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BMW iVentures Invests in GenXComm, a Company Improving the Performance of 5G Networks Using Photonic Circuits

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【Summary】BMW i Ventures, the venture capital arm of the automaker that invests in high-performance startups, announced today an investment in GenXComm, an Austin, Texas-based company working to improve the throughput and performance of 5G communication networks. BMW said the investment will help it to significantly increase the speed of global deployment of vehicles with robust 5G connectivity.

Eric Walz    Jul 28, 2020 6:00 PM PT
BMW iVentures Invests in GenXComm, a Company Improving the Performance of 5G Networks Using Photonic Circuits

The long-awaited rollout of ultra-fast 5G networks promises to greatly improve the performance of mobile devices worldwide, but 5G networks will also be used in the auto industry for the connected cars of the future that will be able share data with other vehicles, connect to the cloud and communicate with infrastructure, such as traffic signals.

For the world's automakers including German automaker BMW, 5G communications speeds can support advanced driver assist systems (ADAS) and autonomous driving functions that require a massive amount of data to be transferred to and from the cloud. Therefore much of the research being done by telecommunications companies is making sure 5G networks are efficient and reliable.

BMW i Ventures, the venture capital arm of the automaker that invests in high-performance startups, announced today an investment in GenXComm, an Austin, Texas-based company working to improve the throughput and performance of 5G communication networks. BMW said the investment will help it to significantly increase the speed of global deployment of vehicles with robust 5G connectivity.

Future 5G networks promise reduced latency with much higher data transfer speeds that are capable of supporting computationally intensive vehicle systems, such as those for autonomous driving and connected vehicle technologies, including vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) and vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communication.

GenXComm, founded in 2016, has developed new patented technology that supports the roll out new 5G networks using photonic relays to simultaneous transmit and receive (STAR) data.

With the rollout of ultra-fast 5G networks, more vehicles in the future will be connected to cloud-based processors running robust AI and deep-learning algorithms for autonomous driving. These critical 5G data connections between a vehicle's suite of sensors and the network need to be low-latency, highly reliable. A self-driving car for example, might transfer up to 40 terabytes of data each day to and from the vehicle's computers.

GenXComm specializes in developing photonic integrated circuit (PIC) technologies that improve mesh network speeds, while at the same time preventing interference between the connected devices on the network. Interference occurs when data is transmitted over a network using higher frequency radio waves, which include LTE and 5G networks.

The company is replacing conventional microelectronics that use silicon chips with photonic processors that use pulses of light. By utilizing photonic processing, GenXComm's technology can be used to create adaptive mobile networks that can better handle data transfer between devices. The primary applications for PIC's are in fiber-optic communications.

"GenXComm is ushering in the next revolution of computing and connectivity," said Marcus Behrendt, partner, BMW i Ventures. "Autonomous systems, like self-driving cars, are essentially datacenters on wheels, and require fast, low latency connections. GenXComm's technology will rapidly increase the speed of 5G penetration that is critical for the future of connected vehicles." 

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GenXComm is also addressing one of the biggest challenges in the transfer of data over cellular networks—interference.

Traditionally, it's been impossible for two seperate electronic devices to transmit and receive data via a cellular network at the same time, on the same frequency, because the data transmission itself interferes with the signal that's being received by the antennas and creates what's known as self-interference (SI) that needs to be cancelled out. One solution for signal filtering has been to down convert the signal to digital to process it, then to convert it back to analog. However, this process is computationally intensive and results in latency.

Another solution is to have each device on the network transmit and receive data on different frequencies. However this solution uses twice the available frequency spectrum. Some networks are designed so that each connected device takes turns and transmits or receives data at different times (half-duplex mode). This too has drawbacks, resulting in higher latency by taking twice the time to transmit the same amount of data. 

GenXComm's S-SIX technology uses a different approach for signal processing. Instead, it up-converts the RF signal to optical for filtering and processing. This technique can process RF signals with a very wide bandwidth, with higher resolution. This RF-photonic architecture developed by GenXComm also eliminates interference on the 5G receiver side, the company says.  

At this point, secondary cancellation is then performed using an Artificial Intelligence (AI)-based digital processing technique to achieve total self-interference cancellation (SIC) of up to 130dB, GenXComm said. SIC can double a 5G network's efficiency by allowing for in-band full-duplex operation of the 5G network.  According to GenXComm, this type of processing is significantly less resource intensive than traditional digital-only cancellation approaches.    

For vehicle sensors or autonomous driving systems that rely on the ultra-fast transmission of critical data, any additional latency could be problematic. 

The technology is not just for connected vehicles and self-driving cars, it can be used for any type of 5G communications network, including broadband cable, DSL and WiFi. The technology can deliver up to a 100x boost in the performance of broadband and DSL networks, GenXComm claims.

With the switch to 5G for mobile devices costing global carriers up to a 300% increase in costs for updating infrastructure that can support the higher data transfer speeds. So GenXComm's photonic technology has the potential to save 5G providers billions of dollars, BMW iVentures said. In addition, the technology can reduce the cost of implementing 5G networks by up to 80%.

"Our technology improves performance networks, meaning consumers will have supercharged mobile connections in addition to major cost savings," said Dr. Sriram Vishwanath, Co-founder and CEO of GenXComm. "We're looking to use technology to change the world, from cell phones to machine learning capabilities to WiFi, and infinite other use cases."

GenXComm's patented technology has the ability to significantly reduce costs and speed of 5G and 6G communications by offering full duplex wireless networking capable of maximizing spectrum utilization.

For automaker BMW, this technology can one day support the massive data transfer requirements for future connected and autonomous vehicles.

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