LG joins the virtue-signalling crowd with AI standardisation plug

LG is the latest technology company to humbly join the ranks of technology disciples preaching standardisation and, of course, its idea is better than everyone else’s.

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is in full-swing in Las Vegas, and in the midst of a swathe of technology announcements, LG found some spare time to lecture the room on the importance of a standardised approach to artificial intelligence. That is, of course, before being joined on stage by a partner to talk about how it has developed its own framework, adding to the growing wave of fragmentation.

The technology industry is one which elects to stretch the definition of certain words and phrases to such a degree many will wonder whether the dictionaries are thought of as ancient artefacts to be revered but never given attention. In the ‘C’ section, LG President and CTO I.P. Park might find the word ‘contradiction’, and it might offer some insight to read the definition.

Looking around the world, the European Commission has put together a group to create an ethics framework to guide the development of AI, Facebook has backed a German initiative called the ‘Institute for Ethics in Artificial Intelligence’, the UK Government has formed its own AI Council, the US has launched the ‘American AI Initiative’, Google created ‘DeepMind Ethics & Society’ and there are countless others.

Each of these parties are aiming to develop a standardised approach for the development of AI, weighing up the commercial ambitions of industry alongside privacy issues, the risk of bias and the preservation of fairness in a currently lop-sided digital economy. Each party is attempting to ‘own’ the space, dictate the conditions of the playing field for the benefit of its own interests.

This is where self-righteous executives preaching the benefits of standardisation have to be taken with a pinch of salt. The more frameworks which are in place simply heightens the risk of fragmentation. In this case, LG is pursuing its own agenda, implementing a framework to achieve its own aims under the guise of enhancing co-operation and standardisation.

These statements reflect badly on LG, but everyone in the industry is doing exactly the same. The European Commission, the White House, Downing Street, Google, Facebook or whoever. These standardisation frameworks are all slightly different because they serve the aims of the puppet masters.

From LG’s perspective, AI is the future. This is a company where the heritage is in consumer electronics but is positioning itself to capitalise on the growing interest in ‘intelligence’ and embedded connectivity in everything and anything. LG’s robot vacuum cleaner will not only recognise patterns, but also collect data to learn from previous mistakes, such as getting stuck in gaps and corners.

This of course is not a new idea. Embedded ‘intelligence’ and the ability for products to learn and adapt, has been discussed at length for years. LG is perhaps behind the trend, though as the industry is yet to achieve mass market adoption, there is still time for it to catch up. However, whenever someone talks about standardisation, be wary.

There is a reason this party is not joining an existing group, it probably does not serve its own ambitions the most effectively. Instead, we are probably likely to see the creation of more groups, alliances, councils, think-tanks and boards. Standardisation is the aim, but fragmentation is looking much more likely.

ETSI publishes new spec and reports on 5G tech

The European Telecommunications Standards Institute, ETSI, has released new specifications on packet formatting and forwarding, as well as two reports on transport and network slicing respectively.

The new specification, called Flexilink, focusing on packet formats and forwarding mechanisms to allow core and access networks to support the new services proposed for 5G. The objective of the new specification is to achieve efficient deterministic packet forwarding in user plane for next generation protocols (NGP). In the conventional IP networks, built on the Internet Protocols defined in the 1980s, every packet carries all the information needed to route it to its destination. This is undergoing fundamental changes with new technologies like Software Defined Networking (SDN) and Control and User Plane Separation (CUPS), where most packets are part of a “flow” such as a TCP session or a video stream. As a result, there is increasingly a separation between the processes of deciding the route packets will follow and of forwarding the packets.

“Current IP protocols for core and access networks need to evolve and offer a much better service to mobile traffic than the current TCP/IP-based technology,” said John Grant, chairman of the ETSI Next Generation Protocol Industry Specification Group (ISG). “Our specifications offer solutions that are compatible with both IPv4 and IPv6, providing an upgrade path to the more efficient and responsive system that is needed to support 5G.”

The new specification defines two separate services, a “basic” service suitable for traditional statistically multiplexed packet data, and a “guaranteed” service providing the lowest possible latency for continuous media, such as audio, video, tactile internet, or vehicle position. It is worth noting that Flexilink only specifies user plane packet formats and routing mechanisms. Specifications for the control plane to manage flows have already been defined in an earlier NGP document “Packet Routing Technologies” published in 2017.

The report “Recommendation for New Transport Technologies” analyses the current transport technologies such as TCP and their limitations, whilst also providing high-level guidance on architectural features required in a transport technology to support the new applications proposed for 5G. The report also includes a framework where there is a clear separation between control and data planes. A proof-of-concept implementation was conducted to experiment the recommended technologies, and to demonstrate that each TCP session can obtain bandwidth guaranteed service or minimum latency guaranteed service. The report states:

“With traditional transport technology, for all TCP traffic passes through DIP router, each TCP session can only obtain a fraction of bandwidth. It is related to the total number of TCP sessions and the egress bandwidth (100 M).

“With new transport technology, new TCP session (DIP flows) could obtain its expected bandwidth or the minimum latency. And most [sic.] important thing is that the new service is not impacted by the state that router is congested, and this can prove that new service by new transport technology is guaranteed.”

Importantly, the PoC experiment showed that the current hardware technology is able to support the proposed new transport technology and provide satisfactory scalability and performance.

The report “E2E Network Slicing Reference Framework and Information Model” looks into the design principles behind network slicing. The topic of network slices encompasses the combination of virtualisation, cloud centric, and SDN technologies. But there is gap in normalized resource information flow over a plurality of provider administration planes (or domains). The report aims to “provide a simple manageable and operable network through a common interface while hiding infrastructure complexities. The present document defines how several of those technologies may be used in coordination to offer description and monitoring of services in a network slice.” It describes the high level functions and mechanisms for implementing network slicing, as well as addresses security considerations.