Shaping Smarter Cities: What Happens When Cities Get an IQ?

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I live in a Metroplex. A sprawling metropolitan landscape of more than seven million people living in 9,286 square miles (24,059km2), making it the largest urban area in the south part of the United States and one of the world’s largest metropolitan economies. How big is that? Well, if the metro area were square, it’d be roughly 96 miles (155km) along each side.

I live 60 miles (100km) one-way from my office. Like most of you, I just want to get to work—the faster, the better. In order to get there, I drive through a variety of cities along the way. And I use Google Maps to tell me if there is something up ahead that I need to avoid—a traffic snarl, construction, or accident—so I can select the fastest way to go.

At this point, you’ve probably picked up on how much I hate being stuck in traffic. Maybe you experience something akin to this as well. I have traveled around the globe, and I think the situation is the same for many of us. All that time in the car, all that grinding to get there, all the uncoordinated stop lights making me scream, “Egads, who is responsible for this uncoordinated lunacy?”

So, as a technologist, one who looks at the future, I ask myself, “What would happen if cities finally got a clue and became more focused on delivering great services to their customers, the people who live, work, and spend money in their towns?” Alas, as a realist, I am not holding my breath waiting for any government official to make this come to pass as I would soon end up dead of asphyxiation.

But I am placing my faith and trust in you, the design engineer.

You see, a smart city of the future is coming to pass as a result of technology. The vehicle I drive to work every day, the buses that drive up and down the metropolitan city streets, the cabs, the streetlights, the offices, restaurants, and various buildings that we pass are all becoming connected through technology.

The Internet of Things (IoT), which has taken the world first by storm in the area of devices such as mobile phones, is spreading rapidly. IoT coupled with a unified communication approach will be coming from all sorts of new devices and will ultimately become integrated into our personal and public transportation systems. Sensors and control networks will be incorporated along city travel and byways as part of this technological expansion, making it so a whole new set of informatics will become collected. As a result of this increased data, the city will have real-time information as to what is happening and how they can best provide service.

This should not only help out reducing the amount of red lights and waiting times I experience at intersections, but much more.

From this large amount of new data, cities will be provided with information that allows them to make prudent decisions regarding infrastructure. This information will provide them with the knowledge to make intelligent decisions based upon the real-world patterns of the people operating within the context of their city.

City coordinated and operated sensors and controls will most often only require a small amount of data to be transmitted, indicating that a certain vehicle and person passed by or that a light should be turned green in order to optimize traffic flow. Wi-Fi is not necessarily the best option for this type of wireless communication as it requires both power and has higher costs associated with it.

This leads to the conclusion that Wide Area Networks (WAN) with low-power consumption will be excellent options for future designs. These embedded wireless solutions can successfully address increasing demands on end-devices for long-range connectivity, low power for battery operation, and low infrastructure cost for volume deployment.

The LoRa-Alliance addresses this need through LoRaWAN™, which the Alliance describes as “a Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) specification intended for wireless battery operated Things in a regional, national, or global network. LoRaWAN targets key requirements of IoT such as secure bi-directional communication, mobility, and localization services. The LoRaWAN specification provides seamless interoperability among smart Things without the need of complex local installations and gives back the freedom to the user, developer, and businesses enabling the roll out of Internet of Things.”

A leader in bringing these solutions to market is Microchip Technology, a designer and manufacturer of microcontroller and analog semiconductors, providing low-risk product development, lower total system cost, and faster time to market for thousands of diverse customer applications worldwide. Microchip, a contributing member of the LoRa Alliance, has introduced an outstanding LoRa™ technology solution that is ready to assist engineers in meeting their design goals the RN2483 LoRa® Transceiver Module (Figure 1). It is ready to run out-of-the box and, with the complete LoRaWAN protocol and certifications in place, it reduces time to market and saves development costs.

LoRa End-Node Infographic

Figure 1: LoRa Technology is ideal for battery-operated sensor and low-power applications such as the Internet of Things (IoT), smart agriculture, smart city, sensor networks, industrial automation, smart meters, asset tracking, smart home, and Mobile-to-Mobile (M2M). (Source: Microchip)

LoRa technology features a range of greater than 15km (9.3mi) along with a capacity of up to one (1) million nodes and long battery life (>10 years). It has reduced synchronization overhead and no hops in mesh network, providing a secured and efficient network with excellent interference immunity.

Microchip also offers a competing WAN solution by way of their ATA8520 Single-Chip SIGFOX™ RF Transceivers. SIGFOX is global Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) network that is focused on being a low energy consumption, low-cost solution, that is compatible with Bluetooth®, GPS 2G/3G/4G, and Wi-Fi®.

So, what happens when cities get an IQ? They get data and information. They get the ability to use it wisely.

“Hey, City! There is nobody at this intersection traveling in the other direction. Make this light turn green. I gotta get to work!”

Maybe someday. Maybe, tomorrow. BBEEEEEP.

Visit the Shaping Smarter Cities Homepage to learn more about Mouser’s commitment to Empowering Innovation.

Paul Golata joined Mouser Electronics in 2011. As a Senior Technical Content Specialist, Mr. Golata is accountable for contributing to the success in driving the strategic leadership, tactical execution, and overall product line and marketing direction for advanced technology related products. He provides design engineers with the newest and latest information delivered through the creation of unique and valuable technical content that facilitates and enhances Mouser Electronics as the preferred distributor of choice. Prior to Mouser Electronics, he served in various manufacturing, marketing, and sales related roles for Hughes Aircraft Company, Melles Griot, Piper Jaffray, Balzers Optics, JDSU, and Arrow Electronics. Paul holds a BSEET from DeVry Institute of Technology in Chicago, IL; an MBA from Pepperdine University in Malibu, CA; and a MDiv with BL and PhD from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, TX. For questions, contact Mr. Golata at paul.golata@mouser.com.

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