The Tactile Internet — as fast as human perception
Researchers at South Korea’s Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI) have developed technology capable of sending packets of digital information at 25 Gbps — 10 times faster than currently available speeds. This means it will operate at a speed fast enough to download a 3 GB movie within one second.
The technology, named TIC-TOC (Time Controlled Tactile Optical Access), is a critical component of the future Tactile Internet, in which information will be sent and received at speeds on par with human perception. Designed to work on 5G networks, the system enables more urgent data to jump ahead of other information packets and be transferred in 1 ms — the same speed at which the human sense of touch works.
The ETRI team developed TIC-TOC in order to help address the traffic jams that occur within current information processing systems, causing delays. By increasing the speed at which information can be transmitted, and allowing more important information to jump the queue, they have ensured that as soon as a user clicks on a webpage, it loads instantly, or they can watch a video live essentially without any delay.
Described in the Journal of Lightwave Technology, the TIC-TOC technology consists of internet access control chips and optical transceivers to speed up data processing time. The optical transceiver converts high-speed electrical data into optical signals to transmit over optical fibres. The chips guarantee latency (the time from data’s origin to destination) is less than 1 ms with ETRI’s low-latency-oriented packet scheduling technology controlling network traffic, and they could increase network speeds to faster than 25 Gbps by combining several channels for data transmission.
The researchers anticipate the TIC-TOC technology will help advance virtual reality and augmented reality in all sorts of sectors, from education and health care to entertainment and public safety. For example, it could deploy and operate robots in dangerous or disaster areas with instant sight and feel communication between human controllers and machines. When the machine sees something, the humans sees it, and when the human remotely controls the robot’s hand or head, the motion will happen immediately. The same could be true for telesurgery, with a doctor remotely controlling a robot performing the surgery, but the doctor feeling as if they were in the operating room because the response is instantaneous.
“The Tactile Internet is expected to be the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” said HwanSeok Chung, a project leader at ETRI. “We will see robots, cars and all other machines connected to the internet all around us. Tactile Internet will enable humans and machines to interact with each other even from far away.”
The researchers indicate that a few hurdles remain before commercialisation, such as system implementation. Nevertheless, ETRI is continuing its research in order to solve such hurdles, and forecasts that the Tactile Internet enabled by TIC-TOC should be available in one year.
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