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2021: 5G and Smart Metering make autonomous driving closer

The success of 5G could launch smart metering and act as a driving force for the rebirth of industrial and social Europe as early as 2021, such as the implications for self-driving cars.

The advent of 5G as the foundation for wireless data transmission will happen soon, also involving metering purposes from factories to connected cars. Some commercial proposals will be available as early as 2021, with full development starting in 2022.

5G and edge computing are also essential to achieve autonomous driving, as Greenstart recently reported. The first transmits at very high speed and without delays, while the second enables this speed by processing the data with specific servers located near the vehicles, distributed where they are needed, as it already happens for telephone and electrical cabinets. A change of perspective is therefore inexorable.

5G frequencies chosen by machine learning

In 5G, the complexity of allocating free frequencies in the spectrum is really high. Many frequencies are used only for a short time, leading to a huge waste of resources: just think of a possible succession of smart metering measurements. Furthermore, it is often advisable to change the frequencies used when connecting. The situation is so complex that it is impossible for a human mind, but ideal for a trained AI algorithm.

Precisely for this reason, US’ Darpa opened a three-year challenge for a solution in machine learning in 2018. The final challenge awarded the prize of 2 million US$ (plus another 0.75) to the GatorWings team, University of Florida.

This type of assignment went even faster than the complex mechanism for allocating funds for which the University pocketed the 0.75 million dollars and demanded the 2 million, over which the team fought, getting the assignment.

It is not known where exactly these algorithms will be used. It is reasonable to imagine that in addition to the US, other geographical blocks are also interested in this solution.

Smart Metering

The fulcrum of the changes taking place is metering, or the possibility of measuring important parameters of factories, vehicles, infrastructures and people and using them to improve the immediate and long-term management of economic and social phenomena.

The analysis of quality data over the long term allows you to place the exceptional risk in a context of scheduled maintenance, as those who deal with insurance contracts know well.

On closer inspection, smart metering today involves everything, from autonomous driving on mandatory routes (subways, ferries, trains) or on free roads (cars) to smart cities, from metering of electricity-gas-water networks to air quality, from agri-food to humans.

The mass of connected users, devices or men, will see all these services between 2022 and 2025.

Below, above and space

Soon, major changes will be needed in two technological networks, dedicated to telecommunications and energy.
In telecommunications, we act on three different levels: wireless, wired and satellite.

The latencies of these systems obviously make them less relevant for autonomous driving per se, but they are part of the innovation puzzle. The model is so intriguing that somebody is working to fly it to the Moon, to help autonomous driving rovers be helped by a lunar positioning system.

As far as wireless is concerned, the central technology today is 5G again. In its name, trade wars have been waged in opposing blocs, especially between the United States and China. The election of Biden in place of Trump will change the scenario, but we do not know by how long so we must therefore wait.

Italy is credited with a good and timely plan on 5G. By “good” we mean “at the level of the other major countries of the Union”, therefore France and Germany. For us, being adequate would mean recovering the infrastructural distance, which would be an excellent safe conduct for the immediate future development.

Without being defeatist, I will wait for the service to come alive to make my judgment. Experience teaches that in Italy the inauguration and full operation (and over time) are two extremely different things. The worldwide diffusion of 5G, mapped by nPerf, can be consulted at this address [] and at the moment it speaks for itself.

Gigabit internet and Recovery Fund

Wireless will certainly rely on the fixed network, at least in many situations, although not always. Also in this case, the hesitations of Italian politics, torn by interests that destroy rather than amplify, are procrastinating wise decisions to the improbable, taking time away from planning.

The goal in this case seems to be the Gigabit internet, or 1 Gbit connections everywhere. To reach this goal, it is necessary to push hard on the fiber, making the network a common good of the operators, and rejecting any other solution even if this would involve discontinuities in medium and large companies.

The Recovery Fund should allow us to finance the completion of the network even where entrepreneurs, navigating between subsidies and disputes, have so far not managed to operate. The RF, or rather the broader NGEU (Next Generation EUrope), is however a multi-year plan that for the disbursement of loans (disguised as funds) requires compliance with the programming both in the technical and governmental phases of all involved nations.

Furthermore, NGEU is in fact a new public debt that today brings liquidity but will gradually become a burden. If choices and implementations do not bring turnover to Europe and Italy, this new burden will block us forever. Any mistake will forever relegate us to the basic positions of the world economy.

Edge computing for smart metering

The wireless network will stay on the landline. Or maybe not. Crossing the entire network to exchange data and processing with a remote server is an approach today impossible to achieve in a very wide range of circumstances. Sports or music event services delivered to tens of thousands of people must offer 10-1ms latency and therefore cannot go through the cloud as it is mostly intended today.

The necessary processing capabilities must therefore be requested from local servers, according to the edge computing paradigm. The data do not go to the cloud (at least not immediately) and the server’s answer is locally elaborated.

The governance of edge computing does not seem at the heart of European and Italian projects. Cloud computing is, where the Gaia-X federative approach seems to be able to put us in competition with the US and Chinese giants, perhaps with some delay and in exchange for the adoption of the security offered by the GDPR.

Data brokerage for the citizen

In conclusion, the metering paradigm rejoins digital platforms in generating a growing flow of new relevant data. Traditionally this data is given to the GAAF, as the big platforms (Google, Amazon, Apple and Facebook) are collectively called. These data are of enormous value, but we don’t fully realize it today.

This trend could be reversed correctly adopting data brokerage platforms. This approach could guarantee the correctness of use, at the same time monetizing the granting of our data in goods, services and money both by companies and by the Public Administration: the cashback system to push the use of electronic payments is also a recent Italian example of this type. We therefore need serious reflection on the use of data. Who’s going to start first?


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