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President's Page - June 2017

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From IEEE Communications Magazine June 2017

Technical Committees’ Vision for a Growing ComSoc

Harvey Freeman
Harvey Freeman
Luigi Fratta
Luigi Fratta

ComSoc’s Technical Committees (TCs) define and implement the technical directions of the Society. All Society members are invited and encouraged to participate in one or more of our Technical Committees. These committees, networks of professionals with common interests in communications, usually meet twice each year at our major conferences. Throughout the year, these committees also play a major role in determining which events (conferences, workshops, etc.) are technically co-sponsored by ComSoc. Luigi Fratta, ComSoc’s Vice President for Technical and Educational Activities, lays out in this column the importance of these TCs in researching and developing the new technologies that form future products and communications methods.

Luigi Fratta received his Doctor degree in E.E. from Politecnico di Milano, where he has been a professor since 1972. While at Politecnico di Milano, he led a number of national and international funded research projects in communications and networking. He has also held several visiting positions around the world, including UCLA; the University of Hawaii;, the University of Canterbury, New Zealand; Imperial College, UK; IBM T.J. Watson Research Center; IBM San Josè Research Laboratory; Bell Communication Research; and NEC Network Research Lab, Japan. He has been actively consulting with major telecom companies such as Siemens, Italtel, Alcatel, and Vodafone. Luigi is an IEEE Fellow (1998) and he has been a ComSoc dedicated volunteer for more than four decades, serving on the editorial board of several journals. He is a member of the Steering Committee of IEEE INFOCOM.

The IEEE Communications Society is a technical organization serving the academic and professional communications communities throughout the world. Its major challenge, in playing a premier role and being effective and attractive in the communications professional community, is to keep up to date in a world where developments and technology continue to change at a very fast pace. Guidelines for change were developed by the ComSoc leadership in the report ComSoc 2020, published in 2011. Among the many goals presented in the report, was one to provide an understanding of the communication technology evolution through a flexible structure able to respond quickly and even anticipate the dynamics of markets. In doing so, great value will be provided to the members of our community, including both academics and practitioners, particularly young professionals and entrepreneurs. If we can achieve this goal, we would reverse our negative membership trend of the past few years.

ComSoc, recognizing the shift of the market from the classic telecommunications industry to Internet companies and processing infrastructures, would capture its share of the growth of professionals who are in some way related to communications. To reach these goals, the major role in our Society will be played by the Technical Committees. These committees are the fundamental elements of our Society that are aiming to define and implement the technical directions of the Society.

Conscious of the relevant role of the TCs, in the past two years we have put considerable effort into supporting their activities. Besides the formal procedures stated in the ComSoc Bylaws, such as the recertification process, the volunteer officers have been motivated and supported in their initiatives. We encourage all Society members to actively contribute to developing specific standards and/or new programs. Following are many of the new and interesting technologies and directions that the TCs are focusing on now and how they contribute to the ComSoc vision. The summary reported below provides a picture of the topics that, even if not exhaustive, we expect will attract new members and will stimulate our current active members to reinforce their participation.

Internet of Things for Autonomous Assistive Living and eHealth Smart Homes

Digital technologies are improving all areas of the economy and society due to the rise of more and more sophisticated technologies at reasonable costs. Healthcare, whose cost is increasing worldwide because of new methods of fighting diseases and the increasing percentage of older people, should especially benefit. Future expectations are very high thanks to the emergence of a plethora of connected devices and continued research in this area.

Many projects have been launched to exploit the new capabilities of apps and wearable devices to improve the standard of living of the elderly and people with chronic diseases. Now IoT technology is appearing as an enabling technology which, combined with mobile technologies and ubiquitous Internet access, will facilitate the emergence of innovative solutions in the area of eHealth. The Internet of Things (IoT) and communication technologies will also allow a better connection of eHealth smart homes to hospitals. In addition, IoT implementations in telemedicine will improve healthcare in residential and nursing homes. This area also promises increasing innovation because there is much to do not only from the organizational perspective but also from technology and standardization.

Communications and Information Security

IoT Security: A growing number of physical objects are being connected to the Internet at an unprecedented rate (50 billion devices estimated by 2020, 500 billion by 2025). These connected devices, triggered by the emergence of IoT, open the door to innovations that facilitate new interactions among “things” and humans, and provide new opportunities for applications, infrastructures and services. Unfortunately, most of the IoT devices are designed for convenience and functionality without taking into consideration security. Therefore, securing massive IoT devices becomes a critical task.

Quantum Security and Cryptography: With the advance of quantum computation and communication technology, the landscape has changed in the fields of communication security and cryptography. People are starting to look into the potential threat posed to encryption by quantum computing. It is crucial to have secure crypto systems in the post-quantum era.

Internet

Internet Security: From the Internet security TC, a promising direction has been proposed involving the usage of Blockchain approaches to secure control-plane authentication operations, by means of fully decentralized consensus. The basic idea is to try to no longer rely on authentication servers to validate transactions in network operations, but use Blockchain as in the bitcoin cryptocurrency. Essentially, a transaction is validated if the majority of nodes in a large network of nodes validate it. The challenge here is to define protocols to speed up the validation process.

Networked Games: Online gaming is one of the applications stressing the network most in terms of performance requirements. Automating the mobile application task of offloading as a function of the network conditions from the user or a group of users to a remote server is a challenge being discussed for the network gaming usecase, especially in the area of mobile Internet and edge computing environments.

Network Data Analytics and Machine Learning: Increasing attention has been observed toward integrating traffic and mobility analytics engines, not only in user’s computing service management, but also in network provisioning primitives. This trend suggests that there is an interest in going beyond common network management practices that consider a network configuration policy to be good if it is stable and does not need to change often. Behind the term network analytics there is the idea to profit from machine learning algorithms in the implementation of online clustering solutions.

Green Communication and Computing

Green 5G Wireless Communication Systems and Applications: The dramatic increase of data traffic, system scale, and applications in the incoming fifth generation (5G) wireless communications has introduced significant Green challenges, including increasing energy and resource consumption, and negative environmental impacts that deserve intensive research and development efforts.

Big Data and Green Challenges: The Big Data era has been recently found to have high correlations to Green challenges. There are two aspects: how to green Big Data systems themselves, and how to apply big data technologies to general Green objectives in various applications. Both present challenging research and development problems that must be addressed.

Cognitive Networks

Machine Learning for Cognitive and Flexible Wireless Networks: Machine learning can provide promising solutions to build a truly “smart” cognitive radio network. It will also help develop cognitive networks in the broad sense, addressing issues arising in context-aware networks, augmented reality, and autonomous systems.

Data-Driven Network Cognition Analysis and Design: Data-driven spectrum sensing and sharing for IoT and mm-wave applications are receiving strong interest from both academia and industry. Data analytics can help understand what is the network’s performance bottleneck and what kind of cognition is needed most.

Techno-Economic Regulatory Framework for Spectrum Sharing: Such a framework can help bridge the gap among the technical aspects of spectrum sharing research, the economic viability of various technical solutions, and the current or future-foreseeable reality in terms of what will be allowed or is feasible according to national and international spectrum regulations.

Software-Adaptability for Spectrum Flexibility and Sharing: A software design/engineering approach is profoundly important in determining the radio flexibility that can be achieved, and the speed and protocol with which adaptability and spectrum sharing opportunities are obtained. Hence, the optimal design of software in software radios for tailored flexibility must be considered to maximally leverage viable spectrum sharing concepts and opportunities.

Optical Networks

Software Defined Networking-Based Techniques and Related Network Virtualization (NV)/Network Functions Virtualization: Data networks today support programmability through software defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV). While optical system vendors advertise some form of SDN in their product offerings, in reality, the functionality provided by this SDN interface is severely limited. New research directions should address this shortcoming and also explore any performance and/ or stability issues that programmability introduces on optical networks.

Elastic Optical Networking: Elastic optical networks have the potential to overcome the fixed, coarse granularity of existing WDM technology, and are expected to support flexible data rates, adapt dynamically to variable bandwidth demands by applications, and utilize the available spectrum more efficiently. New research in spectrum management techniques and bandwidth-variable transponders and cross-connects is necessary to realize the potential of this technology.

Optical Inter- and Intra-Data Center Networks: The explosive growth in demand for computation, storage and data transfer has imposed great challenges in intra- and inter-data center network design. Ethernet-based electrical data center network designs face issues related to massive and complicated wiring, resource over-provisioning, and high power consumption. Therefore, hybrid architectures using both electrical and optical network devices and/or all-optical data center network designs are necessary to address these issues while achieving scalability.

Integration of Optical Wired and Wireless Networks: Free space optics (FSO) is a mature technology that may provide very high data rate (tens of gigabits per second) over long distances. Integration of FSO and wired optical networks will provide for seamless communication for many applications.

Radio Communications

Network Localization and Navigation Systems: This TC is focusing on reliable localization and navigation, which is becoming a key component for a diverse set of applications including logistics, security tracking, medical services, search/ rescue operations, and automotive safety, as well as a large set of emerging wireless sensor network (WSN) applications.

mmWave Communications and Massive MIMO: The combination of millimeter-wave frequencies and arrays with a massive number of antennas will dramatically improve the capacity and throughput leveraging on an unprecedented spatial diversity and is another area being investigated.

Satellite and Space Communications

Network Convergence of Satellite and 5G Architectures: Inherent broadcasting and multicasting capabilities of satellite systems have to be properly conjugated with the ongoing evolution of wireless systems (namely, 5G), which is expected to provide an unprecedented increase in capacity and number of served users. As such, satellite systems are expected to take part in the overall 5G picture, as integrated directly in the access segment as backhauling technology or in the network core, where SDN/NFV concepts will play an important function to enrich current services and enable new services in the context of mainly multimedia and public safety applications.

Networking in the Sky through Satellite Mega-Constellations: The renewed interest in LEO satellite constellations stems from the opportunity to deploy larger systems than ever, offering large data rates, also owing to the use of free space optics technology. The reduced latency offered, as well as the increase in capacity, are expected to revolutionize the world of telecommunication, although important research challenges need to be addressed, especially with respect to the complexity of routing operations onboard satellites.

Next-Generation Satellite Payloads for Very High Throughput Systems: The advent of high throughput satellite systems and the more recent conception of ultra-high throughput satellites is the logical response to meeting the more stringent demands of users in terms of data rates. In order to further optimize the available satellite capacity, the resource allocation schemes currently in place should be upgraded to more closely track traffic fluctuations. To this end, an important role is played by satellite payloads which, due to recent advances in space technology, enable more flexible operations, for what regards allocation of frequency and power (flexible payloads), and time (beamhopping).

Signal Processing and Communications Electronics

Signal Processing for 5G and Integrated ICT Systems: The advent of 5G technologies, combined with the proliferation of wireless sensors and intelligent machines, have brought multifaceted technical challenges for the design of future communication system and networks. Advanced signal processing techniques, such as massive MIMO and distributed antenna systems, millimeter wave systems with hybrid analog/digital beam forming architectures, and full duplex radios, need to be explored in achieving highly efficient transmission in time-frequency-space domain. The use of small cells and multi-tier structure bring direct challenges to the highly cooperative signal processing techniques in reducing the mutual interferences and supporting the massive connectivity required by device-to-device related applications. The ultra-reliable and low-latency communication, requested in 5G systems, call for advanced signal processing techniques that can be implemented by a careful re-design of the existing ones.

Signal Processing for Big Data Analytics in Communication Networks: The large amount of data generated by connected devices (IoT) imposes formidable challenges on future wireless networks, such as large bandwidth, large storage space, and high energy consumption. Currently there is a big gap between the resources required to support Big Data in wireless networks, and the services that can be supplied by current wireless network structures. These challenges can be tackled by new signal processing techniques, such as low-dimensional and sparse signal representations, as well as signal processing based on graph models.

The TC technology interests and directions, above briefly described, might spark the curiosity of the readers to search on the Technical Committee websites to learn more and become actively involved and contribute to TC and ComSoc activities. We expect not only to energize the present members, but also to attract the many new members who are needed for the continuing success of our Society. Trusting the TCs’ core role is my bet for the near future of ComSoc.