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CREW: for a more efficient use of the wireless spectrum

The wireless spectrum is a very limited resource. Free networks such as Wi-Fi and sensor networks compete for a transmission opportunity in usually overcrowded unlicensed bands, whilst licensed ones are often being underused. This was the issue that led to the creation of CREW, a European research project (2010-2015) coordinated by Ingrid Moerman (imec - IBCN - Ghent University) which completed its success story last September.

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Ingrid Moerman highlights some milestones of this successful research project.

Cognitive radio and cognitive networking research

“How can you efficiently use these available though limited resources? This was the question we wanted to answer”Ingrid Moerman explains.

By making testbed facilities available to the broader research community, CREW aimed to promote experimentation in the field of cognitive radio – wireless intelligent devices able to sense and analyze the network environment and reconfigure their parameters for a more efficient use of the network and a better connection quality.

In order to accomplish that, the project made use of preexisting facilities in Europe and prepared them for external use. By setting up a common methodology, developing experimentation tools and creating training sessions and online video tutorials, the partners achieved a unique environment for researchers to conduct their experiments.

Opening wireless testbed facilities to the world

The CREW project organized a total of three open calls to promote the use of the wireless facilities. 

“Initially we only meant to have two open calls, which were the ones we were able to set up with the budget we had”, the researcher explained.

These two calls received an overall of 39 submissions, of which seven projects were selected.

The success of the first two calls led the partners to organize a third one, even if without funding. 

“The only thing we could guarantee was our support and training in the use of the facilities”, Ingrid Moerman added.

The last open call received 10 proposals, seven of which went forward.

Call applicants included academics, industry members and SMEs. These initiatives had an indisputable positive impact in the CREW facilities. By the end of the project, 62% of their use was from external experimenters. Even though there is still a clear dominance from the academic community (70%), the rate of industry members seems to be gradually growing, having reached 20% by the time CREW was concluded.

Precisely this multitude of experiments has led to more insights and expertise on efficient use of the limited wireless spectrum.

Open calls to conduct experiments

Thanks to a memorandum of understanding signed by all partners in the consortium, CREW entered a continuous Open Access phase, which is still ongoing. All facilities are available for the conduction of external experiments in the field of cognitive radio and cognitive networking free of charge and basic support from the partners is guaranteed.

Continued research

The success of CREW – which was acknowledged by the European Commission – set the basis for the launch of two other research projects:

  • WiSHFUL: using only Fed4FIRE-compliant testbeds, WiSHFUL offers the software that was missing in the tools developed with CREW. “This was something we learned from CREW. We realized that for some people who were not used to do wireless experiments building that software was a big challenge”, the researcher disclosed.
  • eWINE: having started on January 1st, eWINE starts from CREW’s hardware and the protocol stack developed with WiSHFUL and aims to create intelligent devices, allowing to experiment in more complex scenarios, with denser networks and a higher number of radios in the environment.

About Ingrid Moerman

Ingrid Moerman is a researcher at imec - IBCN - Ghent University, where she is leading the research on mobile and wireless communication networks and coordinating several interdisciplinary research projects. She was the project coordinator of CREW and is now leading its follow-up projects, WiSHFUL and eWINE.

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