The Quest to Make 5G Mainstream Ready

At the recent Keysight World Singapore, Keysight Technologies showcased a buffet of solutions to accelerate 5G, automotive cybersecurity, and other network innovations.

With a tech legacy that few companies can boast of, Keysight Technologies has continued in its tradition of innovation. It now lays claim to being the first company that has powered the end-to-end 5G solutions delivering the first wave of connected experiences in the communications ecosystem.

5G, IoT and Visibility

Gooi Soon Chai, Keysight Technologies' senior vice president and president of the Electronic Industrial Solutions Group, who has himself gone through "so many cycles of technology revolutions," from the beginning of the computational revolution to the internet and now to mobility, offered some insights into the company:

“First and foremost, 5G is the foundation of what we are enabling and accelerating to get on the fast-track to unlimited possibilities for connecting and securing the world. As advocators for some of the 5G standards around the world, we are working with all the key 5G innovators, from the chipset manufacturers all the way to the deployment of 5G."

Driverless automotive solutions are a key focus, said Gooi. In particular, how to apply 5G capabilities in communications, EV battery technologies, and especially in cybersecurity. He highlighted the urgency for ensuring self-driving vehicles are not hacked.

Another focus area would be the world of IoT with its multiple applications in smart appliances, intelligent infrastructure, and digital healthcare. Gooi highlighted that Keysight works on how devices can co-exist, comply, and be secured in a Body Area Network.

To enable IoT, Gooi pointed out that there are really only four elements necessary:

  • Intelligence for enabling computational capability in mechanical constructs, e.g., in cars or other devices.
  • Connectivity using 5G to integrate with devices that communicate with each other. Self-contained devices are useless in this IoT world, according to Gooi.
  • Power, which refers to the integrity and reliability of the power structure as intelligent devices are useless when not powered and to batteries that last.
  • Security through the rigorous validation of the integrity and security of the new devices.

Network visibility was the third area of focus. With the exponential growth in data, network visibility and security has become essential. Keysight's solution comes in the form of Vision X from Ixia, a Keysight business. Acting as an access point, it extracts data from the network and distributes it to the respective tools, thereby improving business visibility and security.

Real-world Lessons

Gooi cited the Keysight and BMW collaboration as a case study. BMW resolved its automotive Ethernet toolchain validation challenges with solutions from Ixia, getting visibility into the performance and robustness of the switches integrated with ECUs (Electronic Control Units).

Describing the partnership as an "ambitious program to move into next-generation Automotives," Gooi also elaborated on the battery test systems that Keysight’s Scienlab was providing BMW. These included services ranging from laboratory planning to laboratory management tools and are designed to enable effective workflow management and operation.

On the 5G front, Keysight is working with Qualcomm Technologies to support C-V2X (Cellular Vehicle-to-Everything) capability for V2V (Vehicle-to-Vehicle) communication.

Earlier this year, the collaboration demonstrated industrial IoT applications using 5G technology, where the Keysight-Qualcomm 5G network emulation solution was used to showcase low-latency wireless communication. This was followed by another successful demonstration of the industry’s first 5G laptop with integrated modem, displaying high-speed, low-latency connectivity made possible by 5G new radio (NR), offering transformative user experiences for both consumers and the enterprise with downstream speeds of up to 7Gbps. Just last month, the duo obtained the industry's first Global Certification Forum (GCF) validation of 5G New Radio (NR) conformance test cases.

While not at liberty to divulge details, Gooi confirmed that numerous government initiatives involving Smart Nation concepts in the area of wireless communications as well as aerospace and defense were underway with the Singapore government.

Health, Talent and Trade War Concerns

When questioned about the health implications that microwave signals might pose, Gooi was quick to debunk any FUD.

He noted that there has been no conclusive evidence published from WHO that microwave signals had an adverse health impact. While any focused microwave that exerted enough power and intensity would and should have an impact, Gooi argued that it was up to the users to be discerning and adhere to recommended safety protocols.

The new RF microwave 5G technology, also known as millimeter wave (mmWave) technology, is of high frequency and emits tiny wavelengths. Since humans absorb big wavelengths better, they are more susceptible to radiation from TV and radio transmissions that are of larger wavelengths. To put things in perspective, Gooi suggested that if we were concerned about present wireless transmissions, we should have started worrying since 1910 when we began to transmit wireless radio signals.

However, Gooi saw talent development as a big challenge for Keysight as it looks to grow its operations. He noted that engineers now need to possess full application knowledge and multi-disciplinary capabilities.

So, Keysight partnered with Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) for research collaboration. It opened a new Measurement Technologies Laboratory (MTL) as part of the university’s strategy to drive research and innovations that contribute to Singapore’s Smart Nation initiatives.

Geopolitical challenges, especially the current US-China trade war, are now on everybody’s minds. Gooi did not necessarily see this as bad news since ”new challenges will create new opportunities.” However, his greatest fear was that should trade tensions continue, a balkanization of technology might occur.

“Because what makes the world so connected now is the harmonization of technology. The seamless way [technology] is being used allows for better ways of e-commerce, and better ways to interact. Hopefully, this interconnectivity will not stop.”

Avoiding the Dystopian Future

However, interconnectivity introduces its own set of challenges. For example, what happens when networks break down?

Gooi pointed out that the value of what Keysight enables is even more apparent in such a situation. When the applications are mission-critical, it is even more essential to ensure the integrity of communications, the network, and security. Giving the analogy of pre-electricity cities, Gooi said the same questions could have been asked. What if the electrical grid doesn't work? What if the power supply dies? Does this mean going for an individual lantern is a better way to ensure the house is lit?

“Or fast forward to WiFi. When there are problems accessing WiFi, do we then revert to a pre-WiFi state of being?” he asked.

When everything is so connected, no doubt the challenge will be a lot more complex, but this is a world that will continue in its path towards improving and bettering its systems.

As Gooi pointed out, "nothing is foolproof anyway. If the entire city is autonomous, you will need to make sure that networks work like utilities; in fact, even better than utilities."