IEEE International Symposium on Personal, Indoor and Mobile Radio Communications
13–16 September 2021 // Virtual Conference // By 6G Flagship

MetaEverything: Intelligent Meta-Material Aided Sensing and Communications


Dr. Boya Di
Imperial College London, UK

Dr. Hongliang Zhang
Princeton University, NJ, USA

Dr. Zhu Han
Houston University, TX, USA

Dr. Lingyang Song
Peking University, Beijing, China


The sixthgeneration communications are evoluting towards a distributed intelligent communication and sensing systemfor wireless networks. The applicability of existing techniques such as massive MIMO and traditional wireless sensor devices is limited by the conflicts between 1) low hardware costs and high data rates, 2) high detection accuracy and light-weight deployment. Fortunately, meta-material, as a passive two-dimensional metamaterial, provides a groundbreaking technology that enhances the sensing and directional transmission without extra hardware costs.

Meta-materialis capable to actively shape uncontrollable wireless environments into a desirable form via flexible phase shift reconfiguration. To exploit such a technique, the network is expected to coordinate the meta-materialand cellular access points to improve the data rates and cell coverage. As such, challenges have been posed to develop new communication diagrams including channel estimation and beamforming schemes.

Moreover, meta-materialprovides a new approach to achieve sensing applications with high accuracy. One typical application is radio frequency (RF) sensing where the meta-materialcustomizes the wireless channels intelligently which interact with the sensing objectives to excavate the environment information. Another application is high-resolution wireless sensors by leveraging the metamaterial’s electromagnetic property (determined by its geometry and material) sensitive to the environment. Both applications require new meta-materialstructures, protocols for data acquisition and processing, and meta-materialconfiguration optimization.

To address the research advances, a tutorial containing the basic concepts/theories that enable meta-materialaided communication and sensing will be very useful for researchers and engineers. This is the primary motivation of this tutorial proposal.

There are three main objectives of this tutorial. The first objective is to provide a general introduction of the intelligent meta-materialalong withthe state-of-the-art. The second objective is to introduce its unique featureswhich enlighten its broad applications to communication and sensing. Related design, analysis, optimization, and signal processing techniques will be presented. The third objective is to explore typical meta-materialapplications and discuss implementation issues. Formalized analysis of several up-to-date challenges and technical details on system design will be provided for different applications.

Structure and content

The tutorial proposal with the title “MetaEverything: Intelligent Meta-MaterialAided Sensing and Communications” will provide the state-of-the-art of research on meta-materialassisted sensing and communications from the perspectives of physical, MAC, network, and application layers. It focuses on three types of meta-materialbased applications, i.e., cellular communications, RF sensing, and high-resolution sensors. The tutorial will discuss the meta-materialhardware design as well as data processing techniques for different sensing applications. Technical issues related to communications will also be addressed including beamforming scheme design, channel estimation, phase shift optimization, signal detection, and MAC layer protocol design. The contents will be organized in the following way:

  • Background
    • An introduction to wireless communications (including channel models) and wireless sensor technologies with a potential to satisfy the requirements of 6G urging an intelligent world will be reviewed.
    • The working principle, structure, historical development, and state-of-the-art applications of intelligent meta-materials will be introduced in detail. Both the reflective-type and reflective-transmissive types of meta-materials will be illustrated, along with our prototypes. Models of channel propagation, transmission, and sensing will be presented as well.
  • Theoretical Fundamentals
    • Optimization techniques and machine learning methods will be discussed in preparationfor the beamforming design and signal processing. Major optimization variations such as constrained optimization and combinatorial optimization will be presented. State-of-the-art learning techniques including reinforcement learning and deep learning will be investigated.
  • IntelligentMeta-Materialaided Cellular Communications
    • Meta-materialaided cellular communications will be discussed where the meta-materialreflects signals from the cellular AP towards a user via its inherent analog beamforming. Theoretical analysis on achievable rates influenced by meta-surface size and phase shift discretization will be delivered. Coverage extension enabled by the meta-materialwill also be investigated, providing a guideline for system design.
    • Meta-materialaided multi-user communications will be investigated. To support diverse requirements, e.g., high energy efficiency and high throughput, it is desirable to design hybrid beamforming schemes and to develop discrete phase shift optimization of the meta-material. The multi-user systems aided by the reflective-type (RIS) and the intelligent omni-directional meta-surfaces (IOS) are discussed in detail, respectively.
  • IntelligentMeta-Materialaided Smart Sensing
    • In smart sensing, the influence of the sensing objectives on the wireless signal propagation can be potentially recognized by the receivers, which is then utilized to identify the objectives. It is desirable to design image recovery algorithms, optimize meta-materialconfigurations, and study tracking methods. Two RIS-aided applications, i.e., posture recognition and 3-dimensional sensing, are illustrated, respectively.
    • For enhanced localization, meta-materialis deployed between the AP and users such that the AP can analyze the reflected signals from users via different configurationsto obtain the accurate locations of users. To deal with the mutual influence between multiple users and the meta-material, a new localization protocol for device coordination and a meta-materialconfiguration optimization algorithm is required.
  • IntelligentMeta-MaterialEnabled IoT
    • The application of indoor climate monitoringis deployed based on the meta-materialhigh-resolution sensors. Unlike traditional sensors, one small piece of meta-materialcan enable an integration of multiple types of sensors which collects data simultaneously and provides the integrated temperature and humidity information with an ultra-high resolution. The goal is to develop a new meta-materialbased data collection, sensing, and processing approach that strikes a balance between the low cost and high resolution.

Based on the above mjor contents, we present the outline of the tutorial below:

1. Introduction (Presenter: Prof. Lingyang Song)
1.1. 6G Background and Requirements
i. Cellular Communications
ii. Challenges of the State-of-the-Art
1.2. Meta-Material Basics
i. Historical Development
ii. Working Principle
iii. Channel Modelling
iv. Prototypes
1.3. Meta-Material Applications
i. Propagation Environment Control for Communications
ii. Radio Frequency Sensing for Mobile Internet of Things
iii. Wireless Sensors with High Resolution
2. Basic Theoretical Backgrounds (Presenter: Prof. Zhu Han)
2.1 Optimization Theory
2.2 Machine Learning Techniques
3. Intelligent Meta-Materialaided Cellular Communications: Theoretical Analysis (Presenter: Dr. Boya Di)
3.1 Goals and Challenges
3.2 System Design and Analysis
i. Limited Phase Shift Effect of the Meta-Material
ii. Size Effect of the Meta-Material
iii. Deployment Optimization
4. Intelligent Meta-Material aided Multi-User Communications: Optimization and Application (Presenter: Dr. Boya Di)
4.1 Protocol Design
4.2 Reflective-Type Meta-Materialaided Communications
i. Digital Beamforming
ii. Meta-Material based Analog Beamforming
4.3 Intelligent Omni-directional Meta-Materialaided Communications
i. Hybrid Beamforming
ii. Deployment Optimization
iii. Prototypes and Experimental Results
5. Intelligent Meta-Material aided Smart Sensing (Presenter: Dr. Hongliang Zhang)
5.1. Meta-Materialaided Posture Recognition
i. System Overview
ii. Meta-Material aided RF Sensing for Posture Recognition
iii. Joint RIS Phase Shift and Detection Function Optimization
iv. Implementation and Prototypes
5.2. Meta-Material aided 3-Dimentional Sensing
i. System Construction
ii. Mapping from RF Signals and 3D Shapes
iii. Simulation and Evaluation
5.3. Meta-Material aided Localization
i. Protocol Design
ii. Analysis of Fingerprint-based Localization
iii. Implementation
6. Intelligent Meta-Material Enabled IoT (Presenter: Dr. Hongliang Zhang)
6.1 Meta-Material based Indoor Climate Monitoring
i. Meta-Material based Multi-function Sensor Design
ii. Protocol Design for Data Acquisition and Processing
iii. Experiment Results