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MWC 2017: Huawei R&D focuses on vehicles, drones, virtual reality

Huawei used its presence at the annual Mobile World Congress fair in Barcelona to showcase a number of its mobile innovation programmes

At Mobile World Congress, which has been taking place from 27 February to 2 March in Barcelona, Chinese networking supplier Huawei demonstrated the use of cellular technology to connect cars to one another, and announced research priorities for its X Labs research and development (R&D) programme.

With help from mobile network operator (MNO) Vodafone and carmaker Audi, Huawei showed off a technology called Cellular V2X (C-V2X) at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya race track, home to the Spanish Formula 1 Grand Prix.

Vodafone supplied a mobile radio network for data transmission covering the track, while Huawei supplied the mobile radio modules and the comms tech update for Vodafone’s base stations.

Huawei’s C-V2X technology is designed to form an evolutionary step between current 4G and future 5G mobile networks. It enables rapid exchange of information between vehicles, other road users and infrastructure, and Huawei believes it will bring transformational change to driving, vehicle safety, traffic management and road efficiency.

“Intelligent transport is set to be one of the key application scenarios of future mobile communication systems,” said Huawei’s president of wireless network products, Edward Deng.

“With our long history of successful joint innovation, together with Vodafone, Huawei is very pleased to pioneer the C-V2X solution development to serve the needs of future ITS systems, and pave the way to a better connected world with fully intelligent transport systems.”

The demonstration showed four different scenarios to show how direct communication between vehicles using C-V2X can provide the basis for future autonomous driving enhancements.

These specific scenarios were: see through, with vehicles using a video feed from a vehicle in front to get better visibility of upcoming issues; traffic light warning, where the vehicle connects to roadside infrastructure to find out when a light is about to change, letting drivers anticipate their braking in advance; pedestrian warning, alerting vehicles to people in the road ahead; and emergency brake, which uses an algorithm to determine risk from other connected vehicles suddenly slowing or changing lanes and respond accordingly.

Luke Ibbetson, Vodafone head of R&D and technology strategy, said: “C-V2X will be a core component for connected and autonomous vehicles as it enables better anticipation and negotiation of road risks. This is an example of how Vodafone is evolving our fast and reliable 4G networks on the road to 5G.”   

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Back at the conference centre in Barcelona itself, Huawei’s X Labs R&D project – which was officially announced at the end of 2016 – hosted tech firms such as Intel, Bosch, Toshiba and more to provide insight into its research directions.

X Labs is designed to provide an innovation platform that fosters cross-industry collaboration, drawing together technology providers, vertical partners and service providers to explore future mobile use case scenarios.

“In 2017, X Labs will focus on four major areas of research,” said Peter Zhou, CMO at Huawei Wireless.

Connected drones, cloud virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), wireless robotics and connected vehicles. This will be a close collaborative effort between partners around the world. Together, we will explore the unexplored, aiming to push the boundaries of wireless technology, develop new applications and, of course, unearth new market potential.”

X Labs plans to focus on using wireless networks to effectively regulate the movement of drones and manage them remotely.

For AR and VR, it will explore service and content cloudification to help commercialise the technology. For wireless robotics it will look into ubiquitous connections between smart robots in both industrial and consumer settings. Finally, for connected vehicles it will beef up the connectivity of connected car platforms using next-generation mobile networks.

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