On 5G, Covid-19, cocksureness and todays challenges

​He develops technology that can point out exact positions without using GPS and prevent self-driving cars from colliding. This year's William Chalmers lecturer Erik Ström wants to talk about the possibilities of communication technology – and major challenges.
Erik Ström is professor at the Department of Electrical Engineering. Simply put, he works with technology to move information from one place to another. He is also the director of the competence center ChaseOn, which develops antenna systems for anything from high-speed mobile networks and self-driving cars to safe baby food and medical diagnostics. He has also been involved in developing a global standard for 5G, which has resulted in frequent questions by media about the development of mobile networks. In those situations, he is keen on highlighting the possibilities with communication technology.
“What if we had not had the internet and all the resources of today – what would we have done in this Covid pandemic?” he says. “It is fantastic how we can gather, process and use data to, for example, predict where the infection will appear, perhaps be able to find vaccines and effective treatment methods. There is an incredible potential in this technology!”

Time for yet another new generation 
The 5G mobile network is faster than previous generations and has an increased capacity, which means that more devices can be connected at the same time and communicate with each other in real time. It is soon in everyone’s pocket. And recently, the first step was taken towards starting the next generation – 6G. Chalmers, together with a number of other academies and industries, is participating in a major EU project that will set the framework before the work on the new 6G net can even begin. In eight to ten years, the network will then be available to the public. But it is still too early to predict which new technological innovations 6G will involve, says Erik Ström. 
“As they say, the only thing we know for certain is that 6G comes after 5G. Of course, we have some thoughts about which new services we think will be important, but it is difficult to know beforehand what will become a commercial hit. As an example, we believe that developing an accurate positioning in six dimensions will be useful. It will enable you to determine, for example, where and on which floor in a large high-rise building a mobile phone is located, and also in which direction that phone is pointing, i.e. compass direction plus upwards/downwards, much like with a combined compass and spirit-level.”

Worried about the societal development
As the mobile network is expanding, so are the reports of 5G masts being set on fire. Because online, the conspiracy theories thrive about a connection between 5G and the corona spread. Erik Ström is worried about this type of development and he therefore wants to spend some time in his lecture to reflect his thoughts on the concept of knowledge.
“I am concerned about the development towards a society where people get their worldview confirmed in their filter bubbles”, says Erik Ström. “It's really dangerous!”

How do you feel about giving this year's William Chalmers lecture?
“It is very honoring to be selected among all the talented people at Chalmers! I enjoy sharing my thoughts, and to talk about things close to my heart in this forum is really exciting. But it also gives me a great deal of performance anxiety – that comes naturally with something like this!”

Text: Helena Österling af Wåhlberg
Photo: Yen Strandqvist​​


Watch the William Chalmers lecture live stream, at the top of​​ this page!
Thursday November 5th, at 6–6.45pm.
The lecture will be in English.


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Erik Ström...

… Is Professor at the Department of Electrical Engineering and heading the Division of Communications, Antennas, and Optical Networks. He is also the Director of the ChaseOn competence center. He has previously been a research assistant at KTH and received his PhD at the University of Florida, USA.
Erik Ström has received the Chalmers Pedagogical Prize, the Research Supervisor of the Year and the Area of Advance Award. 
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Published: Mon 19 Oct 2020.