Two cities become testbeds for smart mobile technology

Speeds of over one gigabit per second and response times of a few milliseconds offer ten times the performance of existing infrastructures and opportunities for new wireless applications that can process massive amounts of data in real time, including robotics, augmented reality (AR), and edge computing.
By Andrew Hobbs, Vinelake September 13, 2018

The National Science Foundation (NSF) and an industry consortium have selected New York City and Salt Lake City as the first of four cities to benefit from $100 million in funding over the next seven years. New York City and Salt Lake City are to become testbeds for an experimental rollout of next-generation connected technology, via an "outdoor laboratory" known as the Cloud Enhanced Open Software-Defined Mobile Wireless Testbed for City-Scale Deployment, or COSMOS.

A new program, known as the NSF Platforms for Advanced Wireless Research (PAWR), will help realize the potential of emergent mobile technologies, such as 5G, to enable new applications in robotics, augmented reality (AR) navigation, smart city control, and connected vehicles. 

Blazing fast application potential

Speeds of over one gigabit per second and response times of a few milliseconds mean the network offers ten times the performance of existing infrastructures.

"COSMOS is an outdoor laboratory that will allow us to test entirely new classes of wireless applications, such as smart intersections that can process massive data in real-time," said principal investigator Dipankar Raychaudhuri, an engineering professor at Rutgers University-New Brunswick, and director of its Wireless Information Network Laboratory.

With mobile technology bitrates having increased fourfold over the last 20 years, the opportunities for edge computing innovation are huge. The research is spearheaded by representatives from Rutgers, Columbia, and NYU, in partnership with Silicon Harlem, City College of New York, and the University of Arizona.

In New York City, the testbed will cover a square mile in the west side of Harlem. It is designed to enable researchers to explore the technology sweet-spot of ultra-high bandwidth and low latency, turning the area into a tech and innovation hub.

To the south of Harlem is Columbia University’s Morningside Heights campus. Its spread of academic and residential buildings, linked by dark fiber-optic cabling, offers an ideal testbed. The university also will link its public safety vehicles, trucks, and shuttles to the network.

PAWR advances mobile innovation

A Columbia Engineering announcement explains the motivation behind the move. By 2020, the number of Internet-connected devices is expected to grow to 20 billion, creating an urgent need in the U.S. and abroad for infrastructure that can rapidly process all that data. To improve networking speeds, the New York City COSMOS network will tap previously unused radio spectrum bands and integrate optical fibers underground with radio antennas and other equipment on city rooftops and light poles.

The platform will allow researchers to log in and try out their ideas for improving network performance and creating city-focused applications, from augmented-reality navigation for the blind to smart traffic lights. 

Testbed technologies

The first set of platforms is expected to be ready for use by late 2019 or early 2020. According to Columbia Engineering, they will be built on the following core technologies:

mm-Wave radio bands: The use of new millimeter-wave bands, from 20 GHz to 200 GHz, will enable more capacity from the radio spectrum. While mmWave signals don’t travel far, researchers will use the network to test new radio and antenna designs and techniques for aiming radio waves directly at mobile devices, to help overcome this.

Software-defined radios (SDRs): Using software to process signals rather than hardware increases network flexibility and allows researchers to experiment with a wide range of frequency bands. Researchers will test new algorithms to support mmWave and the flexible use of frequencies across various bands (dynamic spectrum access). 

Edge cloud data-processing: will be based on servers integrated into the wireless access network, rather than cloud-based data centers, reducing processing time.

Advanced optical networking: A fast front-haul network with high bandwidth and low-delay connectivity will link computing clusters and the wireless access network to enable an effective edge-cloud infrastructure. 

Application analysis

With the use of wireless-connected devices almost doubling in the U.S. over the last decade, the demand for a supporting infrastructure in the nation’s cities has grown. 4G LTE is no longer sufficient for data-intense smart city technologies. PAWR will help eke a little more out of fourth generation wireless, but it’s geared to benefit future 5G deployments. 2018 has already seen many 5G announcements.

The participating cities stand to benefit from building their wireless capabilities via this combination of creative university partnerships, government, and corporate research funding, attracting local tech jobs, and using advanced wireless capabilities to enhance local services and economic development. By getting the infrastructure in place, New York and Salt Lake City are offering a glimpse of future smart cities to entice researchers and tech companies to move to those cities.

Andrew Hobbs is deputy editor and publisher, with Internet of Business, a CFE Media content partner. This article originally appeared on Internet of Business’ website. Edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media,

KEYWORDS: Wireless testbed, smart technology

Wireless testbeds are established and demonstrated in New York City and Salt Lake City.

Applications seem likely to extend beyond municipal.

Faster wireless seems likely to benefit robotics, augmented reality (AR), and edge computing.


If wireless communications could be 10x faster, where would you apply it?

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