Piet Demeester receives ERC Proof of Concept Grant

(18-01-2024) Piet Demeester (Ghent University-imec), working closely with colleagues Ingrid Moerman and Guy Torfs, will conduct groundbreaking research into new wireless networking technology that can replace current cabled networks in challenging environments.

Envision a future manufacturing plant characterized by flexibility, where robots seamlessly navigate the factory floor, executing a myriad of intricate tasks in perfect harmony. This vision hinges on the ability of these robots to communicate rapidly, reliably, and synchronously, making wired connections impractical due to their inherent mobility.

DCAP or Distributed Coordinated Access Point, the innovative wireless technology Piet will  pursue, will revolutionize the conventional paradigm of multiple mobile devices connecting to a single wireless access point. Instead, it will employ a multitude of access points working in concert to serve mobile devices. This transformative approach, known as Cell-Free massive Multiple Input Multiple Output (CFmMIMO), eliminates the need for a designated cell around an antenna and obviates the complexities associated with handovers during movement.

A multitude of challenges

Piet Demeester ERC 2However, realizing this vision poses several challenges that demand careful consideration. Achieving extreme synchronization among the distributed antennas is imperative, as wireless signals exchanged between mobile robots and multiple fixed antennas must seamlessly collaborate. Furthermore, the information exchanged among robots through distributed access points must be highly reliable and exhibit low latency to avoid hazardous situations and optimize operational efficiency. To address these challenges, the team plans to leverage their successful openWiFi experimentation platform.

Moreover, the implementation of a cost-effective solution is paramount for the success of this venture. In this regard, the application of a Sigma-Delta-Over-Fiber Fronthaul Network, developed under the ERC Advanced Grant ATTO, will play a pivotal role in ensuring accurate time synchronization.

By addressing these multifaceted challenges, the research team aims to propel the realization of a wireless networking technology that redefines the possibilities for communication in dynamic and demanding environments.

More about the ERC

The European Research Council (ERC), set up by the European Union in 2007, is the premier European funding organisation for excellent frontier research. It funds creative researchers of any nationality and age, to run projects based across Europe. The ERC offers four core grant schemes: Starting Grants, Consolidator Grants, Advanced Grants and Synergy Grants.

With its additional Proof of Concept Grant scheme, the ERC helps grantees to bridge the gap between their pioneering research and early phases of its commercialisation. In January 2024, the council has announced another 102 Proof of Concept grants, bringing the total number of researchers receiving such funding to 240 in last year’s three competition rounds. Each grant is worth €150,000. In this competition, a total of €36 million in top innovation funding has been awarded. The grant scheme is part of the EU’s research and innovation programme, Horizon Europe.

The ERC is led by an independent governing body, the Scientific Council, whereof VIB-UGent professor Dirk Inzé is a member. Since 1 November 2021, Maria Leptin is the President of the ERC. The overall ERC budget from 2021 to 2027 is more than €16 billion, as part of the Horizon Europe programme, under the responsibility of the European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, Mariya Gabriel.

Researchers within and outside of Ghent University who wish to apply for an ERC Grant with our university as host institution, can contact the EU Team for advice and support.