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Use Case Analysis for Computing in the Network

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Authors Ike Kunze , Klaus Wehrle , Dirk Trossen , Marie-Jose Montpetit , Xavier de Foy , David Griffin , Miguel Rio
Last updated 2023-03-10
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COINRG                                                          I. Kunze
Internet-Draft                                                 K. Wehrle
Intended status: Informational                               RWTH Aachen
Expires: 11 September 2023                                    D. Trossen
                                                         M. J. Montpetit
                                                               X. de Foy
                                        InterDigital Communications, LLC
                                                              D. Griffin
                                                                  M. Rio
                                                           10 March 2023

             Use Case Analysis for Computing in the Network


   Computing in the Network (COIN) has the potential to enable a wide
   variety of use cases.  The diversity in use cases makes general
   considerations challenging.  In an effort to capture the breadth of
   possible scenarios, another COINRG document presents a selection of
   concrete use cases, each representing a broader set of settings.

   This document analyzes the described use cases (and potentially
   further settings) to identify general aspects of interest across all
   use cases to steer future COIN discussions.

Status of This Memo

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   This Internet-Draft will expire on 11 September 2023.

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Copyright Notice

   Copyright (c) 2023 IETF Trust and the persons identified as the
   document authors.  All rights reserved.

   This document is subject to BCP 78 and the IETF Trust's Legal
   Provisions Relating to IETF Documents (
   license-info) in effect on the date of publication of this document.
   Please review these documents carefully, as they describe your rights
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Table of Contents

   1.  Introduction  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   2
   2.  Terminology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
   3.  COIN Use Cases Taxonomy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
   4.  Analysis  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   4
     4.1.  Opportunities . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
     4.2.  Research Questions  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
       4.2.1.  Categorization  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
       4.2.2.  Analysis  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
     4.3.  Requirements  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  13
   5.  Security Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  13
   6.  IANA Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  13
   7.  Conclusion  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  13
   8.  Informative References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  13
   Authors' Addresses  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  14

1.  Introduction

   The Internet was designed as a best-effort packet network that offers
   limited guarantees regarding the timely and successful transmission
   of packets.  Data manipulation, computation, and more complex
   protocol functionality is generally provided by the end-hosts while
   network nodes are kept simple and only offer a "store and forward"
   packet facility.  This design choice has shown suitable for a wide
   variety of applications and has helped in the rapid growth of the

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   COIN fundamentally changes these observations as it proposes adding
   meaningful compute functionality within the network and thus between
   the end-hosts.  However, there is currently no consensus on what COIN
   is exactly and, thus, building solutions for COIN-related problems is
   non-trivial.  In this context, [USECASES] presents a variety of use
   cases that were thought by the authors to represent meaningful
   applications of COIN.  While [USECASES] proposes a taxonomy to
   structure the description of the different use cases, it does not
   provide further considerations.  For example, it does not analyze the
   different use cases for similarities and does not draw general

   This document fills that gap by performing an analysis of the use
   cases described in [USECASES] as well as additional ones.  In the
   following, Section 2 first presents general terminology that was
   originally introduced in [USECASES] and is now maintained in
   [TERMINOLOGY].  Section 3 then describes the taxonomy used in
   [USECASES] for describing the use cases.  The rest of the document
   then provides the actual analysis, dividing the overall analysis into
   a few, more focussed, smaller analyses.

2.  Terminology

   This document uses the terminology outlined in [TERMINOLOGY].

3.  COIN Use Cases Taxonomy

   With the expansion of the Internet, there are more and more fields
   that require more than best-effort forwarding including strict
   performance guarantees or closed-loop integration to manage data
   flows.  In this context, allowing for a tighter integration of
   computing and networking resources, enabling a more flexible
   distribution of computation tasks across the network, e.g., beyond
   'just' endpoints, may help to achieve the desired guarantees and
   behaviors as well as increase overall performance.  The vision of
   'in-network computing' and the provisioning of such capabilities that
   capitalize on joint computation and communication resource usage
   throughout the network is core to the efforts in the COIN RG; we
   refer to those capabilities as 'COIN capabilities' in the remainder
   of the document.

   We believe that such vision of 'in-network computing' can be best
   outlined along four dimensions of use cases, namely those that (i)
   provide new user experiences through the utilization of COIN
   capabilities (referred to as 'COIN experiences'), (ii) enable new
   COIN systems, e.g., through new interactions between communication
   and compute providers, (iii) improve on already existing COIN
   capabilities and (iv) enable new COIN capabilities.  Sections 3

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   through 6 capture those categories of use cases and provide the main
   structure of this document.  The goal is to present how the presence
   of computing resources inside the network impacts existing services
   and applications or allows for innovation in emerging fields.

   Through delving into some individual examples within each of the
   above categories, we aim to outline opportunities and propose
   possible research questions for consideration by the wider community
   when pushing forward the 'in-network computing' vision.  Furthermore,
   insights into possible requirements for an evolving solution space of
   collected COIN capabilities is another objective of the individual
   use case descriptions.  This results in the following taxonomy used
   to describe each of the use cases:

   1.  Description: Purpose of the use case and explanation of the use
       case behavior

   2.  Characterization: Explanation of the services that are being
       utilized and realized as well as the semantics of interactions in
       the use case.

   3.  Existing solutions: Describe, if existing, current methods that
       may realize the use case.

   4.  Opportunities: Outline how COIN capabilities may support or
       improve on the use case in terms of performance and other

   5.  Research questions: State essential questions that are suitable
       for guiding research to achieve the outlined opportunities

   6.  Requirements: Describe the requirements for any solutions for
       COIN capabilities that may need development along the
       opportunities outlined in item 4; here, we limit requirements to
       those COIN capabilities, recognizing that any use case will
       realistically hold many additional requirements for its

4.  Analysis

   The goal of this analysis is to identify aspects that are relevant
   across all use cases to help in shaping the research agenda of
   COINRG.  For this purpose, this section will condense the
   opportunities, research questions, as well as requirements of the
   different presented use cases and analyze these for similarities
   across the use cases.

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   Through this, we intend to identify cross-cutting opportunities,
   research questions as well as requirements (for COIN system
   solutions) that may aid the future work of COINRG as well as the
   larger research community.

   When referring to specific research questions (RQ) or requirements
   (Req), we use the corresponding identifiers from [USECASES].

4.1.  Opportunities

   To be added later.

4.2.  Research Questions

   After carefully considering the different use cases along with their
   research questions, we propose the following layered categorization
   to structure the content of the research questions which we
   illustrate in Figure 1.

      +                       Applicability Areas                    +
      + .............................................................+
      + Transport |   App  |    Data    |  Routing &  | (Industrial) +
      +           | Design | Processing | Forwarding  |    Control   +

      +    Distributed Computing FRAMEWORKS and LANGUAGES to COIN    +

      +                ENABLING TECHNOLOGIES for COIN                +

      +                      VISION(S) for COIN                      +

                Figure 1: Research Questions Categorization

4.2.1.  Categorization

   Three categories deal with concretizing fundamental building blocks
   of COIN and COIN itself.

   *  VISION(S) for COIN: Questions that aim at defining and shaping the
      exact scope of COIN.

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   *  ENABLING TECHNOLOGIES for COIN: Questions that target the
      capabilities of the technologies and devices intended to be used
      in COIN.

   *  Distributed Computing FRAMEWORKS and LANGUAGES to COIN: Questions
      that aim at concretizing how a framework or languages for
      deploying and operating COIN systems might look like.

   Additionally, there are use-case near research questions that are
   heavily influenced by the specific constraints and goals of the use
   cases.  We call this category "applicability areas" and refine it
   into the following subgroups:

   *  Transport:

   *  App Design:

   *  Data Processing:

   *  Routing & Forwarding:

   *  (Industrial) Control

4.2.2.  Analysis  VISION(S) for COIN

   The following research questions presented in the use cases belong to
   this category:

   3.1.8, 3.2.1, 3.3.5, 3.3.6, 3.3.7, 5.3.3, 6.1.1, 6.1.3

   The research questions centering around the COIN VISION dig into what
   is considered COIN and what scope COIN functionality should have.  In
   contrast to the ENABLING TECHNOLOGIES, this section looks at the
   problem from a more philosophical perspective.  Where to perform computations

   The first aspect of this is where/on which devices COIN programs
   will/should be executed (RQ 3.3.5).  In particular, it is debatable
   whether COIN programs will/should only be executed in PNDs or whether
   other "adjacent" computational nodes are also in scope.  In case of
   the latter, an arising question is whether such computations are
   still to be considered as "in-network processing" and where the exact
   line is between "in-network processing" and "routing to end systems"
   (RQ 3.3.7).  In this context, it is also interesting to reason about
   the desired feature sets of PNDs (and other COIN execution

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   environments) as these will shift the line between "in-network
   processing" and "routing to end systems" (RQ 3.1.8).  Are tasks suitable for COIN

   Digging deeper into the desired feature sets, some research questions
   address the question of which domains are to be considered of
   interest/relevant to COIN.  For example, whether computationally-
   intensive tasks are suitable candidates for (COIN) Programs (RQ
   3.3.6).  (Is COIN)/(What parts of COIN are) suitable for the tasks

   Turning the previous aspect around, some questions try to reason
   whether COIN can be sensibly used for specific tasks.  For example,
   it is a question of whether current PNDs are fast and expressive
   enough for complex filtering operations (RQ 3.2.1).

   There are also more general notions of this question, e.g., what "in-
   network capabilities" might be used to address certain problem
   patterns (RQ 6.1.3) and what new patterns might be supported (RQ
   6.1.1).  What is interesting about these different questions is that
   the former raises the question of whether COIN can be used for
   specific tasks while the latter asks which tasks in a larger domain
   COIN might be suitable for.  What are desired forms for deploying COIN functionality

   The final topic addressed in this part deals with the deployment
   vision for COIN programs (RQ 5.3.3).

   In general, multiple programs can be deployed on a single PND/COIN
   element.  However, to date, multi-tenancy concepts are, above all,
   available for "end-host-based" platforms, and, as such, there are
   manifold questions centering around (1) whether multi-tenancy is
   desirable for PNDs/COIN elements and (2) how exactly such
   functionality should be shaped out, e.g., which (new forms of)
   hardware support needs to be provided by PNDs/COIN elements.  ENABLING TECHNOLOGIES for COIN

   The following research questions presented in the use cases belong to
   this category:

   3.1.7, 3.1.8, 3.2.3, 4.2.6, 5.1.1, 5.1.2, 5.1.6, 5.3.1, 6.1.2, 6.1.3,

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   The research questions centering around the ENABLING TECHNOLOGIES for
   COIN dig into what technologies are needed to enable COIN, which of
   the existing technologies can be reused for COIN and what might be
   needed to make the VISION(S) for COIN a reality.  In contrast to the
   VISION(S), this section looks at the problem from a practical
   perspective.  COIN compute technologies

   Picking up on the topics discussed in Section and
   Section, this category deals with how such technologies
   might be realized in PNDs and with which functionality should even be
   realized (RQ 3.1.8).  Forwarding technology

   Another group of research questions focuses on "traditional"
   networking tasks, i.e., L2/L3 switching and routing decisions.

   For example, how COIN-powered routing decisions can be provided at
   line-rate (RQ 3.1.7).  Similarly, how (L2) multicast can be used for
   COIN (vice versa) (RQ 5.1.1), which (new) forwarding capabilities
   might be required within PNDs to support the concepts (RQ 5.1.2), and
   how scalability limits of existing multicast capabilities might be
   overcome using COIN (RQ 5.1.6).

   In this context, it is also interesting how these technologies can be
   used to address quickly changing receiver sets (RQ 6.1.2), especially
   in the context of collective communication (RQ 6.1.3).  Incorporating COIN in existing systems

   Some research questions deal with questions around how COIN
   (functionality) can be included in existing systems.

   For example, if COIN is used to perform traffic filtering, how end-
   hosts can be made aware that data/information/traffic is deliberately
   withheld.  Similarly, if data is pre-processed by COIN, how can end-
   hosts be signaled the new semantics of the received data (RQ 4.2.6).

   In particular, these are not only questions concerning the
   functionality scope of PNDs or protocols but might also depend on how
   programming frameworks for COIN are designed.  Overall, this category
   deals with how to handle knowledge and action imbalances between
   different nodes within COIN networks (RQ 5.3.1).

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Internet-Draft           COIN Use Case Analysis               March 2023  Enhancing device interoperability

   Finally, the increasing diversity of devices within COIN raises
   interesting questions of how the capabilities of the different
   devices can be combined and optimized (RQ 3.2.3).  Distributed Computing FRAMEWORKS and LANGUAGES to COIN

   The following research questions presented in the use cases belong to
   this category:

   3.1.1, 3.2.4, 3.3.1, 3.3.2, 3.3.3, 3.3.5, 4.1.1, 4.1.2, 4.2.4, 4.2.5,
   4.2.6, 5.2.1, 5.2.2, 5.2.3, 5.3.1, 5.3.2, 5.3.3, 5.3.4, 5.3.5,

   This category mostly deals with how COIN programs can be deployed and
   orchestrated.  COIN program composition

   One aspect of this topic is how the exact functional scope of COIN
   programs can/should be defined.  For example, it might be an idea to
   define an "overall" program that then needs to be deployed to several
   devices (RQ 5.3.2).  In that case, how should this composition be
   done: manually or automatically?  Further aspects to consider here
   are how the different computational capabilities of the available
   devices can be taken into account and how these can be leveraged to
   obtain suitable distributed versions of the overall program (RQ

   In particular, it is an open question of how "service-level"
   frameworks can be combined with "app-level" packaging methods (RQ
   3.1.1) or whether virtual network models can help facilitate the
   composition of COIN programs (RQ 5.3.5).  This topic also again
   includes the considerations regarding multi-tenancy support (RQ
   5.3.3, cf. Section as such function distribution might
   necessitate deploying functions of several entities on a single
   device.  COIN function placement

   In this context, another interesting aspect is where exactly
   functions should be placed and who should influence these decisions.
   Such function placement could, e.g., be guided by the available
   devices (RQ 3.3.5, c.f.  Section and their position with
   regards to the communicating entities (RQ 3.3.1), and it could also
   be specified in terms of the "distance" from the "direct" network
   path (RQ 3.3.2).

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   However, it might also be an option to leave the decision to users or
   at least provide means to express requirements/constraints (RQ
   3.3.3).  Here, the main question is how tenant-specific requirements
   can actually be conveyed (RQ 5.2.1).  COIN function deployment

   Once the position for deployment is fixed, a next problem that arises
   is how the functions can actually be deployed (RQ 4.2.4).  Here,
   first relevant questions are how COIN programs/program instances can
   be identified (RQ 3.1.4) and how preferences for specific COIN
   program instances can be noted (RQ 3.1.5).  It is then interesting to
   define how different COIN program can be coordinated (RQ 4.2.4),
   especially if there are program dependencies (RQ 4.1.2, cf.
   Section  COIN dynamic system operation

   In addition to static solutions to the described problems, the
   increasing dynamics of today's networks will also require dynamic
   solutions.  For example, it might be necessary to dynamically change
   COIN programs at run-time (RQ 4.2.5) or to include new resources,
   especially if service-specific constraints or tenant requirements
   change (RQ 5.2.2).  It will be interesting to see if COIN frameworks
   can actually support the sometimes required dynamic changes (RQ
   3.2.4).  In this context, providing availability and accountability
   of resources can also be an important aspect.  COIN system integration

   COIN systems will potentially not only exist in isolation, but will
   have to interact with existing systems.  Thus, there are also several
   questions addressing the integration of COIN systems into existing
   ones.  As already described in Section, the semantics of
   changes made by COIN programs, e.g., filtering packets or changing
   payload, will have to be communicated to end-hosts (RQ 4.2.6).
   Overall, there has to be a common middleground so that COIN systems
   can provide new functionality while not breaking "legacy" systems.
   How to bridge different levels of "network awareness" (RQ 5.3.1) in
   an explicit and general manner might be a crucial aspect to

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Internet-Draft           COIN Use Case Analysis               March 2023  COIN system properties - optimality, security and more

   A final category deals with meta objectives that should be tackled
   while thinking about how to realize the new concepts.  In particular,
   devising strategies for achieving an optimal function allocation/
   placement are important to effectively the high heterogeneity of the
   involved devices (RQ 3.2.4).

   On another note, security in all its facets needs to be considered as
   well, e.g., how to protect against misuse of the systems,
   unauthorized traffic and more (RQ 5.3.4).  We acknowledge that these
   issues are not yet discussed in detail in this document.  Applicability Area - Transport

   The following research questions presented in the use cases belong to
   this category:


   Further research questions concerning transport solutions are
   discussed in more detail in [TRANSPORT] and [TRANSPORT-PAPER].

   Today's transport protocols are generally intended for end-to-end
   communications.  Thus, one important question is how COIN program
   interactions should be handled, especially if the deployment
   locations of the program instances change (quickly) (RQ 3.1.2).  Applicability Area - App Design

   The following research questions presented in the use cases belong to
   this category:

   4.2.2, 5.1.1, 5.1.3, 5.1.5

   The possibility of incorporating COIN resources into application
   programs increases the scope for how applications can be designed and
   implemented.  In this context, the general question of how the
   applications can be designed and which (low-level) triggers could be
   included in the program logic comes up (RQ 4.2.2).  Similarly,
   providing sensible constraints to route between compute and network
   capabilities (when both kinds of capabilities are included) is also
   important (RQ 5.1.3).  Many of these considerations boil down to a
   question of trade-off, e.g, between storage and frequent updates (RQ
   5.1.5), and how (new) COIN capabilities can be sensibly used for
   novel application design (RQ 5.1.1).

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Internet-Draft           COIN Use Case Analysis               March 2023  Applicability Area - Data Processing

   The following research questions presented in the use cases belong to
   this category:

   3.2.4, 4.2.3, 4.3.2

   Many of the use cases deal with novel ways of processing data using
   COIN.  Interesting questions in this context are which types of COIN
   programs can be used to (pre-)process data (RQ 4.2.3) and which parts
   of packet information can be used for these processing steps, e.g.,
   payload vs. header information (RQ 4.3.2).  Additionally, data
   processing within COIN might even be used to support a better
   localization of the COIN functionality (RQ 3.2.4).  Applicability Area - Routing & Forwarding

   The following research questions presented in the use cases belong to
   this category:

   3.1.2, 3.1.3, 3.1.4, 3.1.5, 3.1.6, 5.1.2, 5.1.3, 5.1.4, 6.1.4,

   Being a central functionality of traditional networking devices,
   routing and forwarding are also prime candidates to profit from
   enhanced COIN capabilities.  In this context, a central question,
   also raised as part of the framework in Section, is how
   different COIN entities can be identified (RQ 3.1.4) and how the
   choice for a specific instance can be signalled (RQ 3.1.5).  Building
   upon this, next questions are which constraints could be used to make
   the forwarding/routing decisions (RQ 5.1.3), how these constraints
   can be signalled in a scalable manner (RQ 3.1.3), and how quickly
   changing COIN program locations can be included in these concepts,
   too (RQ 3.1.2).

   Once specific instances are chosen, higher-level questions revolve
   around "affinity".  In particular, how affinity on service-level can
   be provided (RQ 3.1.6), whether traffic steering should actually be
   performed on this level of granularity or rather on a lower level (RQ
   5.1.4) and how invocation for arbitrary application-level protocols,
   e.g., beyond HTTP, can be supported (RQ 6.1.4).  Overall, a question
   is what specific forwarding methods should or can be supported using
   COIN (RQ 5.1.2).  Applicability Area - (Industrial) Control

   The following research questions presented in the use cases belong to
   this category:

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   3.2.5, 3.3.1, 3.3.4, 4.1.1, 4.2.3, 4.3.1

   The final applicability area deals with use cases exercising some
   kind of control functionality.  These processes, above all, require
   low latencies and might thus especially profit from COIN
   functionality.  Consequently, the aforementioned question of function
   placement (cf.  Section, e.g., close to one of the end-
   points or deep in the network, is also a very relevant question for
   this category of applications (RQ 3.3.1).

   Focusing more explicitly on control processes, one idea is to deploy
   different controllers with different control granularities within a
   COIN system.  On the one hand, it is an interesting question how
   these controllers with different granularities can be derived based
   on one original controller (RQ 4.1.1).  On the other hand, how to
   achieve synchronisation between these controllers or, more generally,
   between different entities or flows/streams within the COIN system is
   also a relevant problem (RQ 3.3.4).  Finally, it is still to be found
   out whether using COIN for such control processes indeed improves the
   existing systems, e.g., in terms of safety (RQ 4.3.1) or in terms of
   performance (RQ 3.2.5).

4.3.  Requirements

   To be added later.

5.  Security Considerations


6.  IANA Considerations


7.  Conclusion

   This draft analyzes the COIN use cases described in [USECASES].

8.  Informative References

              Kunze, I., Wehrle, K., Trossen, D., Montpetit, M., de Foy,
              X., Griffin, D., and M. Rio, "Terminology for Computing in
              the Network", Work in Progress, Internet-Draft, draft-
              irtf-coinrg-coin-terminology-00 , March 2023,

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              Kunze, I., Wehrle, K., and D. Trossen, "Transport Protocol
              Issues of In-Network Computing Systems", Work in Progress,
              Internet-Draft, draft-kunze-coinrg-transport-issues-05, 25
              October 2021, <

              Kunze, I., Trossen, D., and K. Wehrle, "Evolving the End-
              to-End Transport Layer in Times of Emerging Computing In
              The Network (COIN)", 2022 IEEE 30th International
              Conference on Network Protocols (ICNP),
              DOI 10.1109/icnp55882.2022.9940379, October 2022,

   [USECASES] Kunze, I., Wehrle, K., Trossen, D., Montpetit, M., de Foy,
              X., Griffin, D., and M. Rio, "Use Cases for In-Network
              Computing", Work in Progress, Internet-Draft, draft-irtf-
              coinrg-use-cases-02, 7 March 2022,

Authors' Addresses

   Ike Kunze
   RWTH Aachen University
   Ahornstr. 55
   D-52074 Aachen

   Klaus Wehrle
   RWTH Aachen University
   Ahornstr. 55
   D-52074 Aachen

   Dirk Trossen
   Huawei Technologies Duesseldorf GmbH
   Riesstr. 25C
   D-80992 Munich

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Internet-Draft           COIN Use Case Analysis               March 2023

   Marie-Jose Montpetit
   Concordia University

   Xavier de Foy
   InterDigital Communications, LLC
   1000 Sherbrooke West
   Montreal  H3A 3G4

   David Griffin
   University College London
   Gower St
   WC1E 6BT
   United Kingdom

   Miguel Rio
   University College London
   Gower St
   WC1E 6BT
   United Kingdom

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