Research methodology and impact
The fundamental research themes pursued by Comnet and the specific focus areas are:
We believe that Internet access is basic necessity and should be ubiquitously available for all. Connecting the remaining global users—2 billion to mobile networks and 5 billion to the Internet while dealing with the data avalanche in developed countries —creates, among many others, an enormous challenge in energy and cost efficiency. Building the necessary communication infrastructure should be done in a sustainable way both in economic as well as environmental point of view. We believe that only holistic rethinking of network, protocol, and system architectures can enable this expansion in a carbon-neutral and economically feasible way.
Internet access anytime, anywhere via wireless networks is becoming increasingly commonplace—provided that users are willing to put up with waiting for their desired content or their interactions to complete, leading to mostly inadequate Quality of Experience. Reducing the latency also opens up new application domains for mobile communications systems such as real-time automation. We pursue a comprehensive approach to future wireless access from the radio technologies to network operation to applications to reduce waiting time to delays below human perception and acceptable for close loop control. At the same time we pursue increasing the reliability of the networks to guarantee almost 100% availability for the services.
Not just the number of Internet users is growing, similarly is the number of their personal devices (for industry automation, business, health and medical, convenience, and leisure) and the number of shared devices penetrating private and public life. This will ultimately shift the scale of networking by several orders of magnitude as these devices want to be networked, accessed, managed, and controlled.
Yet another rising theme that will affect our research in the coming years is cyber and network security. More and more critical infrastructure of the society and critical business processes relay on Internet. Cyber security is a complex area that includes not only technological, but even more so social and business aspects. We believe that holistic approach is needed to make Cyber space secure enough without scarifying usability.
With the omnipresence of the Internet and mobile communications in the modern world, all elements of networking and networking research are closely intertwined with the national and global society. This means that communication and networking research has a strong inherent element of systems research with an increasingly interdisciplinary character. Consequently,
- individual aspects of the research can less and less be viewed in isolation
- interdisciplinary approaches beyond technical areas are required as is prominently reflected in Comnet’s two chairs in network economics and human-centric communications (and aligned with the Aalto setup)
- research results are less and less accepted unless their real-world applicability can be shown.
We believe that the role of hardware (HW) in communications systems is changing. More and more network functions can be done in software (SW) using commodity HW. This opens up possibility to virtualize and cloudify communication systems. However, these systems have much more strict requirements in terms of timing, capacity and reliability than general purpose cloud systems requiring special expertise that the department fosters.
Comnet recognizes (and has always done so) the necessity of strong backing by means of real-world data collection, their analysis and modeling, and using this data as input to simulations. Furthermore, experimentation is a key element of Comnet’s research, particularly in those areas where models are incomplete or not capable of capturing the diversity of the research target (e.g., in wireless communications and user behavior where research has used suboptimal models for a decade). Comnet have built cloud-Radio Access Network (C-RAN) and cloud core testbeds that allow experimental research on all aspects of mobile communications. It also has developed netradar tool for crowdsourcing data gathering from commercial mobile systems in large scale.
The dependency on and close embedding into the real-world and experimental (lab and testbed) environments is depicted in figure 2—which also hints at the need to ensure that the—manifold—research results are suitable for the real world. Practical implementations also can generate IPR in terms of patents or software licenses which in turn can either help existing industries to improve their products and competiveness or generate complete new business in form of startups.