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Wireless 5G and Smart Cities

(Bay Area, San Francisco, California - Jeff M. Wang)

Using Technology To Make Urban Living Better



Wireless 5G Can Enable Smart Cities


- 5G Will Bring Smart Cities To Life

Cities around the globe are adding technology to improve environmental, financial and social aspects of urban life. A city that uses technology in such a way, to improve the lives of its citizens and improve communication between residents and city officials, is known as a smart city. Wireless 5G has the potential to help cities improve citizen engagement and build an intelligent urban ecosystem around services, ambience, sustainability, inclusion, and equity. 5G will serve as the foundation for small-cell networks that will power the next generation of wireless network infrastructure in a city. The connectivity and computing capacity that wireless 5G enables will make smart cities more of a reality, as city officials can adopt new technologies for smart city solutions.

- The 5G And Internet of Things (IoT) Revolution

Managing the resources and operations of so many large cities can only be cost-effective and efficient if they are automated and connected - and this is the basic premise of smart cities. 5G and IoT have real potential to create smart city networks on which new applications and services can enhance the lives of citizens. Sensors must be placed everywhere to collect data. For example, in an IoT-equipped city powered by 5G, streets, buildings, public and personal devices need to be interconnected. Integrating video analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) could result in adjustments to traffic signals and traffic flows, reducing congestion and travel times. Vehicle automation is expected to be a top use case for the adoption of 5G in IoT applications. 5G’s faster network speeds and reduced latency could allow doctors to remotely treat patients with less risk posed by network blackouts, disconnections and lag time. It could also speed the adoption of remote medical services and procedures, such as sharing large digital images to remote areas and performing remote robotic surgery. 

The massive amount of data generated by these sensors then needs to be communicated, analysed and fed back to the infrastructure to affect changes in the operation of smart cities. Wireless 5G is an enabling technology for IoT, and as smart cities essentially rely on IoT to function, IoT refers to smart, web-enabled devices that have more of a fixed functionality, as compared to general purpose smartphones, tablets or computers. 5G and smart cities are inextricably linked. 5G brings about a massively improved platform to deliver scalable and reliable connectivity to the world. 5G will play a critical role in allowing information gathered through sensors to be transmitted in real time to central monitoring locations. 

- Machine-Type Communication (MTC)

Machine-type communications (MTC) are expected to play an essential role within 5G systems. MTC has been further classified into "massive Machine-Type Communication" (mMTC) and "ultra-reliable Machine-Type Communication" (uMTC). mMTC is intended for a large number of IoT devices, effectively a large number of sensors and actuators sending a lot of data back and forth. Example applications include smart buildings, logistics and fleet management, as well as air and water quality monitoring. uMTC is intended for applications where the data is delay-intolerant, and the critical nature of the data requires guaranteed and accurate transmission to the destination. Examples of uMTC applications include unmanned applications such as autonomous vehicles, remote healthcare, traffic safety control and electric grid control. mMTC is intended for a large number of IoT devices, effectively a large number of sensors and actuators sending a lot of data back and forth. 

- Multi-access Edge Computing (MEC)

Multi-access edge computing (MEC) is another enabling technology within 5G that will greatly impact smart city deployments. MEC is basically an architecture that provides computing and storage capabilities for applications at the edge of its internal network. This cloud-based service environment allows for real-time, high-throughput, low-latency access to applications that are inherently intolerant of latencies. In traditional, centralized network architectures, these latencies are caused by traffic having to go through the entire network to a central point and then back to the end user equipment.

MEC use cases in 5G include all applications where processing and performing analytics on the stored data cannot tolerate the typical delays associated with uploading the data to the core of the cloud network, perform the processing and then download the results back to the end-user. This calls for the processing and storage to be pushed to the edge of the network, as possible to the end-user.

Examples of MEC use cases include:

  • self-driving cars that need to use machine learning techniques on large data sets to analyse and adapt to their environment. This is edge computing.
  • video-monitoring, which inherently creates huge amounts of data as its records. Edge computing allows significant processing and analytics to allow for high reliability motion detection, pattern recognition and more.
  • IoT, as it generates huge amounts of data that often need to be aggregated and analysed to understand and control the environment in which they are situated. Edge computing allows for these large data transfers and analytics to take place close to the IoT clusters and at the edge of the network.

Therefore, data generated by IoT devices can be processed at the network edge. This decreases bandwidth and energy consumption across the network and removes the need to go through the central cloud server. Specific smart city applications that can benefit from MEC include intelligent lighting, waste management, smart parking, water metering and environmental monitoring.

- Network Slicing

Network slicing is key to meeting 5G’s diverse requirements, is a perfect fit for IoT and smart city applications. Designing a network that can simultaneously support both a wide variety of use cases and demanding performance requirements, with a single set of standard network functions, is simply impractical to implement. On the other hand, ‘network slicing’, key to meeting 5G’s diverse requirements, is a perfect fit for IoT and smart city applications. 

Network slicing enables the network elements and functions to be easily configured and reused in each network slice to meet a specific requirement. One slice simply looks like self-contained network that includes the core network and the RAN. However, each of these slices can have its own network architecture, security, quality of service and network provisioning as a result of the network virtualisation software implementations.  5G effectively allows a network slice to be a low-security, low-bandwidth network for one application and a high-security, high-reliability one for another application.



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