6G is the next generation of wireless technology that promises to go beyond mobile communication and revolutionize how people interact with the world around them. According to IDTechEx’s latest 6G research, 6G could be with us in 2028 at the earliest. With its unparalleled capabilities in sensing, imaging, precise positioning, and even energy harvesting, 6G is poised to unlock a plethora of potential applications. These applications range from smart cities, autonomous vehicles, and virtual reality to healthcare, energy, and more. Of all of these possibilities, integrated sensing and communication (ISAC) stands out as one of the most interesting.
Integrated Sensing and Communication (ISAC) is a concept that combines wireless communication and sensing technologies seamlessly. It involves the integration of various sensors, such as temperature, particles, pressure, and motion sensors, with wireless communication systems to enable real-time monitoring and control of physical systems. By combining these two functionalities, ISAC creates a system that can both communicate and sense its environment, providing a wealth of new opportunities for applications in various fields, making 6G much more than just a communication platform.
ISAC has been an active area of research, and Huawei’s latest publication on ISAC highlights the vast range of applications enabled by this technology. The potential applications can be broadly categorized into four types, each with its unique benefits and use cases.
Firstly, high-accuracy localization and tracking is a key area where ISAC can make a significant impact, specifically in factory environments where precision is crucial. ISAC has the potential to enable subcentimeter-level accuracy in localization, which is critical for robotic applications in these settings. This can result in more efficient and optimized operations, reducing the need for human intervention and improving overall productivity.
The second category of applications ISAC enables is simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM). This technique utilizes multipath information to reconstruct 2D images and 3D models of the environment, allowing for more reliable and accurate positioning services. As an example, with SLAM, robots can navigate their environment and deliver targets to humans with greater precision and efficiency, thanks to the integration of sensing functions as well as AI. This feature will be particularly relevant for city mapping and environmental image construction.
The third category is augmented human sensing capabilities enabled by ISAC, which can significantly impact various areas, including medical diagnosis and monitoring, enhanced sensing in vehicular devices, etc. ISAC’s sensing devices can be integrated into mobile phones, wearables, and implanted medical equipment to provide millimeter-level image resolution and facilitate information collection even in low-visibility environments. Based on identifying targets through their electromagnetic or photonic characteristics, spectrogram recognition is another potential application of ISAC enabled by higher frequencies such as THz and NIR. This technique has the potential to understand the composition of materials, such as metallic oxides, and can play a crucial role in various fields.
Finally, ISAC can be applied to gesture and activity recognition using base stations as sensors to sense the surroundings, leading to better-fused sensing performance. This approach can enable various use cases, such as a smart hospital that automates patient supervision. In this scenario, every base station would act as a sensor, allowing for comprehensive monitoring and analysis of patient activities and gestures.
In conclusion, the ISAC paradigm is expected to play a significant role in the development of 6G networks. With its ability to integrate multiple sources of data obtained from sensing, ISAC has the potential to transform many aspects of our daily lives, such as manufacturing, healthcare, and smart cities. By leveraging the power of artificial intelligence and machine learning, ISAC can enable autonomous decision-making, proactive maintenance, and real-time optimization, leading to a more efficient, secure, and sustainable future. However, the successful implementation of ISAC in 6G networks requires significant research and development efforts, including the design of new hardware and software architectures, the development of advanced sensing and processing algorithms, and the creation of new standards and protocols.
To learn more about 6G’s technology, applications, and market, please refer to IDTechEx’s newly released 6G market research report, “6G Market 2023-2043: Technology, Trends, Forecasts, Players“. This 6G report is built on our expertise, covering the latest 6G technology development trend, key applications, player activities, and market outlook, aiming to provide the reader with a comprehensive understanding of 6G technology and the market.
For the full portfolio of 5G and 6G -related research available from IDTechEx please visit here.
Dr Yu-Han Chang
Senior Technology Analyst, IDTechEx