As the 5G race heats up around the world, Europe is taking action to lead global developments. Ultra-high bandwidths, massive machine-to-machine communications and networks that can process high volumes of data with minimal delay – with the launch of the fifth generation of telecommunications systems, Europeans can look forward to all these benefits. Efforts towards 5G readiness have now reached the point where third-party innovators and SMEs should take advantage of the capabilities of 5G infrastructures. However, successful 5G realisation hinges on the development of network applications (NetApps). Launched in January 2021, the EU-funded EVOLVED-5G project strives to enhance Europe’s 5G experimentation potential and open 5G to vertical industries through a novel NetApp development and verification environment. The aim is to create an open and dynamic ecosystem, both technologically and from a marketing perspective. What mainly makes such openness possible is the realisation of network programmability through standard application programming interfaces (APIs), namely software intermediaries that allow two applications to communicate. Each time you browse through social media, play a game, visit a website or send an instant message on your phone, you are using an API.
An emulator to support SMEs
EVOLVED-5G project partner National Centre for Scientific Research “Demokritos” (NCSR Demokritos), in Greece, is currently in the process of developing the first 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) Network Exposure Function (NEF) Emulator to support SMEs on 5G programmability. As reported in a news item posted on the project website, the NEF Emulator “implements the standardized NEF APIs in a configurable emulated environment, where the user can define specific simulation environments.” Such specifications include the number and type of user devices and the position of gNBs (in other words, 5G wireless base stations that transmit and receive communications between user equipment and the mobile network). After defining the simulation environment, users can then specify the NetApp to be tested through interaction with the emulated exposed NEF APIs. According to the project’s technical manager Dr Harilaos Koumaras of NCSR Demokritos, “EVOLVED-5G and NEF Emulator democratizes the 5G openness to every third party that is interested to develop 5G-aware services and applications, the so-called NetApps. NEF emulator is an easy tool that provides access to the 3GPP NEF APIs, even if a real 5G Core network is not available.”
The NetApps being developed as part of the project encompass mixed reality assisted manufacturing, intent-driven chatbots to assist engineers in factories, haptic-driven consoles for industrial surface repairs, and Internet of things/machine-to-machine-based remote monitoring platforms for industrial environments. Other industry-oriented NetApps include AI-based video analysers for industrial and robotics safety, blockchain data brokerage engines, AI-driven humanoid robots and AI-driven logistics robotic fleets. EVOLVED-5G (Experimentation and Validation Openness for Long-term evolution of VErtical inDustries in 5G era and beyond) is coordinated by Spanish multinational telecommunications company Telefónica. The 3-year project ends in December 2023. For more information, please see: EVOLVED-5G project website
EVOLVED-5G, 5G, Network Exposure Function, SMEs, emulator, network, application programming interface, API, network application, NetApp