University of Oulu

A. Mämmelä, J. Riekki and M. Kiviranta, "Loose Coupling: An Invisible Thread in the History of Technology," in IEEE Access, vol. 11, pp. 59456-59482, 2023, doi: 10.1109/ACCESS.2023.3284685

Loose coupling : an invisible thread in the history of technology

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Author: Mämmelä, Aarne1; Riekki, Jukka2; Kiviranta, Markku1
Organizations: 1VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd., Oulu, Finland
2Center for Ubiquitous Computing, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.4 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, 2023
Publish Date: 2023-09-11


We present an interdisciplinary survey of the history of loosely coupled systems. We apply the presented concepts in communication networks and suggest hybrid self-organizing networks (SONs) as a universal model for future networks. Self-organizing networks can fulfill the tight requirements of future networks but are challenging to use due to their complexity and immaturity. Moreover, the lack of an externally defined goal and centralized control has resulted in many distributed self-organizing systems failing. This is because the nonlinear relationships between the system parts result in emergence, i.e., we cannot predict the behavior of the whole from the behavior of the parts. Furthermore, a set of local optima does not produce a global optimum. Hybrid SONs tackle these challenges with loose or weak coupling of interacting agents that combine centralized control for global optimization with distributed control for local optimization. In the loose centralized control of almost autonomous agents, decisions are made mostly locally with small delays. This architecture has beneficial properties such as stability, obtained by decoupling the feedback loops: vertically with time-scale separation and horizontally with interference avoidance. Applications of loose coupling include modular electronics and computer design, structured software design, and service-oriented architectures, especially for microservices. Cross-layer design for network optimization is a new reason to use loose coupling in networks to improve stability. We also summarize some recent trends and present a roadmap to the future. We expect that loose coupling will be widely used in self-organizing networks of future wireless systems.

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Series: IEEE access
ISSN: 2169-3536
ISSN-E: 2169-3536
ISSN-L: 2169-3536
Volume: 11
Pages: 59456 - 59482
DOI: 10.1109/ACCESS.2023.3284685
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 213 Electronic, automation and communications engineering, electronics
113 Computer and information sciences
Funding: This work was supported in part by the Dynamic coverage Extension and Distributed Intelligence for human Centric applications with assured security, privacy and trust: from 5G to 6G (DEDICAT 6G) Project through the European Union (EU) Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Program under Grant 101016499, and in part by the Academy of Finland 6G Flagship under Grant 318927.
Academy of Finland Grant Number: 318927
Detailed Information: 318927 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
Copyright information: © The Author(s) 2023. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License. For more information, see