Trinity researchers win 2019 High Potential Idea Award

NearBy, an early-stage commercialisation venture created by researchers at CONNECT, the Science Foundation Ireland research centre for future networks at Trinity, has won the NDRC’s 2019 High Potential Idea Award. The NDRC provides early stage investment and development support to very young digital startups.

The NearBy team includes Merim DzaferagicIrene MacalusoConor Sexton, and mentor, Nicola Marchetti, Assistant Professor in Wireless Communications in Trinity’s School of Engineering.

(left to right) Merim Dzaferagic and Conor Sexton (CONNECT, TCD) with Ben Hurley (NDRC, CEO).

NearBy (Network Level Optimization Based on User Mobility) is a 4G/5G-compliant solution to minimise signaling and handover latency by dynamically reconfiguring the association between nodes in the Radio Access Network and the core network’s nodes and functions.

Congratulating the NearBy team, Director of CONNECT and Chair of Telecommunications in Trinity, Professor Luiz DaSilva, said:

NearBy is proposing a very sophisticated solution to the problem of handover latency. This has the potential to benefit mobile phone users and network operators alike.

I would like to acknowledge, in particular, the role of CONNECT’s Intellectual Property team – Martin Johnson and Mark Cooney – who provide guidance to our researchers as they explore the commercialisation potential of their work.

CONNECT is establishing a strong reputation for innovation:  already, 17 pieces of IP have been licensed, dozens of patents have been filed, and several spin-out and spin-in companies have been generated.

Explaining the idea behind NearBy, Merim Dzaferagic, added: “When you receive a call your mobile phone connects to the closest cell tower. The system that takes care of the user mobility is called the Mobility Management Entity (MME). As you move through a network (user mobility), for instance if you are travelling on a motorway, the MME transfers your connection to a different cell tower as you move along, ensuring that you don’t lose connection. This is called a handover. One of the problems with user mobility is the cost to the system of these handovers in terms of the signalling needed.”

“Currently cell towers are grouped into geographical areas called clusters. Towers within a cluster can ‘handover’ users to each other pretty easily. So, if you are walking around the city centre in Dublin, the handover between these towers within the same cluster is ‘cheap’. There is not much information or signalling needed to transfer your call. If you transfer between different clusters though, there is more of a cost. In this scenario, there needs to be communication between multiple MMEs and other systems in the network, making it slower.”

“NearBy reduces these costly handovers by using smart and adaptive optimisation techniques and data on how users move around the network to reform these clusters. Based on data from the existing network, the clusters can be designed on how users actually move between towers, rather than just the geographic location. With NearBy’s technology, the cluster can be reshaped so that the towers along the motorway can be part of a single cluster, making the handovers cheaper and more efficient. It benefits the mobile users by providing a better service, it benefits the network operators by reducing the need to configure and optimise the network, and it benefits network equipment vendors by allowing best performance to be achieved.”

CONNECT also had three other entrants in the NDRC showcase, which will now continue the journey to commercialisation. These included Full-duplex Node (Full-ON) involving CONNECT researchers Indrakshi Dey, Parna Sabeti, and Sandip Das in Trinity. Their business idea offers a single-antenna parametric amplifier circuit design for prototyping portable full duplex nodes.