Connecting state and local government leaders
Using a fiber-connected infrastructure network solution creates a fully manageable low-latency, high-performance network for testing various mobility technologies on Peachtree Corners’ smart city streets.
One of the nation’s first 5G-enabled smart cities is implementing networking solutions crucial for smart cities.
Last month, Peachtree Corners, Georgia, announced that it had partnered with ACiiST, an Israel-based manufacturer of software-defined local-area network solutions to connect outdoor cameras and sensors through a networking system. Under the agreement, the city has deployed the technology along a half-mile section of its Technology Parkway connecting infrastructure network solutions via fiber.
Keeping the connections in the smart city testing environment stable was challenging.
Parts of the street were “still on a point-to-point wireless connection for some of the technology, so stabilization of that part of the corridor was hard -- keeping those devices online depending on the wind that day and blowing trees in front of our connections,” said Brandon Branham, Peachtree Corners assistant city manager and chief technology officer. ACiiST has “a product where they can take those kind of scenarios and add a managed switch directly at, in this case, a light pole. We run a fiber link between each pole.”
The city added nine poles, allowing data from cameras, wireless links and other smart infrastructure and communication equipment to be streamed directly to Curiosity Lab’s IoT Central Control Room. The lab is a 5G-enabled intelligent mobility and smart city living laboratory that includes a 3-mile autonomous vehicle lane that uses cellular vehicle-to-everything technologies, intelligent traffic cameras and signals, smart streetlights and the control room, making it one of North America’s only real-world testing environments.
Communication between the smart infrastructure and the control room now happens via ACiiST Polarity units that create a fully manageable low-latency, high-performance network.
That gives the city the opportunity to do two things, Branham said. One is adding more devices to the poles. Before, 24 locations across Curiosity Lab each had a three-port unmanaged switch that would aggregate the data from each device and report a total amount of data use.
The Polarity units open the capacity to five and “also gives you direct access to see each individual device and the activity and flow of data that’s going across each device,” Branham said. “We have a multitude of devices from cameras to environmental sensors to connected vehicle application to traditional Wi-Fi all plugged into that single device.”
This supports the city’s single-pane-of-glass IoT system in which all devices’ data returns to one place so that decision-makers can make holistic assessments based on all the devices instead of having to log into multiple dashboards, he added.
“We digest all of the data that’s coming off of it into our IoT dashboard because it’s monitoring the traffic of each device,” Branham said. “If you think about it from a security perspective, if all of a sudden you see these huge spikes in traffic, something is probably going on and you can quickly adapt to it, know exactly where that is and track it down.”
The second opportunity this presents is giving city workers a live evaluation of what’s happening in real time. “We knew within 60 seconds when one of our cameras dropped, which before, if someone wasn’t sitting there in the control room watching the video stream, it could have been a couple days,” he said.
One use case for the technology is traffic management. “We’re using AI on average speed of vehicles, building an algorithm for near-misses, the number of pedestrians and cyclists, because this section of roadway is challenging,” Branham said.
Its difficulty is why officials chose the location, he added. When the utility company installed streetlights, a section of the roadway with a 13% grade and a curve necessitated putting poles on the opposite side to the others. “When we bored our fiber on the original deployment, we didn’t bore over there because we would have had to shoot under the road,” Branham said. “That’s a perfect example of how you could use a point-to-point on the first connection and then tie the rest of them in with the fiber. That really helped drive the decision on location to get these connected in and take away that wireless access and put it on a hard line.”
For the project with ACiiST, the city used an installation technique called microtrenching, in which fiber is laid about 12 to 14 inches underground. Traditionally, fiber is installed 4 to 5 feet down. “We had a landscape company do this, if that puts it in perspective of how quick you can get this deployed,” Branham said, adding that boring a 1-mile section of road typically costs $700,000 to $1 million, but this work cost just $5,000.
The city has other IT projects in the works, too. For instance, Curiosity Lab, which the city runs, recently announced that it would receive $495,000 as part of the fiscal 2022 Omnibus Appropriations Package that it will use to build a Mobility Hub. Branham said it will test applications of recycled batteries from electric vehicles, and officials are talking with a company that builds power walls by combining energy from multiple retired batteries. That could supplement the city’s solar energy to charge electronic vehicles, he added.
Stephanie Kanowitz is a freelance writer based in northern Virginia.