Future network trends – intelligent infrastructure – Ericsson

All around the world, the unprecedented events of 2020 have brought into focus the critical role that digital infrastructure plays in the functioning of virtually every aspect of contemporary society. More than ever before, communication technologies are providing innovative solutions to help address social, environmental and economic challenges by enhancing efficiency and enabling both intensified network usage and more well-informed decisions.

One of the most important features of digital infrastructure is the ability to bridge distances and make it easier to efficiently meet societal needs in terms of resource utilization, collaboration, competence transfer, status verification, privacy protection, security and safety. The communications industry supports other industries by enabling them to deliver digital products and services such as health care, education, finance, commerce, governance and agriculture. It also plays a vital role in tackling climate change by helping other industries reduce emissions and improve efficiency.

In last year’s trends article, I introduced the concept of the network platform and explained how it serves as a catalyst in the development of an open marketplace that is always available to any consumer of the digital infrastructure. The network platform forms the core of the digital infrastructure, with the ability to ensure long-term competitiveness for enterprises and meet the full range of societal needs as well. It is a trustworthy solution that guarantees resilience, privacy, reliability and safety for all types of organizations – public, private and everything in between. It also has the scale, cost performance and quality required to support future innovations. As a result of these characteristics, it is the most sustainable solution to address all future communication needs.

Future technologies will enable a fully digitalized, automated and programmable world of connected humans, machines, things and places. All experiences and sensations will be transparent across the boundaries of physical and virtual realities. Traffic in future networks will be generated not only by human communication but also by connected, intelligent machines and bots that are embedded with artificial intelligence (AI). As time goes on, the percentage of traffic generated by humans will drop as that of traffic generated by machines and computer vision systems – including autonomous vehicles, drones and surveillance systems – rises.

The machines and other ‘things’ that make up the Internet of Things (IoT) require even more sophisticated communication than humans do. For example, connected, intelligent machines must be able to interact dynamically with the network. Sensor data will be used to support the development of pervasive cyber-physical systems consisting of physical objects connected to collaborative digital twins. Future network capabilities will also include support for the transfer of sensing modalities such as sensations and smell.

The network platform acts as a seamless universal connectivity fabric characterized by its almost limitless scalability and affordability. It is capable of exposing capabilities beyond communication services, such as embedded compute and storage as well as a distributed intelligence that supports users with insights and reasoning.

In this article, I will explain the ongoing evolution of the network platform in terms of the key needs that are driving its evolution (trends 1-3) and the emerging capabilities that will meet both those and other needs (trends 4-7).

#1: A collaborative, automated physical world
#2: Connected, intelligent machines
#3: The internet of senses
#4: Omnipresent and nonlimiting connectivity
#5: Pervasive network compute fabric
#6: Trustworthy infrastructure
#7: Cognitive network