Embedded devices are building smart cities, but...

February 16, 2016

stephaniechiao-February 16, 2016

Cities are rapidly becoming "smart" connected metropolises. As a city becomes better connected, efficient interaction and communication between the community and its infrastructure becomes increasingly crucial for continued stable operation. This makes it imperative to understand how these connections are going to work and how they are going to be managed.

Smart cities will also encompass the Internet of Things (IoT). This, in turn, will significantly multiply machine-to-machine networks and embedded devices. With all these devices receiving and transmitting a huge amount of data in real-time, protocols will have to be significantly enhanced to operate and manage embedded networks.

(Source: mirexon / Adobe Stock)

Presently, there is a sense within the RF community that we will run out of wireless spectrum within a few years. There is genuine reason for concern here as machine-to-machine communications and millions of IoT devices will be a reality very soon. As a result, the next generation wireless spectrum will need to be self-organizing and dynamic. In other words, radios will need to become cognitive, jointly adaptive, and able to share the spectrum.

Current networks need to evolve quite quickly to meet the new challenges that are just a few years away. As a result, current network technology needs to be updated in order to deliver secure and efficient solutions.

Whether it's in regard to smart cities or enterprise networks, the future will require increased connectivity, which the current protocols cannot support; 802.11ac is still an emerging wireless standard and 5G is not quite ready yet. In addition, the current hardware will not be able to support new protocols even when they do come to fruition. Spectrum management will also be complicated if changes are not made to accommodate the increased demand.

As the number of mobile devices in circulation grows while fixed device deployment remains at a standstill, awareness of applications and the capacity to manage traffic on a per flow basis is now more important than ever before. The solution to this problem is Software-Defined Networking (SDN) running off of Software-Defined Radio (SDR) platforms that are highly flexible and reconfigurable. These application-agnostic platforms can essentially enable the support of upcoming new protocols.

To build robust SDNs, you need a highly adaptable SDR, such as Per Vices' Crimson SDR, which is a platform offering functionality as flexible as software on a computer. Designed to be highly adaptable and application agnostic, this is an ideal solution to set-up diverse networks for WiFi, Bluetooth, LTE, and any other protocols operating between DC and 6GHz.

SDR platforms typically use an FPGA-based architecture and can tune in to a large range of frequencies, allowing other embedded systems (like WiFi chips) to connect along with other devices that are using other protocols. SDRs are a good option to reduce equipment costs while simultaneously increasing network capability and functionality. This philosophy remains true for the transition from 4G to 5G that is currently happening across the globe.

As we become more connected, there is a shift from using devices that are operated by humans to independent embedded devices that are highly automated and efficient. While this evolution has created tremendous benefit in terms of reliability and efficiency, it has also necessitated the issue of security, as many of these interconnected devices will also be part of critical infrastructure systems.

With a significant increase in the number of varied requests that are placed on them, enterprise networks need to be robust and secure. In this scenario, Software-Defined Networks (SDNs) will play an important role as they can simplify processes and deliver value. In order for all the elements to work efficiently, new strategies will be needed to integrate SDNs into an enterprise network.

This reinforces the need for enhanced interoperability: to maximize the data collected by sharing what each device knows about the physical world. It can be accomplished. As SDRs are intelligent, they are able to function while learning about the environments in which they're found. As a result, SDRs and embedded devices will be at the core of the transition into smart cities.

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