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Towards a Human-Centered 6G: NSF’s Multi-sector Public-Private Partnership Reaches the Next Phase

As the rollout of 5G continues, scientists, researchers, and architects have shifted their focus to the next-generation (NextG/6G) systems. Most agree that the resiliency of these systems — which will require security, adaptability, and guided autonomy — will be a key driving factor to support the requisite diverse technologies and applications. Tackling this challenge will necessitate research into the theory and practice of individual emerging topics, including artificial intelligence (AI)/machine learning (ML), edge computing, radio communications, innovative transmit/receive technologies, and effective spectrum utilization.

Beyond technology, VMware believes that 6G should distinguish itself from previous generations by focusing on human and societal needs — and not just “speeds and feeds.” In other words, the evolution of 6G must align with the evolutionary cycle of human behavior, society, and other technologies, as they influence each other along what we call an evolution continuum.

Creating technologies centered around human needs will be a difficult but rewarding feat. For example, consider the prospect of personalized education for children or assisted living for disabled people. Both would require universal access to high-speed connectivity and compute everywhere, as well as AI. As such, the development of a “human-centered” 6G will require multi-sector, interdisciplinary efforts.

To these ends, the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) — together with the Department of Defense (DoD), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and nine industrial partners (including Apple, Ericsson, Google, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Nokia, Qualcomm, and VMware) — has launched the Resilient and Intelligent Next Generation Systems (RINGS) project. This public-private partnership (PPP) is NSF’s largest effort in its history. Its goal is to transform the telecommunication and information technology sectors of the U.S. economy. The RINGS program focuses on accelerating research on NextG networking and computing, ensuring their security and resiliency while advancing the underlying technologies and boosting performance to support the communication and computational aspects involved.

Recently, NSF announced the 37 RINGS awardees, with a total investment of $43.5 million dollars. The recipients will start their research projects on May 1st, 2022, and will share their results over the course of three years in various forums. The funded projects cover the research vectors of the program in various combinations. These research vectors include topics such as full-stack security, network intelligence and adaptability, autonomy, and exploratory resiliency components for enabling technologies, such as radio frequency (RF) and mixed-signal circuits, antennas, and components, novel spectrum-management technologies, scalable device-to-edge-to-cloud continuum, and merging digital/physical/virtual worlds — all reflecting the interests and visionary NextG approaches of the participating partners.

Each of the 37 funded projects is shaping the path toward resilient NextG systems from a different angle and will play a crucial role in shaping the NextG systems over the next decade. We are excited to see our views on NextG as the confluence of wireless, cloud, and AI for “automating life” well-reflected in these funded projects.

Besides the historical size of such a multilateral partnership, the RINGS program is unique because it is a joint effort in every sense — from the proposal-review process to the communication and collaboration among the partners, as well as with the principal investigators (PIs) of the funded projects. There are two informal Working Groups (WGs): the Partners WG and the Technical WG. VMware participates in both and, along with Nokia, co-leads the Partners WG. We are proud to have been instrumental from the very beginning, helping to drive the strategic direction of RINGS, providing inputs to the research areas, and defining and driving collaborative and operating models.

VMware extends its deepest congratulations to the PIs of the 37 selected proposals. We are all very excited to actively collaborate with them and to reap novel insights into foundational research results. As a well-established partner of NSF, a company with substantial engagements with academia, and a laser focus on research and innovation, we are convinced that our experts and scientists can offer insights into and solutions for the challenges inherent to this massive effort.

For more information on VMware’s vision on the path to 6G, check out:


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