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Deterministic networking

The proliferation of time-sensitive applications calls for networks that offer 100% reliability within strict latency bounds. Imec devises software strategies that help you achieve such deterministic networks.

The digital transformation of our society is far from over. In many ways, it has only just started. To name just two examples:

  • The accelerated adoption of teleworking increases the need for digital applications that allow remote yet seamless modes of human interaction.
  • In factories and warehouses, the combination of robotics and artificial intelligence leads to flexible collaborations between humans and machines.

In both cases, the consequences of missing, incorrect or belated information can range from extremely annoying to downright catastrophic. That’s why the reliability of data flows is crucial.

The securest way of transferring data is still a cabled network. But that comes at the price of reduced flexibility. Consider the context of Industry 4.0, where production lines need to be rapidly adaptable to enable customized manufacturing. Here, it clearly pays off to use wireless technologies for at least part of the network infrastructure.

The need for flexible collaboration between humans and machines within Industry 4.0 is one of the drivers behind deterministic networking.

How can you ensure that these mixed wired/wireless networks offer the same reliability as wired ones? That’s what imec is working on with its deterministic networking program.

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What makes a network deterministic?

A deterministic network realizes a verifiable end-to-end quality of service (QoS) per application flow.

In other words, the goal is the in-time or on-time delivery of data between the end points of an application – such as the distant locations of a virtual meeting room or fast sensor-actuator interactions in a manufacturing process. Regardless of the intermediate network types, such as Ethernet connections, wireless access points, or 4G/5G base stations.

In this way, deterministic networking answers the need for a guaranteed quality of service by an expanding number of time-critical applications such as industrial control loops, augmented reality, haptic sensors, ...

A deterministic network guarantees in-time or on-time data delivery at the end points, regardless of the intermediate infrastructure.

Time-sensitive and deterministic networking: challenges and strategies

It’s relatively easy to guarantee in- or on-time data delivery when a limited number of applications use the network. But how often does that happen these days?

A large number of very diverse applications has become the default situation. They all make different demands from the network. How do you make sure that each of them gets its dues, instead of contenting yourself with a limited number of aggregated QoS classes?

To enable deterministic networking, imec develops software strategies that run on top of current and future hardware standards. Some examples:

  • A rich application-network interface allows the applications and the network to ‘negotiate’ on the data traffic’s demands and priorities within the capacity bounds of the intermediate network(s).  
  • High-accuracy time synchronization of networking components, also the end-devices, is essential if you want to schedule and measure the in- or on-time delivery of data.
  • To enable true end-to-end networking, advanced tools for monitoring, verification and prediction of network performance need to be built in at different points and layers in the network, including the end devices.
  • Orchestration across all network segments enables optimal scheduling of the data flows.

How imec can help you build your deterministic network

Imec shares its expertise with network equipment manufacturers, network integrators and developers/users of professional environments that require deterministic networking – for instance in the space of Industry 4.0, vehicular communications or professional entertainment.

Our offering includes:

  1. knowledge sharing – Contact us for inspiration sessions, ideation workshops or new IoT technology & protocol insights.
  2. troubleshooting – Call on our testing and configuration knowhow if you run into problems within your new or existing network environment.
  3. product design – Tap into our experience with design and prototyping of end-to-end systems for feasibility studies, rapid prototyping, customizations and longer-term strategic research
  4. testing and benchmarking – Count on our independent, objective position and advanced testing infrastructure to assess off-the-shelf and your own technologies – within and outside the lab.

Through its research activities, imec is constantly anticipating networking features and standards that will dominate the market in five to ten years’ time. Partnering with us offers you the opportunity to tailor your products and services to these developments right now.

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