Device-to-Device and Device-To-Cloud, the future of the IoT Smart City

By 2 August 2018News
PE Smart Urban Network

Device-to-cloud communication, i.e. sensors simply sending data to a cloud software through an LPWAN or equivalent low data rate network, is the “easy-to-understand” IoT use case. But is this enough to address the Smart City needs? Absolutely not. Device-to-device communication is also needed to provide important energy savings with sensor-based dynamic lighting and to address the future of mobility with cars interacting with infrastructure. PE Smart Urban Network provides both device-to-device and device-to-cloud for a natively interoperable Smart City wireless platform.

About Device-To-Cloud

The Internet of Things made everyone focus on easy-to-understand use cases where devices would only produce data/alarms and send them to cloud or centralized software through a low-bandwidth wireless public network. Let’s call this: device-to-cloud. It works fine with public telecom networks such as GPRS/3G/4G, CDMA and LPWAN infrastructures such as LoRa and NB-IoT, as long as the value of produced data is worth the price for a data subscription. It can also be supported by lower cost proprietary STAR-topology networks such as Sigfox, Telematics Galaxy and UNB (Ultra Narrow Band).

Device-to-cloud is probably fitting use cases such as collecting metering data for billing purposes (e.g. energy and water meters), detecting events and alarms (e.g. streetlight failures), identifying full waste containers or empty/occupied parking places and producing environmental data (e.g. air quality). But deployments are limited by the weaknesses of STAR-topology wireless networks:

  • Low to very low data rate and latency: with some of these device-to-cloud LPWAN networks, you’ll find it impossible to send commands or programs to the device. How to tell a streetlight controller when it should switch and dim, then? More important, firmware updates are not possible or so slow that you have to wait days or weeks before fixing a security issue, for instance.
  • No actions possible between devices: with STAR-topology networks, every event detected by a device must go through the cloud before triggering an action on another device. Impossible to use these networks to interact between sensors and actuators.
  • High recurring data subscription price for public networks: the average price for telecom-operated LoRaWAN networks is around 60 cents of USD per device and per month, i.e. more than 7 USD per year, for only limited bandwidth. With such a price, over 10 years, the minimum lifetime of any smart urban device, wireless communication doubles the total cost of ownership of the application. With 3G/4G networks, telecom suppliers must provide dedicated APN on their networks to provide the minimum security required for Smart City applications. This again increases the total cost drastically.
  • Poor network coverage: while 3G/4G offers a great coverage in Cities, deploying a 100% covered network with other STAR-topology networks is quite an expensive challenge. What if some waste containers are located in the backyard of a large building? How to control streetlights in a non-covered area? Should you add more gateways or configure some wireless network repeaters and manage them over time with a City that is changing year after year?

Device-to-Device communication: mesh wireless IoT networks

For all of these reasons, many Cities are now deploying mesh-topology long-distance wireless network platforms which, like PE Smart Urban Network, offer higher data rate with more security at a lower cost and an unbeatable coverage. Similar to short distance (i.e. 2.4 GHz) mesh networks such as Zigbee and Thread, which are pretty obvious in Smart Homes, long-distance (i.e. sub-GHz) mesh networks offers tremendous benefits in urban environments:

  • High data rate: with up to 300 kilobits per second and a bi-directional communication channel between any device, Paradox Engineering’s sub-GHz mesh network offers up to 300 times more data per second, allowing Cities to host multiple services over the same network without the need to deploy more infrastructure, or to reduce expectation on data bandwidth.
  • Device-to-Device communication: thanks to the low latency of PE Smart Urban Network, a sensor or a radar can send a command to the few streetlights around which will increase their light level when presence is detected. Such dynamic lighting use case allow Cities to reduce up to 70% energy consumption and carbon emissions in residential areas for instance.
  • Low cost of communication: mesh-topology networks can be operated by private organizations, or deployed and operated by the City itself or a contractor. With PE Smart Urban Network, Cities can purchase gateways and deploy them to avoid any recurring cost. They can also get a Network-as-a-Service contract from Paradox Engineering at a much better price than most STAR-topology networks.
  • High network coverage: mesh-topology networks are usually self-forming. Devices talk to devices which talk to gateways which talk to the cloud. Without any human action, each and every device automatically finds its optimized route to the central software. Unlike with STAR-topology networks, with mesh networks, the more devices you deploy, the denser the wireless communication network is and the more data you can collect and transmit.

Device-to-Device and Device-to-Cloud in one solution

PE Smart Urban Network covers both device-to-device and device-to-cloud communication. It is a flexible, self-healing sub-GHz mesh network that provides both Wireless IoT and Wireless Highspeed IoT communication to any Smart City device: streetlight controllers, energy meters, parking sensors, waste containers, electrical cabinet controllers, IP cameras and more. Unlike mere device-to-cloud networks, PE Smart Urban Network provides fast data collection, real-time remote control, fast firmware updates and device-to-device communication to support use cases such as dynamic lighting today and autonomous cars communicating with the City infrastructure (e.g. traffic and street lighting) in the close future.

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