Reconfigurable Intelligent Surfaces in Challenging Environments: Underwater, Underground, Industrial and Disaster

10 Nov 2020  ·  Steven Kisseleff, Symeon Chatzinotas, Björn Ottersten ·

Challenging environments comprise a range of scenarios, which share the fact that it is extremely difficult to establish a communication link using conventional technology due to many impairments typically associated with the propagation medium and increased signal scattering. Specifically, underwater and underground media are known to absorb electromagnetic radiation, which heavily affects the overall path loss. Industrial and disaster environments can be viewed as rich scattering environments with corresponding substantial multipath propagation leading to intersymbol interference and deterioration of signal quality. Although the challenges for the design of communication networks, and specifically the Internet of Things (IoT), in such environments are known, there is no common enabler or solution for all these applications. Reconfigurable intelligent surfaces (RISs) have been introduced to improve the signal propagation characteristics by focusing the signal power in the preferred direction, thus making the communication environment 'smart'. While the usual application of RIS is related to blockage avoidance, the very same technique can be used to reduce the effect of multipath and even partially compensate the signal absorption via passive beamforming. Due to the beneficial properties of RIS, its use in challenging environments can become the aforementioned enabler and a game changing technology. In this paper, we discuss potential use cases, deployment strategies and design aspects for RIS devices in underwater IoT, underground IoT as well as Industry 4.0 and emergency networks. Furthermore, we provide a potential hardware architecture and derive the expected signal quality. The numerical results reveal substantial performance gains of up to 20 dB per decade. In addition, novel research challenges to be addressed in this context are described.

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