October 8, 2022

New Center looks at 5G and beyond

What’s next after 5G? That’s the overall question driving the research of Purdue University NEXT G Center (XGC) for Communications and Sensing.
stock illustration depicting broadband technologies

What’s next after 5G? That’s the overall question driving the research of Purdue University NEXT G Center (XGC) for Communications and Sensing. The team for the center is primarily made up of faculty from the Elmore Family School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. David J. Love, Nick Trbovich Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, is director of the center.

As the demand for wireless access continues to grow, new research is needed to provide higher data rates, lower latencies, improved security, and reduced interference. XGC aims to address these problems in a holistic way, spanning from hardware to advanced theory to at-scale prototyping and testbed evaluation. The team builds upon Purdue’s long history of excellence in communications and networking.

The center’s research includes the following thrusts:

  • Advanced broadband connectivity with the goal of achieving higher data rates, lower latencies, and improved reliability that would serve as the foundation for emerging applications, such as autonomous vehicles, advanced gaming, AR/VR, and telemedicine.
  • Wireless research impacting agriculture and rural activities. James V. Krogmeier, professor of electrical and computer engineering, says this primarily involves wireless capabilities far from traditional infrastructure.

“That’s where you’re going to need it if you’re going to use it for autonomous agriculture and autonomous machines in general,” he says. “It’s bigger than agriculture – it’s autonomous operations outdoors.”

Purdue University and Purdue ECE have already begun addressing these issues through the following Purdue centers and external partners, which are partnering with XGC:

  • IOT4Ag – The Internet of Things for Precision Agriculture (IOT4Ag) is an NSF Engineering Research Center (ERC) that has a mission to create and translate to practice Internet of Thing (IoT) technologies for precision agriculture and to train and educate a diverse workforce that will address the societal grand challenge of food, energy, and water security for decades to come.
  • OATS Center – The Open Ag Technology and Systems (OATS) Center is working to accelerate innovation in the food and agricultural industry through the development and sharing of open-source tools and culture.
  • AERPAW - Aerial Experimentation Research Platform for Advanced Wireless, or AERPAW, is the nation’s first aerial wireless experimentation platform spanning 5G technologies and beyond. It has the potential to create transformative wireless advances for aerial systems.
  • The advancement of sensing technologies and the convergence of sensing and communications. Communications or advanced remote sensing (RS) systems are not just for communications anymore. Processes such as the monitoring of agricultural and environmental endeavors involves constant communication to networks of heterogeneous sensors, some of which may be deployed along with the base stations and/or regular user equipment while some may be buried in the ground or on plants or animals. This requires rethinking how to adapt the sensors and their communication infrastructure to the environment and the radio spectrum. Sensors will soon be widely distributed in large numbers of IoT devices used in the home and workplace.  There is also a fast emerging need for sensors that monitor spectrum, as commercial bands are starting to be neighbored or shared with government and public safety bands.
  • Security for 5G and beyond has continuously being a top priority in wireless communication engineering, particularly the waveform level security that is outside the traditional realm of cryptographic security in computer systems. Prof. David J. Love says that includes trying to control the way the signal itself is designed and processed.

“This is because there are numerous emerging capabilities, mainly due to reductions in cost for computing and RF platforms.  These are highly reconfigurable and could potentially give rise to numerous spectrum vulnerabilities,” says Love. “We’re trying to figure out how can you adjust the traditional communications signal processing, information theory, kinds of research to take into account security in a holistic and practical way.”

  • Edge computing and how that affects communication and how engineering research is done. The emergent applications of AI and the relocation of the computing power from cloud to the network edges have blurred the lines between computing and communication. How to devise new computing architectures tailored for the wireless 5G-and-beyond systems is a critical direction for both computer and electrical engineering.  A solution developed analytically may also need to go through at-scale implementation and evaluation that identifies issues that can only stem from the real-world dynamics between computing and communication protocols.
david j love
David J. Love, Nick Trbovich Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering

XGC is also partnering with Vertically Integrated Projects (VIP) Program, which provides an opportunity for undergraduate students to earn academic credit while engaging in research and design projects related to active research areas of Purdue faculty members and national, international, and industry-sponsored design challenges. Students can participate on interdisciplinary and vertically-integrated teams (first-year through seniors) with faculty and graduate student mentors for multiple semesters to address these real-world research and design challenges.

Purdue is also participating in 5G-related projects led by the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD). The agency is looking at 5G and beyond research and development aligned with defense needs. Purdue is a member of one of 16 multidisciplinary teams for the Convergence Accelerator program 2022 cohort for the research topic — Track G: Securely Operating Through 5G Infrastructure. Track G builds upon DOD's 5G Initiative — Operate Through — to assess and mitigate 5G vulnerabilities, inform 5G standards and policies through rigorous research, and promote technology development to advance 5G communications for the U.S. military and federal government. 

Purdue is also a contributing member of the ATIS Next G Alliance, an initiative to advance North American wireless technology leadership over the next decade through private-sector-led efforts. With a strong emphasis on technology commercialization, the work will encompass the full lifecycle of research and development, manufacturing, standardization and market readiness.