Scottish Startup Net AI Fires Up for 5G Network Management

Tech company has spun out from the University of Edinburgh, and uses new artificial intelligence and cloud computing techniques to provide real-time insights into network demand.

Tech startup Net AI has spun out from the University of Edinburgh with plans to offer a new route to 5G network management.

Net AI uses new artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud computing techniques to provide real-time insights into network demand, telling mobile network operators what services are being used at “any location at any given moment, and in what amount”.

The company’s technology is based on more than five years of research in AI and mobile networking led by Dr Paul Patras, Associate Professor at the University’s School of Informatics. Dr Patras is co-founder and CEO of Net AI.

Net AI has been active prior to today’s (20 October) official announcement. It presented at an Accelerator Demo Day in June, took part in an Innovation Showcase in May, and was in a post-COVID AI Accelerator in February.

Dr Patras explains: “Entering into an exclusive licence agreement with the University of Edinburgh is a major stepping stone for Net AI and we are grateful for the support we received from numerous people and organisations, who helped us take the research out of the lab.”

He adds: “We now seek to attract top talent to join our team and accelerate market introduction. Ultimately, we aim to develop a market-leading platform for mobile traffic decomposition and deep analysis.”

The startup offers its Microscope software, which it reckons will remove the need for expensive hardware installed at different points in a network, and will eliminate the need for expensive computing resources that are required to process raw data offline.

Net AI is supported by Edinburgh Innovations (EI), the University’s commercialisation service. According to the startup, the global network automation market is forecast to be worth more than £20 billion by 2024.

There are no specifics but the company has been launched with “significant” seed investment from a group of venture funds.

Net AI points out that mobile network operators face ever-growing demands for diverse data services from their customers and need to support new applications, such as autonomous vehicles and industrial automation.

The startup is keen to dismiss current resource management systems that rely on ‘deep packet inspection’ (DPI) equipment installed at different points in the network. It sees this DPI technology as expensive and difficult to upgrade.

Net AI’s software can provide breakdowns of data demand on an application-by-application basis. This allows data to be collected in the cloud, and it works with encrypted traffic.

Net AI’s target customers will be the current hardware/software solution providers to mobile network operators and those operators themselves, as well as professional services companies that specialise in analytics.

Dr Patras has been working with EI since 2019. He and his team have been supported to secure an ICURe (Innovation to Commercialisation of University Research) grant to conduct a preliminary market validation and engage with potential customers, followed by a Scottish Enterprise High Growth Spinout grant to fund development of both the technology itself and a commercialisation pathway.

The team has also received support from the University’s Data-Driven Entrepreneurship (DDE) AI Accelerator, the DDE Seed Fund programme and the DDE Fast Track Executive Designate Programme, all supported by the Scottish Funding Council via the Data-Driven Innovation Programme of the Edinburgh and South-East Scotland City Region Deal.

By the way, eWeek UK recently looked at ‘The Future of Edge Computing and 5G Technology’. By 2023, 5G could make up one-fifth of all mobile data traffic, and edge computing is a quintessential infrastructure to realise this goal.

Webopedia (a sister site to eWeek UK) notes that 5G offers higher frequency waves and greater bandwidth on wires and wireless connections.

The main draw of 5G is that its support of more devices on a network and higher-frequency waves will increase IoT connectivity and speed. This means that IoT will become even more responsive. More devices will connect to a network, and since the demand for connected devices is already high, networks will be required to support even more. 5G attempts to meet that need.

Antony Peyton
Antony Peyton is the Editor of eWeek UK and has 17 years' journalism and writing experience. His career has taken him to China, Japan and the UK - covering tech, fintech and business. Follow on Twitter @TonyFintech.

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