Wireless connectivity has become a pillar of our society. The growth of wireless traffic is relentless, forecast to reach a staggering worldwide aggregate of 5,016 exabytes by 2030, along with bit rates of 1 Tb/s and new services related to sensing, localization, low-latency, and ultra-reliability.
While the performance of wireless networks has improved phenomenally over the last decades, progress is by now pushing against fundamental limits and the mechanisms that have sustained these huge improvements are starting to falter. New evolutionary leaps are called for in order to ensure that the aforementioned forecasts can become a reality.
To date, every wireless system has abided by the premise that the propagation radio channel is fixed by nature and cannot be tampered with, but only compensated through ever more sophisticated transmission/reception schemes. A potential evolutionary leap for 6G-and-beyond networks is to break free from the postulate that channels are uncontrollable factors. Serving such a vision, META WIRELESS pursues the disruptive idea of designing wireless networks by treating the environment itself as a quantity to be controlled and optimized. Precisely, the manipulation of the wireless environment can be made possible by incorporating reconfigurable intelligent surfaces. These are planar structures, made of meta-materials and electromagnetically discontinuous, which do not adhere to conventional reflection and diffraction laws; rather, they can modify in a controllable fashion the phase and wavefront of impinging radio waves. If deployed to coat objects, walls, or building facades, they could allow customizing in real time the electromagnetic response of environments.
Making this vision a reality requires the training of a new generation of researchers and a multidisciplinary effort involving wireless communications, physics, electromagnetic theory, and computational learning, which are the ingredients that define the META WIRELESS project.