MOBILE TECHNOLOGY FOR THE FUTURE
Your next mobile phone is being conceived in Denmark
Danish research scientists and leading international companies have teamed up on a unique research and development project which aims to create competitive products and design processes for the next generation of mobile phones
By Jan Aagaard
LTE or 4G. Behind the cryptic acronyms lie the next big revolution in wireless technology. A revolution that will give us the same internet experience on mobile phones as we have today via broadband connections at home. Mobile internet will seriously become a reality.
LTE stands for Long Term Evolution, but is popularly called 4G – the 4th generation in wireless standards after 2G and 3G, which we use today when we speak, send SMS and access the internet from our mobile phones.
While telecompanies in a number of countries have plans to establish 4G networks, the technological platform for those mobile phones and modems which will operate these networks is not yet in place.
A Danish quantum leap
As far as it lies with the parties in a new Danish consortium, Denmark will get a key role in developing these new technologies. The consortium consists of the leading German chip manufacturer Infineon Technologies, USA’s Agilent Technologies, which is the world’s largest company in test equipment for mobile communication, and the Department of Electronic Systems at Aalborg University.
With a pool of just over EUR 12 million (including an all-time record grant of EUR 6 million from the Danish National Advanced Technology Foundation), the three parties have established a new research project in Aalborg where they plan to create a quantum leap in 4G by means of new technology, innovation and competitive solutions.
“It is not only about making the best technological platform, but also shortening the development process and reducing production costs. We aim to develop quality products that are competitive when mobile phones for 4G are put into mass production,” says Professor Preben Mogensen of Aalborg University.
Development and testing in one go
The Danish research project is unique since it will be the first time that development and testing of a new generation of mobile telephony are brought together on one platform. The test cycles are some of the most complicated and time-consuming aspects of the development of new wireless technologies, where the test phase typically accounts for up to a third of the total development time. The Danish project aims to streamline the test phase by testing continuously during the process, thereby making the final product less costly and more competitive.
?“Development and testing have traditionally been separated and that has led to inefficient solutions. The objective of this project is to break down the wall that normally separates these two worlds and make them work together from the start. Aalborg University has an important role in breaking down the wall via its unique abilities in innovation and research,” says project manager Mikael Bergholz Knudsen at Infineon Technologies.
Over a period of years, the global company’s Aalborg division has built up major expertise in mobile telephone technology – including via a number of collaborations with Aalborg University.
Agilent Technologies has so far had its European development and test divisions placed in Ireland and Belgium, but for the 4G project it has established a dedicated research and development division in Aalborg.
“The main motivation for Agilent’s presence in Denmark is to be able to advance our own LTE (4G) roadmap by collaborating with Aalborg University and Infineon. Aalborg University is a renowned university with leading-edge professors and the Aalborg region in general has a lo of skilled resources that can contribute to our research,” says Michael Dieudonné, R&D coordinator at Agilent.
ICT expertise in north Denmark
North Denmark, and its principal city of Aalborg, has been the centre for development and production of mobile phones and associated technologies for 25 years.
The mobile story began with Dancall, a company that produced NMT and GSM telephones. Dancall was later acquired in rapid succession by Bosch, Siemens and Flextronics.
Other mobile phone and electronics companies such as Motorola, Texas Instruments, RTX Telecom, ETI, Infineon and GateHouse concurrently established businesses in the region. Together with Aalborg University, they developed the competences that today form the basis of the region’s ICT cluster, which employs 8,000 people and has a number of different technology companies as well as a strong research environment in information and communication technology.
High speed, low power consumption
For mobile phone users, 4G will provide much faster download speeds – from the current 10 Mbit/sec. to 100 Mbit/sec. and over time perhaps more than 1 Gbit/sec. This means that a film in HD quality of 4 GB can be downloaded in a few minutes compared to about one hour today. In addition, the response time will be faster – from a 10th of a second today to a 100th of a second on the LTE platform, which will have major importance for online games.
“The entire architecture in LTE is optimised for mobile data service. The internet experience via the mobile phone will thus correspond to the one you have today via your PC at home,” says Preben Mogensen.
But before embarking on the mobile opportunities of the future, a number of technological problems need to be solved. One of the most significant challenges will be to reduce the power consumption of mobile phones, so that the increased amounts of data in 4G do not deplete the battery too quickly.
“When we went from 2G to 3G, power consumption increased significantly and users experienced reduced speaking time and standby time. It is thus an important objective of this project to find clever methods of reducing power consumption, despite the superior performance,” says Mikael Bergholz Knudsen.
Research scientists look ahead to 5G
Although the future mobile broadband, called LTE or 4G, is only gradually becoming a reality as a replacement for the current 3G around the world, research scientists at the Center for Teleinfrastruktur at Aalborg University in Denmark, in collaboration with the Center for Wireless Innovation (CWI) in Norway, have already started looking at the opportunities for the next generation of mobile broadband – 5G.
While bandwidth has been a key focus area in the establishment of 3G and the incipient roll-out of 4G, this parameter will not play such an important role in the development of 5G, according to the Danish and Norwegian research scientists.
Instead, there will be greater focus on the handling of applications, and mobile phones and modems will be able to operate at several different frequencies and select the best frequency on which to operate in any situation.
Danish collaboration on revolutionary mobile TV
In the future we will be able to receive mobile TV in a far better quality than today with a technology that also opens up new opportunities for interaction between viewers and TV stations. A Danish research project is exploring the social potential and commercial opportunities of the new technology
By Jan Aagaard
Professor Knud Erik Skouby
at Aalborg University heads the CAMMP project which involves around 100 people from different professional groups.
News, film, sport, music and documentaries. With modern mobile phones we have access to the whole world in pocket format, and in the future we will make even more use of mobile phones as TV receivers.
Although we can already watch TV and film on mobile phones today, it is only the beginning. In time to come we will be able to receive TV in significantly better quality. We will also send video clips and images to TV stations with mobile phones to a much greater extent than we do today, and take active part in programmes through votes, comments and direct interviews conducted via mobile phones.
All this will be possible with the new technological standard DVB-H (Digital Video Broadcasting – Handheld), which
is expected to revolutionise the market for digital mobile TV. DVB-H, whose format is adjusted to small screens, enables broadcasting of high quality TV with a relatively narrow bandwidth, while at
the same time providing a range of new opportunities for communication between TV stations and receivers.
Denmark aims to be in the lead
To ensure Denmark gains a leading position in DVB-H, a consortium of Danish university faculties and companies have teamed up for a four year research project called CAMMP – Converged Advanced Mobile Media Platforms – which will explore and identify the potential of the new infrastructure.
The participants in the project comprise a number of key suppliers of mobile services and technologies in a collaboration with Aalborg University, the Technical Information Center of Denmark, Nokia, Motorola, Molex, Wirtek, the Danish Broadcasting Corporation and Broadcast Service Denmark. One area of focus will be to define new business models for the next generation of mobile technology.
“Our aim is to explore the technological platform and find out what could be interesting and useful to society. The idea is to explore the potential while also ensuring that Denmark has a leading position in areas that will become commercially interesting,” says Professor Knud Erik Skouby at Aalborg University. He leads the project which involves around 100 people from different professional groups.
DVB-H differs from existing solutions on the market for mobile TV by being broadcast-based. This means that the signal is transmitted like an ordinary digital TV signal, where it is not necessary that the sender can ”see” the recipient. Contrary to other technologies for mobile TV, the quality is thus not affected by the number of receivers of the TV signal.
In addition to receiving TV and advanced text TV on a mobile unit, the user can communicate directly with a TV station via a return channel from the mobile. This opens up opportunities for new interactive TV programmes where viewers participate directly in programmes and contribute content such as video and images via an application in their mobile phone.
“DVB-H combines the quality of TV transmission, that is to be able to reach a lot of people with a very large information content, with the strength of mobile telephony – that people can decide for themselves what they want to see and use. That offers a completely new communication medium, which as yet we can only see in outline,” says Knud Erik Skouby.
Applications are the driving force
At Aalborg University’s Centre for Communication, Media & Information Technologies (CMI), where the project is embedded, research scientists have in recent years developed and built an open source infrastructure that makes it possible to receive ordinary TV programmes via an antenna and then transmit them as mobile TV to units with an inbuilt DVB-H receiver. The project participants have also looked at application opportunities, and have developed prototypes of programmes that are well suited for DVB-H technology.
In the next phases of the project, the focus will be on user interfaces and applications that for example make it possible to transmit videos directly from the mobile to a TV programme.
“The development of services and applications are increasingly the driving force in the mobile phone area. With the spread of DVB-H technology, a market will open for completely new services and applications that can be used in connection with mobile TV,” says Knud Erik Skouby.
Mobile antenna development
A new generation of mobile antennas is needed to handle Digital TV and other demanding applications on future mobile phones. In northern Denmark, a group of research scientists and antenna developers have taken up the challenge.
By Jan Aagaard
Tomorrow’s mobile phones will need antennas that can cope with the digital demands of ultra high speed internet and TV.
Digital TV is broadcast on low frequencies which need relatively large antennas while – conversely – we have become used to antennas being hidden away in ever smaller mobile phones.
To receive different TV channels, for example via the new DVB-H or LTE (4G) standards, the mobile phone antenna must be able to operate on several different frequencies. At the same time mobile phones must have a range that enables users to receive TV and access the internet regardless of where they are.
These are some of the challenges that the antenna experts from Aalborg University and the Aalborg division of US electronics company Molex are facing in a joint research and development project on the mobile antennas of the future.
As part of the Danish high tech research project CAMMP, they have been working since 2008 on building a platform which is expected to form the basis for development of the antennas that will be integrated into tomorrow’s mobile phones.
Together with the cluster of mobile phone companies in the area, Aalborg University has decades of solid expertise in antenna design, and has built a unique infrastructure with measurement facilities that make it possible to test antennas in ?real life?.
In the current research project, mobile phones with several built-in antennas are being tested. The aim of the project is to develop antenna systems with a significantly increased degree of coverage and data speed. With the results achieved so far, a unique platform has been created which puts Denmark in the lead in this area.
Molex is known as one of the world’s leading suppliers of interconnect products for the electronics and automotive industries, but it also has substantial expertise in antennas.
“We see major potential in this project and expect that it will result in the development of new mobile antennas which are better than the products our international competitors will be able to offer,” says divisional head Morten Christensen, who is in charge of the project at Molex.
Your mobile is watching you
Research scientists and students at the Technical University of Denmark are collaborating with Nokia to develop new applications that exploit the numerous opportunities provided by mobile phones with built-in GPS, compass, microphone, light meter and other sensors
By Jan Aagaard
In the information society of 2010, you are not being monitored by “Big Brother” but by “Little Brother” in the form of that loyal companion – your mobile phone. The tiny box of electronics in your hand or pocket keeps track of where you are, whether you are stationary or moving, who you are with, and what music you are listening to.
“Modern smartphones contain a number of sensors which together can form a quite accurate picture of the situation you are in”, says Associate Professor Jakob Eg Larsen of DTU Informatics at the Technical University of Denmark.
“Within DTU Informatics is the Mobile Informatics Lab (milab), where Jakob Eg Larsen and his colleagues are developing applications for the latest mobile phones, including software that makes the phone context conscious”.
This means that the phone can acquire and understand the very detailed information detected by built-in sensors such as GPS, Bluetooth, microphone, compass and light meter. This information can be utilised to model the user’s behaviour and surroundings, and it enables the researchers at milab to create smart new applications.
The development work is being carried out together with Nokia, since milab is a member of the mobile manufacturer’s global innovation network and collaborates with its research centres on specific projects.
“Milab is developing programmes that exploit a mobile phone’s senses” for many different purposes. One currently ongoing project is an application called Life Status, which is designed to make semi-automatic updates of user status on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.
If a mobile phone user is having a meeting with workplace colleagues, the mobile phone detects where the user is via the company’s wireless network, while the Bluetooth connection registers who the other participants are. The mobile phone will then suggest sending a social network update to advise that the user is meeting with the registered people. The user can then approve or reject the update with a single tap on the screen or key. Similarly for other functions in the programme, the user can decide what information is relayed to the external world.
Point – and you shall find
In another project, a student at milab has developed a programme using the mobile as a pointing device which automatically receives information about the things it is pointed at.
The point-and-find function utilises the mobile phone’s built-in GPS to calculate where the user is, while the compass detects the direction in which it is pointing. This data is then matched
up with internet-based ’geotagged’ information about the given location.
If the mobile is pointed towards a distinctive building in the townscape, a Wikipedia article about the building will immediately open on the screen. If it is pointed towards the railway station, the programme will show train times. And if it is pointed towards a restaurant, it will show if this particular establishment has been reported on by the inspection authorities.
Interest from Nokia
The milab programme is more discreet to use than similar applications since the user does not need to look through the camera viewfinder to locate the surroundings, but instead can discreetly point the phone in the direction where information is sought.
The new application has so far been developed as a prototype for a Nokia smartphone, but according to milab, Nokia is interested in continuing development of the programme.
Milab has also developed a context-conscious photo album, which automatically links information from the mobile’s sensors, such as time, place, compass direction and weather conditions, to the photos that are taken with the mobile’s camera. One of the next projects that the inventive researchers will begin is an application that registers the type of music a user’s family, friends and colleagues are listening to, and based on this information, suggest pieces of music that the user might be interested to hear.
This page forms part of the publication 'Focus Denmark – June 2010' as chapter 4 of 10
Version 1.0. 29-06-2010
Publication may be found at the address http://www.netpublikationer.dk/um/10479/index.htm