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Here we introduce IOWN (Innovative Optical and Wireless Network), an initiative for future communications infrastructure to create a smarter world by using cutting-edge technologies like photonics and computing technologies.

What is the Cognitive Foundation?

Overview of IOWN and Digital Twin Computing

Fig. 1. Functional configuration image of the IOWN concept
Fig. 1. Functional configuration image of the IOWN concept

"IOWN" (Innovative Optical and Wireless Network) is a communication platform to support the smart world of the near future. NTT is now engaged in research and development with the aim of establishing specifications by 2024 and realizing IOWN by 2030. As was introduced in the first special feature of this series, "What's IOWN?: Social Background and Purpose", IOWN consists of the following three major technical fields.

  • APN: All-Photonics Network
    Major improvement to information processing infrastructure potential
  • DTC: Digital Twin Computing
    A new world of services and applications
  • CF: Cognitive Foundation®
    Optimal harmonization of all ICT resources

Here we will explain the aforementioned Cognitive Foundation. In IOWN, the Cognitive Foundation has the function of optimally matching all manner of ICT resources and distributing necessary information inside the network.

Specifically, we aim to have multi-orchestrator that quickly provides an overlay solution that responds to needs by optimally controlling various ICT resources including clouds, edges, networks, and terminals. We will introduce representative R&D efforts related to the Cognitive Foundation.

Self-evolving service life cycle management

Fig. 2. Self-evolving service lifecycle management
Fig. 2. Self-evolving service lifecycle management

The main points for flexibly controlling and harmonizing all ICT resources are :self-evolution" and "optimization". Self-evolving service life cycle management incorporates both of these elements.

As one concrete example, typhoons No. 15 and No. 19 of 2019 were major disasters and had a tremendous impact on telecommunication services. In providing communication infrastructure, NTT has been working on research and development of technology in which AI (artificial intelligence) predicts failures and handles them autonomously from logs generated by devices and. We'll move one step ahead of that.

For example, we will enter a wide variety of information into the Cognitive Foundation of IOWN, including weather information such as typhoon intensity and path, event information, and other information that cannot be known simply by monitoring network devices.

Based on the collected information, the system will optimize the network autonomously so it can plan and execute measures against a disaster before it occurs. It will make predictions and evolve itself accordingly, as part of self-evolving service lifecycle management.

Cradio, optimizing wireless access

Fig. 3. Quality prediction technology for optimal use of multiple wireless access
Fig. 3. Quality prediction technology for optimal use of multiple wireless access

We are also conducting new research and development on optimization technology related to wireless resources. In addition to conventional 4G/LTE (fourth-generation mobile communications/Long-Term Evolution), there is satellite communication, Wi-Fi, WiMAX, LPWA (low power wide area) for IoT, 5G (fifth-generation mobile communications), Local 5G, and so on. There are various wireless systems in operation around the world, so the situation has become increasingly complex.

We are conducting research and development of technology for optimizing wireless access so that the user can enjoy access best suited to their situation without any need to be conscious of what wireless system is used, how it is to be used, or what network service is used. We have labeled this wireless control technology "Cradio". Cradio proactively optimizes wireless connections based on the location and predicted traffic congestion and quality.

For example, say you urgently wish to send a message to someone at Tokyo Station, where Wi-Fi throughput is slow. It will become possible for the network to control the connection and select a wireless access system that is optimal for reaching that person. The Cognitive Foundation will incorporate wireless control technology that enables you to make wireless access optimal for your particular location, application, and situation, without needing to know what wireless technology will be used or which company will provide the service.

Cradio uses AI (artificial intelligence) to predict in advance the dynamic changes in wireless communication quality caused by the movement of drones, autonomous vehicles, and smartphones, then automatically select and set the optimal wireless environment according to application requirements. By doing this, we aim to provide a wide variety of services.

Multi-orchestrator, optimally integrating resources of different layers

The Cognitive Foundation is a mechanism that centralizes management, operation, deployment, setting, and interlinking of ICT resources in different layers such as edge computers, network services, and user equipment, all from the cloud.

The Cognitive Foundation handles these diverse targets as a group of virtualized ICT resources, and uses a multi-orchestration function as a hub to optimally integrate multiple resources in different layers.

Three function groups that compose the multi-orchestrator

The multi-orchestrator is a key technology supporting the Cognitive Foundation, and is composed of the following three function groups. Each function group can be loosely coupled through an API (Application Programming Interface).

Fig. 4. Cognitive Foundation and network three layer model
Fig. 4. Cognitive Foundation and network three layer model
  • "Orchestration Function Group"
    An adapter group that converts to commands suitable for each workflow engine and ICT resource
  • "Management Function Group"
    A management function group including configuration information and design information, based on standard data model
  • "Intelligent Function Group"
    An AI function group that enables autonomous operation by always maintaining optimal ICT resources such as design, construction, testing, and operation

ICT resources will continue to increase dramatically in the future. As represented by the term "ecosystem" which has become commonly used in recent years, there is demand to link and utilize ICT resources in a wider world beyond the conventional framework of a single company. Within IOWN, the Cognitive Foundation will play an important role in optimally harmonizing ICT resources.

*This article was restructure from the content of "NTT R&D Forum 2019 Special Sessions"