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Creating a Smart City Living Lab

WWT is partnering with Intellisite to help a U.S. Utility Company and city stakeholders architect and deliver smart city services across several states.

Mar 4, 2020 11 minute read

Smart cities leverage data intelligence to make informed decisions and develop programs designed to improve the city’s infrastructure and ultimately the quality of life for its citizens. As a result, those efforts encourage economic growth by attracting business and talent to the city. 

A smart city is a broad concept that encompasses many dimensions to public service:

  • Smart City Governance: In the case of smart governance, citizens are active participants in decision-making and the government is transparent in its actions. Citizens have better knowledge of the functionalities in the city due to technology, which results in a well-connected governance system.
  • Smart Living: Citizens are offered a healthy and safe living environment, as well as personal medical assistance, efficient health care plans, and remote medical services to ensure their personal safety.
  • Smart Mobility: Mobility services are combined with technology to inform users on the availability of transportation and increase the efficiency of routes by following citizen usage patterns.
  • Smart Environment: By monitoring environmental change, smart services can provide real-time information on pollution in the cities. Governments and citizens can be made aware of the adverse effect, to change their behavior toward utility services such as electricity, water, and gas.

With economic growth in mind, our utility customer has established a partnership with a city to create a Smart Cities Living Lab, which will showcase different smart city solutions that are meaningful to the community, improve public safety and ultimately benefit all citizens.

What exactly is a living lab?

A living lab is considered a “user-centered, open innovation ecosystems based on a systematic user co-creation approach in public–private–people partnerships, integrating research and innovation processes in real life communities and settings,” (ENOLL, 2013).

Here are some characteristics that define a living lab:

  • Innovation: Developing new products to find solutions to relevant problems
  • Knowledge development for replication: Refining knowledge of process and technology to implement solutions in a repeatable fashion
  • Increasing urban sustainability: Sustainable development emphasizes the need for efficient solutions that satisfy local needs
  • Culture of innovation: Living Labs aim to develop a culture of innovation by taking existing ideas and making them better
  • Co-creation: The participating actors together give shape to the innovation process
  • Users, private actors, public actors and knowledge institutes: These four groups contribute to the innovation and development process taking place within a living lab

Our Utility Customer has chosen to build the living lab across six city blocks.

General project scope

From several workshops, assessments, site surveys and interviews, the scope of the project consists of the following:

  • provide a plan to enable smart city services on the streets located within a 6+ block area;
  • evaluate multiple technologies that complement this pilot, such as Lora-Wan, video analytics, IoT data brokers, time-series database access, etc.;
  • identify necessary network and cloud infrastructure to support these new services;
  • explain citizen’s engagement as consumers of these technologies; and
  • provide our customer with data analytics that can help support and validate the success of this project.

Success metrics of the living lab include:

  • increased awareness, adoption and usage of smart city services by citizens;
  • greater relevance of video surveillance to municipalities through effective demonstration of video use cases (i.e. license plate recognition system (LPR), traffic management, public safety and crime reduction); and
  • greater understanding of smart cities technology capabilities and limitations. This includes challenges related to transport over the regulated infrastructure, delivery to the end consumer and operational complexities.

Existing infrastructure

As part of the creation of this living lab, the customer has installed a total of 7 “smart poles” which enable easy installation and provisioning of the hardware that’s needed to deliver smart city solutions. These poles are quite unique, as they provide specific features that make them ideal for the installation of smart city hardware and peripherals. 

There are enclosures located at the base of each smart pole, which directly connect to the dark fiber network available in the city. This fiber network provides the optimum capacity to deliver the smart city services here mentioned.

What is a smart pole?

Smart light poles can increase urban efficiency while reducing energy costs. Intelligent, or multi-functional light poles, can help solve many urban problems due to their ability to incorporate software controls, electronics and sensors that can receive and transmit data. They can improve parking and traffic management through real-time data, leading to a reduction in congestion and emissions. 

Smart poles can also monitor air quality, detect street flooding and offer charging stations for electric vehicles. The smart poles available at the Living Lab have been designed from conception with modular, multi-functional components. There is no limit to the potential features and functions that can be integrated into these smart poles. They can easily accommodate a myriad of new and evolving technologies and devices as they become available.

potential smart poles use cases
Potential smart poles use cases

IoT platform: UIG and mobile edge compute

The Universal IoT Gateway (UIG®) is the connection point between IoT devices and the cloud applications. The UIG receives the data from IoT sensors and sends it to the cloud. It forwards input information from the cloud to remote actuators in order to perform necessary functions, such as regulating environmental changes and detecting possible issues with device health. 

All information moving from an IoT device to the cloud, or vice versa, goes through the connected IoT gateway. By managing this connection, the gateway can perform security tasks, buffer sensor information, help manage devices and translate protocols. 

The gateway is also able to perform edge analytics on data produced by IoT devices before it is sent to the cloud. This makes analytics much faster and cuts down on storage for the vast amount of data produced by IoT products. The UIG® can also be used to connect non-cloud legacy devices. By connecting sensors to the gateway, their data can be analyzed or transported directly by the gateway, even though the device itself would be unable to do so. 

Some of the benefits of UIG and mobile edge compute include:

  • Extends network coverage with onboard 4G/LTE, 5G and WiFi
  • Integration with Long Range (LORA), Zigbee, Message Queuing Telemetry Transport (MQTT), Low-Power Wide-Area Network (LPWAN) Protocols and others
  • Edge intelligence
  • Real-time IoT & video analytics brought together into one platform
  • Sensor data collection, aggregation and transport to the cloud
  • Third party integrations with RFID, access control, edge analytics, etc.
  • Real-time command and control
  • Receives and forwards control commands to endpoint sensors and devices
  • Centralized management
  • Connectivity to a wide variety of sensors – building access, lighting, HVAC monitoring, ventilation, SCADA protocols, etc.
  • Terabytes of storage at the edge
Universal IoT Gateway (UIG) / Mobile Edge Compute
UIG/mobile edge compute

An IoT virtual cloud network

Software-defined networking (SDN) for scale and simplified operations

With the vast influx of machine-to-machine (M2M) and IoT devices in the network environment, determining how to best connect and secure those “things” as they rapidly scale up is a pressing challenge for any network administrators. Businesses and organizations across the globe need to collect information such as sales numbers, customer analytics, water levels, temperatures, vehicle locations, security video and audio feeds, power and fuel consumption, voltages, air quality and more.

Connecting these kinds of devices with traditional IPSec VPNs — dependent on hardware and complex, laborious configurations — is insufficient for an enterprise’s agility and deployment requirements. Moreover, VPN protocols used over IPSec/IKEv2 are not entirely consistent when handling connection failures, roaming or reconnect. 

Devices used in mobile environments, where connections can be interrupted, suffer from having to reestablish the tunnel. By enabling a software-defined overlay network, all of these issues are resolved. The connection is persistent, and failures are reconnected by the cloud automatically with no advanced configuration needed. Encryption and PKI can be deployed as a service.

Traditional M2M-IoT network architecture

To fully understand the benefits of virtual cloud networks, we need to discuss what legacy architecture often looks like. Consider a typical M2M-IoT network: a company with thousands of distributed kiosks, IP cameras, and point-of-sale (POS) stations uses a cloud data center to process the big data generated by all of these devices. 

At the same time, these IoT devices use and send information to applications (such as a management and configuration applications) stored on-prem typically in a data center.

The network may utilize multiple WAN interfaces — perhaps the enterprise headquarters is on an MPLS network, while the IoT devices utilize a combination of LTE connectivity and third-party networks. The company’s IT team largely works from headquarters. The enterprise's M2M/IoT network is typically managed separately from everything else, with the IoT devices residing behind Access Point Name (APN) gateways.

SDN lets enterprises simplify the work of connecting thousands of "things" in dozens or even hundreds of different places. LTE provides the fast provisioning of connectivity, flexibility and mobility needed for M2M-IoT applications. SD-WAN pairs with LTE to bring the same benefits to the network infrastructure by allowing companies to use the cloud to offload and automate the processes of building, securing and deploying networks.

Virtual cloud networks for software-defined M2M-IoT architecture

Software-defined networking (SDN) can simplify and secure the M2M-IoT network infrastructure, allowing a more efficient traffic flow between the IoT devices, in-house data center and cloud data center, while still maintaining security. In this use case, the enterprise could easily set up a cloud-based IoT network with Cradlepoint routers and NetCloud Engine. The NetCloud Engine is Cradlepoint’s cloud-based Network-as-a-Service that provides a private virtual overlay fabric across the public Internet.

NetCloud architecture
NetCloud architecture

This software-defined IoT network architecture addresses an enterprise’s pain points by providing:

  • the security benefits of APNs without the cost and complexity;
  • reduced need for network hardware;
  • a routable network that enables in-band management and reduced truck rolls, due to the separation between the control plane and data plane;
  • support for real-time applications such as remote monitoring, analysis, and Complex Event Processing (CEP);
  • simplification of third-party deployments, because of the ability to produce an overlay network across several WAN sources in agnostic fashion;
  • self-healing cloud service ensures maximum up-time; and
  • private IP address space and outbound connections, eliminating the need for expensive public IP addresses and on-premises firewall change.

Living lab architectural overview

The Universal IoT Gateway (UIG) is a secure platform providing the connectivity to the sensors. In the example above, the sensors are connecting via LORA wireless technology using the 915Mhz spectrum, which enables the sensors to send data to the UIG at a range of roughly 1 mile away from the UIG data collector. The video cameras are connected to the UIG via hardwire Ethernet connection, as the cameras require POE (power over Ethernet). 

Each UIG is mounted on the smart pole at approximately 15 to 20 feet above the ground and receives power via AC power directly from the Smart Pole. The UIG supports a power source range from 108vDC to 480vDC. Using the fiber connections at the smart pole, the UIG links back to the organization for Internet access.

The IntelliSite IoT Cloud Engine is a software-based cloud-platform that enables an easy configuration of sensors and complex automation rules. It communicates via public protocols like MQTT and REST. The template and deployment engine allow for management of large distributed infrastructures with thousands of locations. It provides open APIs for easy integration to big data/analytic platforms, as well as business intelligence/customer relationship management/enterprise resource planning (BI/CRM/ERP).

All data can be separated by tenants or groups, such as country, customer, area, location or other custom group. The multi-tenancy functionality allows our customer to provide data access directly to their customers and avoid costly, time-consuming data management operations.

architectural overview
Associated sensors and applicable use cases for the Living Lab
Associated sensors and applicable use cases for the Living Lab

In conclusion

IoT is a proven and effective solution for municipalities to address specific issues that impact their citizens and daily operations. The Living Lab is at the forefront of helping both local city managers and citizens recognize and further champion the use of IoT solutions to address specific municipality issues.

The utility’s partnership with WWT and IntelliSite allows it to introduce and deploy best-of-breed technology as part of a larger IoT offering. WWT and IntelliSite are able to provide collected data through a “single pane of glass" that can be acted upon to realize the value of their data. 

With successful deployments across each of these targeted applications, the forward-thinking utility showcases the holistic value of IoT and the benefits that its adoption can provide municipalities within its service region and serves as a model that other utilities can follow.

Ready to learn more? Request a WWT IoT Strategy Workshop.

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