Internet of Skills – Where Communications, Robotics and AI Meet

By Professor Mischa Dohler, King’s College London

Each Internet generation was believed to be the last, with designs pushed to near perfection. The first and original Internet, a virtually infinite network of computers, was a paradigm changer and went on to define the global economies of the late 20th century.  After that Internet, came the Mobile Internet, connecting billions of smart phones and laptops, and yet again redefining entire segments of the economy in the first decade of the 21st century. Today, we witness the emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT), soon to connect billions of objects and starting to redefine yet again various economies of this decade.
Underpinned by zero-delay networking paradigms in the (optical) network and the Tactile Internet at the wireless edge, above embodiments of the Internet will be dwarfed by the emergence of industrial local area networks (“Industry 4.0”) and – focus of this blog article – by the Internet of Skills (“Human 4.0”).
By enabling the delivery of physical experiences remotely, the Internet of Skills will revolutionize operations and servicing capabilities for industries and it will revolutionize the way we teach, learn, and interact with our surroundings for consumers. It will be a world where our best engineers can service cars instantaneously around the world; or anybody being taught how to paint by the best available artists globally. At an estimated revenue of $20 trillion per annum worldwide (20% of today’s global GDP!), it will be an enabler for skillset delivery – thus a very timely technology for service driven economies around the world.
At this year’s OFC in Los Angeles, I will merge my passion of communications and music by discussing how the ‘Internet of Skills’ will allow the transmission of labor, enabled by next-generation wireless 5G and optical networks. I’ll demonstrate this live on stage while performing songs from my album - "Stories From Another World" - which will launch globally on the day of my keynote on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify and other music platforms.
Addressing Societal Challenges.
The potential global impact of this creation would be phenomenal and instrumental in conquering some of the world’s biggest challenges. The Internet of Skills – having reached widespread adoption or being deployed at needs – will enable important remote skill applications.
Take the example of disaster operation applications such as remote monitoring/surgery of people in need (e.g. applicable in Ebola hit areas); it will also enable remote education (e.g. a child in Gaza is taught painting); it will enable industrial remote decommissioning and servicing capabilities (e.g. the remote reparation of a broken car in Africa); among other important applications.
The Internet of Skills will thus be an enabler for remote skillset delivery and thereby democratize labor the same way as the Internet has democratize knowledge.
Technical Realization.
The designed network has to have the following characteristics: i) be ultra-reliable since many critical tasks will be executed remotely; ii) be of zero perceived delay since the transmission of kinesthetic (movement) data requires closed control loops to support action and reaction and long delays yield system instabilities; and iii) rely on cheap edges to enable true scale.
Illustrated in the adjacent figure, the actual technology thus needs to be innovated around three major areas: 1) optical & wireless networks, 2) artificial edge-intelligence (AI), and 3) standardized haptic codecs. That would allow a reliable haptic experience around the globe, i.e. a true Internet experience. In more details:
Networks are vital in guaranteeing the lowest possible delay possible whilst being extremely reliable and robust. At the same time, delays can be further reduced when video transmissions are not compressed/encoded anymore; this however will yield a 10x fold increase in capacity which has to be absorbed by emerging optical networks. From a management point of view, end-to-end path reservation through network slicing enabled by software define networking (SDN) technologies will be instrumental. Furthermore, the tactile internet will guarantee minimum delay and strong robustness over the wireless edge. Some fundamental architecture changes are however required to enable low delay; along with many other networking transformations.
AI, together with networks, play an instrumental role in giving the perception of zero-delay networks. Indeed, one ought to use model-mediated teleoperation systems to have AI predict movement on the remote end and thus give enough time for the signal to reach the other side of the planet. The haptic control loops typically require a delay of 1-10ms, which translates to 100-1000km range under typical networking conditions; a range which can be extended by model-mediated approach to the tens of thousands of kilometers needed to cover the entire planet. Open research problems here pertain to environment modeling (geometry and physical properties); stable force rendering on the master side; standardized database of environmental models and cloud placement of intelligence and functionalities.
Finally, the haptic codecs will enable scale in the future as it will avoid vendor lock-ins. Here, we envisage the combination of tactile (touch) and kinesthetic (movement) information into the already available modalities of video and audio. Open challenges here are to develop a haptic mean opinion score (h-MOS); find trade-offs for joint tactile and kinesthetic information; trade-off studies for integration with other codecs; and possibly see if we could use compressed sensing solutions.

Join Our Global 5G Efforts!
All these exciting developments are being tested in our 5G lab at King’s, as shown in the adjacent picture. As a community, much of the work is also carried out by various standardization bodies. You are most welcome to joining us at the IEEE 5G Tactile Internet working group ( as well as other 5G initiatives (e.g. And, I hope to see you at OFC in March.

Professor Mischa Dohler, is a professor of Wireless Communication at King’s College in London, UK. He is a Fellow of IEEE and the Royal Society of Arts and is one of the plenary speaker for OFC 2017.
See Professor Dohler's keynote during the OFC 2017 plenary session on Tuesday, 21 March, 8:00 - 10:00 Pacific Time in the Concourse Hall at the Los Angeles Convention Center. 

Posted: 23 February 2017 by Professor Mischa Dohler, King’s College London | with 0 comments

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