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Mobile communication continues to play an important role in the modern economy, including consumer, health, education, logistics, and other major industries. At the same time, the current Internet has created a key infrastructure component for our modern world, having an impact on almost every aspect of our daily lives. The Internet democratized access to information and has enabled emerging economies to participate in the modern global economy. We are now approaching the next big wave of the Internet innovation: the Tactile Internet. The widely used term “Tactile Internet” was coined and defined by the IEEE P1918.1 as: “A network or network of networks for remotely accessing, perceiving, manipulating or controlling real or virtual objects or processes in perceived real time by humans or machines.”
The Tactile Internet aims to enhance the collaboration and interaction between humans and machines (or systems) in real, virtual, and remote environments. Thus, going far beyond the current state of the art, the Tactile Internet democratizes the access to skills and expertise in the same way as the current Internet has enabled the access to information. This requires a multidisciplinary approach to: 1) advance the understanding of human perception; 2) develop fast, bendable, adaptive, and reconfigurable electronics; 3) create intelligent, resilient, secure, and real-time communication networks; and 4) design adaptive mechanisms as well as the interface solutions for machines and humans to predict and augment each other’s actions. Hence, the Tactile Internet opens a totally new era of research to enable human-in-the-loop and machine-in-the-loop use cases. The use cases of the Tactile Internet imply massive requirements in terms of throughput, latency, and resilience. The challenge is to design a Tactile Internet infrastructure that supports such resilient communication systems that are robust enough for novel control algorithms, as well as control algorithms that give enough leeway for imperfections in wireless communication such as packet errors and jitter in latency.
To achieve the stringent latency and reliability requirements of Tactile Internet applications, significant changes to incumbent as well as emerging communications systems need to be invoked. Since reliability and latency may result from many factors, several new techniques in different areas need to be investigated. Notably, a novel architecture to enable real-time control and achieve ultraresponsiveness has to be introduced. The physical remote interaction requires codecs for the haptic communication of humans, and equivalently for machines. Moreover, novel physical layer solutions together with resource management techniques need to be developed. Although some of these challenges can be met by emerging 5G communications systems, other challenges require technological breakthroughs. In this regard, this special issue explores recent developments and new enabling technologies for the Tactile Internet. New approaches to enable remote control in real time are presented alongside potentially revolutionary new system design and technologies such as the wireless edge, physical layer solutions, and resource management algorithms. In addition, solutions for Tactile Internet applications for the cases of human-in-the-loop and machine in-the-loop are part of the special issue.
This special issue in the Proceedings of the IEEE in February 2019 covers the recent and most relevant aspects of the Tactile Internet: architecture, functional entities, wireless edge solutions, relation to 5G communication systems, physical and medium access control layer solutions, machine-in-the-loop use cases, and human-in-the-loop use cases. The special issue consists of 13 invited papers. These articles present different aspects of the Tactile Internet including foundations for the architecture design and theoretic solutions to achieve stringent Tactile Internet requirements, new techniques for overcoming the limitations of legacy solutions, different types of applications, and advanced mobile edge technology solutions.
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