UofG researchers lend support to autonomous networks Build-a-thon event

Published: 18 November 2022

Dozens of teams from around the world have taken part in Build-a-thon 2022, an autonomous communications networks competition, supported by researchers from the University of Glasgow.

Dozens of teams from around the world have taken part in Build-a-thon 2022, an  autonomous communications networks competition, supported by researchers from the University of Glasgow.
The online workshop, called FG AN Build-a-thon Workshop 3.0, which took place on Monday 7 November 2022, is the third of its kind organised by the ITU-T Focus Group on Autonomous Networks (FG AN). This marks the culmination of this years’ events for this competition and served as the finals of the Build-a-thon 2022.
​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is the United Nations’ specialized agency for information and communication technologies – ICTs. The ITU-T works to develop the technical standards that ensure networks and technologies seamlessly interconnect and to improve underserved communities’ access to ICTs worldwide.
The ITU-T Focus Group on Autonomous Networks, established in 2020, brings together experts around the world to develop technical reports and specifications which will underpin future communications technologies using 5G networks and beyond.
Autonomous networks will use technologies including machine learning and artificial intelligence to ensure that advanced communications networks can manage challenges in everyday operations with minimal human oversight. They will also have the ability to develop their own solutions to unforeseen situations, ensuring continuity of communications services.
The FG AN Build-a-thon set an open challenge to teams from academia and industry to develop and prototype their own solutions to a problem statement formulated by the focus group derived from its work.
A total of 27 teams, with more than 50 participants from across Europe, Africa and Asia, participated in the Build-a-thon which ran over a period from May till November 2022. The FG AN Build-a-thon workshop 3.0 was the final event, which wrapped up the challenge posed at an initial workshop in June 2022. Teams presented and demonstrated the solutions they developed, and contributed to the wider discussion on related use cases, architecture and proof of concepts.
The competition was judged by Dr Stephen McQuistin, of the University of Glasgow’s School of Computing Science, and Mr. Rodel Urani from iClassed, Philippines.
Álvaro Pendas Recondo and Jaime Fúster de la Fuente, engineer interns from Rakuten Mobile Inc. in Tokyo, took first place for their team, which they called ‘digital_twins’.
 Their entry was a software-based proof of the FG AN proposed architecture for autonomous networks. Using a combination of different technologies, including a blockchain enabled distributed file system, they demonstrated how the essential elements of the architecture could be realised and demonstrated it on a representative application.
The digital_twins received prize money of 1000 Swiss francs (£885) along with certificates of merit from ITU.
The winning team will present their solution at the final event of the ITU AI/ML 5G Challenge in December. The Challenge asks participants to solve real world problems, based on standardized technologies developed for machine learning in 5G networks.
Dr Paul Harvey, of the University of Glasgow’s James Watt School of Engineering, is co-chair of one the ITU-T’s working groups on autonomous networks and mentor to the digital_twins team.
He said: “I was delighted to take part in the build-a-thon workshop event, which saw some really inventive and exciting entries from teams around the world.
This kind of crowdsourced approach to tackling the challenges of autonomous networks is vitally important to ensuring that the focus group considers a wide range of solutions as we develop our technical reports and specifications.
“I’d like to offer my congratulations to Álvaro and Jaime, and I wish them the best of luck for the Challenge event at the end of the year.”
Vishnu Ram, vice-chair of the ITU-T Focus Group on Autonomous Networks, has been coordinating the Build-a-thon competition. He added: ”The support and guidance provided by researchers from the University of Glasgow has been critical for ITU-T FG AN.
“They played an important part in the finalizing some of the key deliverables for FG AN as well as in helping and mentoring the teams to participate in the Build-a-thon.
“Not only that, but Professor Muhammad Imran of the James Watt School of Engineering, gave us encouraging words to motivate the participating teams while opening our workshop 2.0 in September 2022 .
“I’d like to thank the University of Glasgow for setting an excellent example of collaboration with international Standards Development Organizations while pushing the technology envelope forward”.

First published: 18 November 2022