About the project

Learn About DN 6th Sense project

6th Sense addresses the fundamental challenges of joint communication and sensing (JCAS) through an innovative

and interdisciplinary program. In a concerted effort, the findings of 6thSense will be tailored to key 6G use cases to

boost Europe’s position in the global communications market both from a talent and a technological perspective.

Having lost a significant share of the market to big players from the US and Asia, Europe is no longer at the forefront of the telecommunication industry. However, new vertical services focusing on connected and automated mobility, remote health monitoring, industry 4.0, and autonomous vehicles, have created a unique opportunity to regain a leading position in 6G, a vision shared by the EC and 5GPPP.2,3 These vertical services are crucial to strengthen the European telecommunication industry as they are worth billions of Euros (Figure 1a) and are predicted to grow dramatically by 2028. Unlike traditional mobile broadband services that mainly connect people, these emerging novel services not only exchange data, but also critically rely on accurate information about the surrounding environment for their operation. Consequently, the integration of communication and sensing is a key feature of 6G networks, where base stations and devices will embed wireless sensing capabilities such as localisation, mapping, and activity and gesture recognition.

Necessity of joint communication and sensing (JCAS)

Although traditional radar systems perform the above-mentioned sensing tasks, their reliance on dedicated hardware, physical layer and signal processing chains limits their application to a handful of (high-end) use cases. To make sensing widely available to new services and emerging telecommunication markets, we need to integrate sensing capability into 6G networks. This integration will revolutionise the way we offer healthcare, operate factories, drive vehicles, etc. In an era where healthcare is exhausting the EU’s public resources, JCAS will enable common wireless devices (e.g., WiFi routers) to monitor patients’ vital signs and activities at home without dedicated on-body sensors or privacy-intruding cameras. This is a great opportunity for sustainable and personalised healthcare for Europe’s aging population. Furthermore, the manufacturing and automotive industries will benefit from a new degree of freedom in designing highly intelligent, adaptive, and robust automation systems where a single chipset facilitates both sensing and communication. This strong incentive has recently initiated a major research push in academia and industry, including the formation of JCAS-specific task groups in standardization bodies such as IEEE 802.11bf and 3GPP, aiming at native JCAS support by 2030. Hence, now is an excellent time to act – “communicate, sense and comprehend ” – in order to make a significant and durable impact on technology and society.

The challenge of bringing the best of two worlds together

Integrating communication and sensing is a major challenge because it demands fundamental changes to current communication systems. While spectrum sharing between radar and communication is well studied, leveraging advanced communication capabilities of beyond 5G (B5G)/6G radios for accurate sensing as well as their integration in large networks are largely unexplored, and the fundamental limits of distributed sensing are not yet well understood. As the first Doctoral Network (DN) on JCAS, the primary goal of 6thSense is to train Doctoral students (referred to as PhD Fellows, PFs) to co-create novel solutions overcoming the fundamental challenges of JCAS. Specifically, the PFs design high accuracy sensing alongside high-speed communication under stringent scalability, privacy, security, and resource constraints. By focusing on tuning JCAS towards the particular mix of requirements of each key 6G vertical the PFs enable unprecedented capabilities for intelligent networks to provide extremely high data rates as well as high-resolution sensing of the surrounding environment.

Tackling the talent shortage in the EU’s JCAS market

The EC initiative for Next Generation Internet (NGI) and the European partnership on Smart Networks and Services (SNS) consider JCAS among the main development areas that are essential to the digital transformation of Europe.4 The centre for strategic and international studies (CSIS) recently identified that a skilled R&D workforce is the defining factor in winning the global race in these high-profit markets,5 e.g., the manufacturing sector alone contributes € 29.2 billion to the EU market. This is particularly critical for the EU where the industry is already suffering from a lack of highly skilled professionals.6 JCAS is an inherently multi-disciplinary topic whose mastery demands knowledge of electrical/telecommunication engineering, computer science, as well as domain knowledge of the relevant vertical industries. Unfortunately, such a multi-disciplinary training is unavailable in Europe. 6thSense combines and strengthens Europe’s skills and knowledge base through an intersectoral and interdisciplinary program with the following goals:

  • building up a highly skilled workforce with an in-depth and hands-on background in JCAS for the telecommunication industry and the related vertical sectors;
  • devising innovative solutions for the efficient integration of sensing capabilities in communication systems, considering the relevant trade-offs and asymptotic performance bounds;
  • tailoring JCAS for key 6G use cases to boost Europe’s position in the global communications market, and addressing socio-technical and regulatory aspects relevant for the successful adoption of JCAS in future networks.

While JCAS is essential to the digital transformation of Europe, significant research is needed before it becomes ready for widespread and large-scale industry deployment. 6thSense follows a holistic approach to address the challenges of JCAS:

Challenge 1. Going beyond traditional sub-6GHz systems and enabling sensing in new B5G/6G communication bands, i.e., millimetre-wave (mmWave) and visible light;

Challenge 2. Addressing distributed sensing and networking challenges through architecture and protocol design under (data) security and privacy considerations;

Challenge 3. Handling the analytical complexity of JCAS by devising solutions that combine the strengths of classical signal processing and optimisation models with advanced machine learning (ML) techniques. 6th Sense concludes with a concerted effort to transfer fundamental research contributions to industry-relevant applications in healthcare, manufacturing, and automotive sectors.

Based on the above interdisciplinary training skills, as well as soft skills (WP5) and entrepreneurial skills (WP6), the PFs will become highly employable scientists/engineers for the EU ICT sectors and other related industries including automotive, manufacturing, medical equipment providers as well as for standardisation bodies, scientific institutions, and public organisations.

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