Using ad-hoc networks, virtual reality and multimedia to produce novel communication capabilities

Kingston University researchers are harnessing the power of network communication

Communication technology and artificial intelligence are two cornerstones of the 21st-century world, powering instant messaging, smart gadgets and automatic proximity detectors on aeroplanes.

At Kingston University, Professor Christos Politis of the Wireless Multimedia and Networking (WMN) Research Group and Director of the Digital Information Research Centre, has solved some of the bottlenecks to the practical application of mobile ad-hoc networks (MANETs).

Informing new internet protocol standards

MANETs do not require any new hardware and can be set up by overlaying existing infrastructure. In a MANET, local connections are established within a group of mobile devices where each device receives and forwards data packets based on relevant programming. This process allows for networks to be formed dynamically as needed. Professor Politis's research involved reusing an existing security software system in a new way to enable MANET use for inter-vehicular communication in emergency services. Based on his MANET research, Professor Politis contributed to a white paper that has informed new internet protocol standards and the 5G policies of the European Union.

Simultaneously, Professor Maria Martini, lead researcher in the WMN group, conducted research to ensure that network performance and capacity demands were up to standard in communication networks of various types, particularly in medical videos streamed at low bandwidths. Professor Vasilis Argyriou, who specialises in machine learning, developed a communication environment between patients and video/virtual reality games, using neural networks and reinforcement learning, allowing those games to be personalised.

RoIP gateway

WMN's work has enabled several projects related to emergency communications under the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development. Further, in 2016, UK-based Vocality International Ltd., now a part of Cubic Missions Solutions, engaged in a knowledge transfer partnership with Kingston University to apply Professors Politis and Martini's research to achieve seamless, secure and ubiquitous device-to-device communication on their advanced RoIP gateway (radio-over-internet-protocol, a means of transferring audio packets over the internet).

The gateway technology was enhanced to allow new and legacy devices to connect with each other efficiently while having the option to switch between data services. It also offered the same capabilities as legacy devices and enabled signal quality monitoring.

The RoIP gateway was launched in 2017, and since then, it has been sold internationally. Overwatch Aero LLC has used it for airborne communication and tactical support to emergency responders; an NGO in the Bahamas has used it for instant communications between different sites across the country after Hurricane Dorian; and hospitals have used it to unify communications between various radio system manufacturers during the COVID crisis.

Improving motor skills and coordination in children

In 2011, Professor Politis founded Ubitech Ltd. to carry out the European Union's GAME-ABLING and GABLE projects to improve motor skills and coordination in children with cerebral palsy (CP). Ubitech designed the backbone online accessible gaming platform while Professor Argyriou's work enabled adaptation of the gaming environment to the players' individual profiles and behaviours. In a two-week pilot study in 2017, the trunk control and balance of children with CP showed improvement; in a similar study in 2018 involving 1,000 children with CP, the results were, once again, positive. Therapists involved in the programme noted that the children's movements became smoother and more precise. All children who were part of these sessions continued to use the platform for rehabilitation at home.

Improvements to communication and quality of life

The GABLE project has been used in nine institutions treating children with CP in Ukraine, Spain, Ireland, Malaysia, Nepal and the UK. In recognition of its social impact, the project was granted the 2019 Social Council Award of the Universitat Rovira I Virgili (Catalonia, Spain).

Through their work on ubiquitous ad-hoc wireless networks, motor skill rehabilitation and online radio transmission, Kingston researchers have made important contributions to communication capabilities and quality of life improvements.

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