The vision of the Smart Networks and Services for 2030 (SMARTNESS) Engineering Research Center (ERC) is to develop cutting-edge research in communication networks and advanced digital application services scoped in strategic areas where effective scientific and technological impacts can be achieved towards 6G, in collaboration with the broad networking ecosystem. As 5G releases roll-out and the vision on 6G is being developed, the main challenge addressed by SMARTNESS is how to engineer (i.e. design and operate) cloud computing and network infrastructures with the adequate capabilities to empower next generation Internet services and applications.
The research scope of end to end Internet scale services is exceptionally large and requires competences from various disciplines along large capital and human resource investments. However, there is an ongoing digital transformation in vertical industries and a shift towards softwarization and disaggregation of network infrastructure components at all levels and protocol stack layers that has opened well-scoped opportunities for accelerated innovation at unprecedented entry barriers for research enterprises of academic and industrial partnerships.
Cloud computing and network infrastructures are increasingly becoming more multidisciplinary, requiring system-oriented end-to-end views that leverage advances in hardware (HW) for computing and networking, best-of-breed software (SW), machine intelligence (AI/ML), “as a Service” consumption and business models, user interfaces, among other engineering disciplines (e.g., energy efficiency and design for security). SMARTNESS aims at exploiting a strategic set of opportunities through a proper methodology for successful impact research and innovation at international level towards the realization of challenging use cases in Internet scenarios for industry and society with a 2030 horizon view. Figure 2 shows how the scope of the SMARTNESS center matches today´s 5G technology forces and the B5G research roadmap into the 2025 – 2030 timeline.
The Network has become a critical cornerstone in any modern engineering system such as Industry 4.0, automotive, online education platforms, e-Health, etc. Unfortunately, there is a clear gap in an engineering research hub (as by the FAPESP’s Engineering Research Center Program program or with similar excellence) in Brazil with a focus on networking and the surrounding enablers required to deliver the next generation of networked services. In the international landscape, there are only a few notable examples – with remarkable intrinsic differences regarding their funding and operational schemes – such as the Open Networking Foundation (ONF) in the US, or the 5Tonic or 6G flagship projects in Europe.
Therefore, the vision of SMARTNESS is to fill this gap in the Latin American region and become a research and engineering hub in networking with international recognition of excellence. In the regional scope, we envision a FAPESP ERC with focus on networking to become a key partner of joint collaborative projects with other FAPESP ERCs with UNICAMP, USP, or UFSCar as host institutions and where cloud / networking play key enabling roles. If successful, we foresee SMARTNESS to become a key living lab on the connectivity and edge computing front-end of the International Hub for Sustainable Development (HIDS) under design, contributing to the vision of sustainable development through innovative technologies and education of future generations, where pervasive, affordable networking and computing resources are expected to help to mitigate the social, economic and environmental fragilities of our present-day society. Still in the local scope, SMARTNESS world-class research at the knowledge frontier in networking and cloud towards 6G would complement UNICAMP Science and Technology Park’s infrastructure, promoted by the INOVA agency for innovation, providing an incubation facility for innovative start-up and spin-offs requiring the engineering skills and distributed network and compute testbed laboratory of SMARTNESS for 5G and beyond.
The vision of SMARTNESS builds upon scaling the successful track of research collaboration of UNICAMP with the networking ecosystem, mostly with Ericsson worldwide and in Sao Paulo through the research branch in Indaiatuba, which features highly qualified researchers in network architectures and protocols and artificial intelligence. SMARTNESS will scale and increase the international presence, amount and impact of results (e.g., talent building, open source SW for research and education, standardization, intellectual property assets) by including USP and UFSCar into a world-class team of excellence carrying internationally competitive research.