Building smart cities with small cell networks: a U.S. perspective

Smart Cities are potentially the next sizeable economic opportunity, not only for operators, but also for city governments. Cities of all sizes, ranging up to eight million people, have been testing and deploying smart applications and services to increase efficiencies and improve the quality of life for residents and businesses. Small cell network technology can be deployed to build a sphere of wireless coverage encompassing entire segments of a city, including indoor facilities and other venues that often fall into coverage gaps or are just too costly for macro network deployment.



Smart Cities are potentially the next sizeable economic opportunity, not only for operators, but also for city governments. Cities of all sizes, ranging up to eight million people, have been testing and deploying smart applications and services to increase efficiencies and improve the quality of life for residents and businesses. Small cell network technology can be deployed to build a sphere of wireless coverage encompassing entire segments of a city, including indoor facilities and other venues that often fall into coverage gaps or are just too costly for macro network deployment.


Small cell networks are gaining traction as a tool to furnish the wireless coverage and added capacity needed to support a whole new generation of smart services.


For residents, smart services can address security, disaster awareness and even simple notifications about city activities and functions that keep the community involved. Disaster notifications can be sent wirelessly to residents inside the small cell network sphere, increasing awareness of potential threats. City activities can be sent wirelessly in the same manner, keeping residents informed of community events of interest.


Local businesses can leverage the wireless sphere to send advertisements to the residents and visitors to the city. Businesses can implement M2M services over the small cell network. For example, a waste management company can place wireless devices in the large bins that automatically notify the waste company when the bins are full. Utilizing this information, garbage trucks can be deployed to only those dumpsters that are full, rather than on a set route, which would reduce fuel and maintenance costs.


Utility companies, such as electric and water, can install wireless meters, improving accuracy of metering and usage control by the local residents. The New Hampshire Electric Cooperative expects to save $1 million a year in meter readers, trucks and fuel once it has completed installation of 83,000 smart meters.


The police can expand their reach using security cameras – allowing them to have “eyes” on the city all the time. This extends police visibility and dispatching, so that the current force can be deployed more effectively. Studies done by the Urban Institute found that crime dropped between 10 to 30% in the Baltimore, MD area when police surveillance were installed, and the cameras yielded $1.50 in benefit for every $1.00 spent on the system.  In Chicago, where Police installed 2,000 cameras, crime declined between 12 to 33% and the city saved $4.30 for every $1.00 spent on the systems installed.  


The local city government benefits because it owns the network that can be utilized for expanded services to new areas. City resources can leverage the technology to make themselves more efficient; remote controlling of traffic systems during specific times for school crossings or rush hour traffic is one example. In Pinellas, Manatee and Lee Counties in Florida, employees monitor massive walls of video screens that monitor traffic in real time. They are able to remotely change traffic signals in emergency situations or to ease rush hour traffic flows.


Monitoring systems of critical city infrastructures like bridges, sewers and water pipes can be accomplished, improving notification and response times to critical issues.


All of this adds up to efficiencies, which reduce cost for residents and businesses.


The potential for Smart cities built with small cell networks is clear; the question now is how to build a wireless sphere around a city. Initially a city must determine where it wants to go as far as implementing Smart services. The city managers, IT department and public works need to determine which are the most important, will provide the most return for their citizens, and result in the greatest economies.


Once that is determined, a spectrum analysis needs to be done, noting frequencies and the strengths of those signals, along with the boundaries of frequencies recorded in the area. A final report needs to be developed which shows frequency patterns in the area, along with a map of signal strength and the other operator equipment in that area.


Next an analysis needs to be done of the existing city infrastructure (fiber, copper, data center, etc). The analysis needs to note the location and route of current infrastructure, access points to infrastructure, available capacity and bandwidth, and determine the current head-end capacity. Location of historical buildings, backhaul (bandwidth) availability and access to fiber nodes may all present potential problems that need to be addressed.


Spectrum planning can then be done, coordinating the frequencies needed for the smart services that will be implemented. A roadmap needs to be built of the frequencies for existing equipment with the planned additions to ensure there is no conflict upon implementation. The system should be designed to provide coverage for the desired area in conjunction with the overall plan of the solutions to be supported as well as best utilization of the infrastructure already in place.


Wireless technology is getting smaller and easier to deploy, while aesthetically blending into the cityscape. The sides of buildings, lamp poles and traffic light support structures can all become possible antenna locations. The antenna system communicates to the local controlling switch, which is then connected to the wireless management system, which ultimately ties control of the entire network to one location. Additionally, equipment from solution providers connects to the wireless management system for access to the wireless network.


Small cell networks are well on their way to becoming the network of the future and Smart Cities. Their ability to apply Self-Optimizing protocols and support high data rates make them an excellent choice for cities that want to be Smart.


It will take collaboration between leaders and departments in the public sector with innovators in the private sector to see small cell networks and the latest Smart services are effectively implemented to improve the quality of life and economic environment that is envisioned for Smart Cities.


ABOUT AXIS TEKNOLOGIES


Axis Teknologies is a certified woman-owned wireless engineering firm, specialized in building a wireless infrastructure for a world that has gone mobile.  Axis provides end-to-end integrated solutions that transition wireless infrastructure networks to the capacity and advanced technologies essential to handling the ever increasing wireless traffic demands by consumers, businesses, governments and SMART services. Axis focuses solely in wireless infrastructure engineering .


Eric Moore is the Chief Operating and Technology Officer at Axis Teknologies, LLC.  He can be reached at emoore@axisteknologies.com or follow Axis Teknologies on Twitter @axisteknologies