world itself by enabling sensory experiences in the form of AR/VR/XR, high-fidelity holograms, real-time AI, digital/virtual twins, and more (ref: Tech Radar).
Late last year Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg unveiled his vision for the “metaverse,” turning the current social media platform into an extended reality space, merging the real world and the virtual world to create a new artificial world. Part of his plan would involve the use of augmented reality glasses, which are already in use today, allowing the user to enter into an extended reality that involves all of their senses.
One specific use case for extended reality is in telemedicine. The use of virtual twins, otherwise known as virtual representations that have real-world counterparts, would give doctors the ability to perform remote consultations or precise interventions using a virtual twin of human organs. SIMULIA is leading the way in virtual twin technology by going beyond a digital twin to create a 3D model of a body part, like your brain or heart, taken from a unique patient’s medical information (MRI, CT scan, etc.).Combining a vast amount of health-related knowledge and data and machine learning with 6G and the virtual twin, could provide breakthrough treatment and care with potentially hundreds or thousands of miles separating doctor and patient.
Another use case for the future potential of 6G involves energy harvesting to power wearables. In a recent study conducted at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, researchers found a low-cost, innovative way to harvest the waste energy from (visible light communication (VLC) systems by using the human body as an antenna. This waste energy can be recycled to power an array of wearable devices, or potentially even larger electronics (ref: Engineering and Technology).
Reconfigurable Intelligent Surfaces
Imagine a mirror that is smart enough to follow you as you’re getting ready in the morning, moving along with you so that your reflection is always present. This analogy can best describe Reconfigurable Intelligent Surfaces (RISs) or Intelligent Reflective Surfaces (IRSs), a key technology proposed for the future of 6G communication systems, which would improve wireless data transmission, localization, reducing coverage gaps and sensing in complex environments. But what are they and what is their potential?
RISs are artificial, metamaterial-based structures, which use integrated electronic control of the reflection characteristics of the elements so that they can manipulate an incoming electromagnetic wave in different ways. When it comes to 6G, RISs show great potential for enhancing wireless communication in terms of coverage extension, especially for non-line-of-sight scenarios at high frequencies. They also improve energy efficiency and enable localization/positioning capabilities in difficult environments like dense urban areas or complex indoor areas.
Simulation and the Future of 6G
6G is still very much in the research phase of development, the realm of visions, ideas, and possibilities where nothing is yet set in stone. Simulation can virtually test out 6G concepts to see if they are feasible or not, if there are limitations or constraints, and how the proposed technology might work. Simulation can also bridge the gap in the maturity of the technology, since it’s not bound by a physical or manufacturing process, it can idealize the application of devices by simulating them and seeing if and how they would work in various real-world scenarios. The increased use of wireless technology is moving beyond just consumer handsets to the manufacturing floor, autonomous vehicles, AI, and more, so seamless connectivity is required for the success of so many products. Ultimately, simulation is a key factor in the sustainable evolution and progress of 6G concepts.
SIMULIA at Mobile World Congress
Want to hear more about simulation and how it relates to 5G/6G topics? If you’re attending the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, be sure to drop by our pod, “Virtual Twins for Performance and Compliance in Smart Devices and Infrastructure,” where we will demonstrate how performance and compliance KPIs can be realized through physics-based simulation showcasing the virtual twin approach for 5G/6G design. We will also be showcasing the optimization of consumer smartphone and IoT devices as well as commercial infrastructure, such as tower installations or private networks.
For more information about MWC, visit the Mobile World Congress site.
For more information about SIMULIA solutions for mobile devices, visit the dedicated Electromagnetics Wiki page on the SIMULIA community for a variety of on demand webinars, presentations, and more.
SIMULIA offers an advanced simulation product portfolio, including Abaqus, Isight, fe-safe, Tosca, Simpoe-Mold, SIMPACK, CST Studio Suite, XFlow, PowerFLOW, and more. The SIMULIA Community is the place to find the latest resources for SIMULIA software and to collaborate with other users. The key that unlocks the door of innovative thinking and knowledge building, the SIMULIA Community provides you with the tools you need to expand your knowledge, whenever and wherever.