European standards group for 6G metamaterial antenna technology
Reconfigurable Intelligent Surfaces (RIS) are a new type of system node built from smart radio surfaces with thousands of small antennas or metamaterial elements to dynamically shape and control radio signals in a goal-oriented manner. The technology will effectively turn the wireless environment into a service, inspiring a host of new use cases. These include coverage and capacity, as well as enabling new applications such as localization and sensing. As an example, an RIS can reconfigure the radio environment to sense human posture and detect someone falling, a very useful application for elderly care.
RIS is expected to serve as a key technology in future wireless systems, including for 6G.
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Reconfigurable Intelligent Surfaces can be implemented using mostly passive components and as such the cost to produce, deploy, and operate RIS may be lower compared to fully stacked cells relays. RIS can be potentially deployed for both indoor and outdoor usage, including offices, airports, shopping centres, lamp posts, and advertising billboards, and may take any shape or be integrated onto objects. Additionally, the characteristics of RIS may result in low energy consumption, making it a sustainable, environmentally friendly technology solution. RIS can be configured to operate at any part of the radio spectrum, including frequencies from sub-6 GHz to THz, and may use tools from Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (AI/ML) to enable systems operation and optimization.
There is extensive research into Reconfigurable Intelligent Surfaces (also known as Reflecting Intelligent Surface, Large Intelligent Surface, Smart Repeater, and Holographic Radio), but global standardization of RIS remains in its very early stages. The Industry Specification Group will work towards defining use cases, covering identified scenarios, and clearly documenting the relevant requirements with a view to pave the way for future standardization of the technology. Arman Shojaeifard from wireless IP group Interdigital was elected Chair of the group with Richie Leo from ZTE in China and Professor Marco Di Renzo from CNRS in France were elected as Vice Chairs.
“Transforming the wireless environment from a passive into an intelligent actor, RIS will create innovation opportunities and progressively impact the evolution of wireless system architecture, access technologies, and networking protocols. There are however many technical challenges that need to be adequately addressed before RIS can be adopted into future standards, towards commercialization of the technology, and the ETSI ISG RIS aims to identify and address some of these challenges,” said Shojaeifard.
Oher members of the group include Belgian research lab imec, NPL and DCMS in the UK, Huawei UK, NEC Europe, Sony Europe, and network operators Telefonica, BT and Orange as well as the universities of Surrey, UK, Athens, Greece and Oulu, Finland.
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