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November 1, 2023
Nokia Bell Labs is showcasing an AI proof of concept called Natural-Language Networks, an ‘industry-first research breakthrough’ that will allow networks to be operated via speech or text prompts.
Dubbed as a technology that will make networks ‘truly anonymous’, Natural-Language Networks is a proof of concept combining natural language processing and AI/ML models that is supposed to interpret text or speech requests and automatically allocate the right combination of network resources.
By doing so, Natural-Language Networks will apparently ‘eliminate the complexity of managing networks, while also enabling much more responsiveness to end user’s needs’. Operators will be able to deliver and maintain the ‘ideal network configuration’ for any customer the moment it is requested, says Nokia.
“These networks will understand the intention of users and have the intelligence to act upon them autonomously,” claims the release.
The system is also supposed to learn from its actions and optimise the network further with each request. As more knowledge is gathered, it can apparently anticipate service and application needs and self-adapt to them without the need for any human intervention.
The proof of concept, which is currently being demonstrated at the Brooklyn 6G Summit, is a component of a new Nokia Bell Labs research initiative called UNEXT. This has the not immodest goals of redefining network software and systems ‘the same way UNIX reshaped computing’, and ‘evolving the network itself into an OS.’
“Operators won’t need to explore technical catalogues or complex API descriptions when they configure networks,” said Csaba Vulkan, Network Systems Automation research leader, Nokia Bell Labs. “Instead, a simple statement like ‘Optimize the network at X location for Y service’ will work. Those requests could be used to configure a wireless network in a factory for robot automation or optimize networks at a concert for a barrage of social media uploads.”
Azimeh Sefidcon, Head of Network Systems and Security Research, Nokia Bell Labs added: “Natural-Language Networks offer a sneak peek into one of the many capabilities of UNEXT. Reducing the complexity of network management fits squarely with UNEXT’s goal of extending the reach of networked systems by breaking down barriers that prevent those systems from interoperating.”
In the same week in which there are some high-profile governmental moves to put guard rails on AI development, talk of networks adapting themselves without the need for human intervention is the sort of thing that rings alarm bells with those more sceptical of the direction unmitigated AI deployment could take us.
Of course, this is just a proof of concept and there is a tendency for press releases to lean into how revolutionary and game-changing all sorts of things are. So who knows what will tangibly come out of it down the line, but it certainly sounds ambitious in scope.
However like autonomous driving, at the present moment there may prove to be a gulf between what can be demonstrated in controlled campus conditions, and what can be practically applied in the real world.
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