IntelliSite has purchased Broad Sky Networks, a business-class wireless internet provider specializing in 5G wireless connectivity for IoT enterprise solutions and services.
IntelliSite provides internet of things, heuristic-based monitoring (hBM) and a smart community as-a-service (SCaaS) solution. With the addition of Broad Sky Networks, IntelliSite is bringing together two customer-centric companies committed to excellence and innovation in IoT solutions, wireless connectivity and artificial intelligence.
Ron Ireland, president of Broad Sky Networks, said, “This acquisition enables Broad Sky to continue to scale and expand our 5G ready connectivity solutions and bring new solutions to our customers and common technology partners. Broad Sky’s success to date has been made possible thanks to the vision of Mudd in seeing the future of wireless nearly 20 years ago, and more importantly the hard work, dedication and commitment of the Broad Sky team.” Mudd will remain as an advisor.
Concurrent with the acquisition, IntelliSite has created a new international, technology-focused, holding company EPIC IO Technology (EPIC IO). Under the agreement, IntelliSite and Broad Sky Networks will continue to operate as independent subsidiaries of EPIC IO, with offices in the United States, Argentina, Costa Rica and Mexico, while extending their collective services to benefit valued customers and partners.
“EPIC IO, will be focused on creating innovative, enriched-data analytics platforms, driving toward a safer, smarter and more connected world explained Ken Mills, CEO of EPIC IO and IntelliSite.
“We found in Broad Sky and IntelliSite two companies that not only share common partnerships and business goals, but also work culture, values, and ethics. Extreme ownership of our work, problem-solving, integrity, and customer-success focus, across a global, united team is what we bring to our valued customers and partners. In fact, it’s this combined value system that inspired the name EPIC IO, an acronym of our joint values.”
EPIC IO’s combined offerings — wireless connectivity solutions, satellite and 5G, a la carte IoT applications, artificial intelligence and end-to-end, subscription-based software — are focused on delivering a smarter, safer and more connected world. Whether the goal is reducing pedestrian traffic deaths to zero, protecting valuable community assets from theft or vandalism, helping businesses get back to work safely midst a global pandemic, or simply making wireless work for enterprises across the globe; EPIC IO’s services provide impactful technology-enabled outcomes throughout the public sector, healthcare, retail, manufacturing, and more.
In an initiative conducted together with Siklu, a manufacturer of fixed 5G wireless communications millimeter-wave (mmWave) equipment for gigabit wireless access (GWA), smart city and security networks, Schréder, a manufacturer of outdoor lighting systems, will make a wireless smart pole for smart cities. A module from Siklu will be put to use in a Schreder Shuffle smart pole that features equipment for smart city services and gigabit wireless connectivity provided by the Siklu MultiHaul line of radios in a sleek streetlight unit.
Schréder makes the Shuffle smart pole with rotatable and interchangeable modules that seamlessly integrate various LED lighting options, security cameras, Wi-Fi access points, electric vehicle charging sockets, audio speakers and small cells for 4G and 5G mobile networks.
Other ways of adding such features to existing poles in cities or on campuses result is an unsightly Christmas-tree look, with boxes and wires protruding everywhere. In addition, these devices need connectivity – fiber where available, but often, wireless. Adding a wireless connectivity device externally can exacerbate the aesthetics problem.
The module on the Shuffle smart pole solves this problem by integrating cameras, and wireless access points and the mmWave MultiHaul radios into a sleek unit measuring 9 to 21 feet tall, depending on what modules are chosen.
The MultiHaul radio provides just under 2 Gbps of capacity, operating in the license-free 60-GHz band, which is widely supported around the world. With this version, Shuffle smart poles can connect with each other in a daisy chain or in a point-to-multipoint topology. The latter has one smart pole with a base unit that can connect as many as eight additional smart poles. With a flexible fiber or copper interface to a POP (fiber point of presence), this combined solution makes deployment of next-generation smart city services cost-effective and easier to deploy.
Furthermore, cities and campuses looking to add advanced services do not have to replace every streetlight pole currently installed, because the Shuffle smart poles’ Wi-Fi and camera capabilities allow them to be installed periodically into an existing streetlight topology. The smart pole is designed to be environmentally friendly with LED lighting and low overall power consumption. The Shuffle smart pole also eliminates the possible need for trenching and other street work to connect a smart pole to a fiber Internet connection, which also would reduce installation time.
“We are tremendously excited to continue our leadership in next generation street assets with the launch of the new Shuffle wireless backhaul module together with Siklu,” said Cristian Tanase, smart pole program manager at Schréder. “City infrastructure is an ideal vehicle for Wi-Fi hotspots, and built-in cameras offer an unobtrusive security overlay. This new module is a win-win for cities and campuses alike, bringing gigabit wireless connectivity and helping lower the civil works budget needed to otherwise install such a product.”
Ronen Ben-Hamou, CEO of Siklu, said that smart Cities require advanced gigabit connection solutions to tie all the smart applications together. “The new Shuffle smart pole with integrated gigabit wireless from Siklu leads the way in meeting this requirement and delivers on ease of deployment in an aesthetically pleasing form factor.”
Communities around the globe are clamoring for utilities that provide improved safety, better efficiency and a dedication to sustainability. Citizens want smart utilities. According to Randolph Wheatley, Sensus’ VP of Communications Solutions Marketing, “At its foundation, a smart utility has integrated capabilities that enable it to effectively gather information about the resources it provides and the network it uses.”
Ultimately, there are two primary benefits of a smart utility: optimized operation to reliably deliver services and enhanced customer engagement. These enable more intelligent resource and conservation decisions. From these two outcomes spring myriad advantages impacting both the utility and the consumer. But smart cannot happen without utilities implementing a communications network that can enable all that potential.
Action requires communication
There are all kinds of devices, meters and sensors in the marketplace that proclaim to be smart by providing drive-by collection, outage determination or leak identification. And, although this data collection is necessary, Wheatley explains that “a device is not actually smart until it can provide that data to the utility so the utility can then make informed decisions to optimize operations.”
It is the communication network that gives utilities the ability to glean meaningful intelligence and make relevant applications for the consumer and the utility. “That is the difference between flying aplane blindly versus flying with a variety of tools such as radar and an altimeter,” says Wheatley. The communication network allows the utility to see where it has been and where it is going and to keep the customers informed.
“Utilities are one of the last marketplace goods predominantly paidafter use,” explains Wheatley. “But consumer expectations are changing, prompting a need for better usage visibility and understanding. And this change is impossible without the rightcommunications to gather the right information at the right time.”
Four key features dictate the efficacy of utility communication networks, each impacting the quality and quantity of data. They are: spectrum, reliability, security and bandwidth. Within the current marketplace, five primary network options; mesh, LoRa, cellular, NB-IoT, and FlexNet are vying for the utility vertical. Although some parallels exist, the differences are significant – and can be costly.
Spectrum: Mesh operates on an unlicensed, shared spectrum network crowded with noise from outside devices like baby monitors and microwaves.
Reliability: It takes hours to reform post-outage; the network view is incomplete, so deployment priority decisions are challenging.
Security: Consumer data can be transmitted to, or received by, non-secured points via the shared spectrum.
Bandwidth: All applications are shared across a single channel, and investments in CapEx and OpEx are required to expand.
Spectrum: Lora operates on an unlicensed spectrum network, built specifically for transmitting data from sensors, but it is not built for utility-grade large data loads.
Reliability: While it has a long range, it has very low transmission power. Battery life can drop rapidly based on higher data rates andchannel loading.
Security: Consumer data can be transmitted to or received by non-secured points via the shared spectrum.
Bandwidth: An ultra-narrowband spectrum with only one channel. Therefore, traffic increases on the network lead to rangedecreases.
Spectrum: Cellular operates on a licensed, public carrier network that is shared with others and receives a wide range of data – not solely utility data – across billions of apps.
Reliability: Dead zones in the network affect utility data. Consistent coverage is not guaranteed.
Security: Although a cellular network is licensed, it is not, specifically, licensed for utilities, which creates the potential for security breaches.
Bandwidth: Upgrades are required as technology improves. With each new leap in performance, assets are stranded and costs passedto the utility.
Narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT)
Spectrum: NB-IoT operates on a shared, public carrier network designed for data coming from low-power sensors.
Reliability: Not designed for extensive battery life. Endpoint devices are only rated for 10 years.
Security: Consumer data can be transmitted to, or received by, non-secured points via the shared spectrum.
Bandwidth: Architected for low-power sensors and it is not a utility-grade network. Service level agreements (SLAs) are not available to guarantee coverage.
Spectrum: The only FCC private-licensed spectrum network dedicated to transmitting critical utility data, interference-free.
Reliability: The industry’s only private, storm-hardened network designed for 100 percent coverage, even during major storm events. Delivers two times the redundancy compared to thecompetition.
Security: Provides secure, AES 256-bit encrypted data delivered over FCC-licensed spectrum specifically for utility data.
Bandwidth: Scalable and upgradable. A single network can be securely used for multiple utility applications. Each application has a dedicated channel to prioritize applications and critical messages.
All four features—spectrum, reliability, security, and bandwidth must be considered when looking for the right communication network. But reliability and resiliency are foundational elements for any utility. “For utilities to operate and deliver resources withreliability, the network itself needs to be reliable,” asserts Wheatley. After all, regardless of data capabilities, the resourcesmust, ultimately, be delivered to the community, both in normal times and during storms and crises.
Of course, given the rapid pace of technological advancements, expandability is key. “Today’s available applications are just a fraction of what is coming down the road,” says Wheatley. “The network must be expandable to ever-new apps and devices.” Moreover, as customer demands change and grow, the network has to adequately expand to handle the latest applications without compromising current services.
Communications and the smart city
Urban areas are attracting residents with the promise of being a “smart city” – providing digital connectedness, automation, safety, and conveniences. A smart communication network is absolutely imperative to fulfill these promises. “A smart city cannot be smart without access to basic resources,” explains Wheatley. “So, if the community is not getting basic resources, the city simply cannot consider being smart.”
A robust smart utility network will have many of the characteristics smart city apps need, including being secure and reliable, and covering a broad geographic scope. “Smart utility services and applications must reach all constituents, not just the affluent,” says Wheatley. The network also needs to provide the information to help the utilities operate and maintain the services over time.
Building the case for smart communication
According to Wheatley, utilities typically have a core set of desiredapplications in mind when determining if an investment in a smartcommunication network makes sense. As previously noted, whatever network is investigated must be capable of expanding beyond the current business use case – even to applications not yet in existence. The most common aspects currently used to establish a business case are the following:
· Data capture for billing efficiency and accuracy
· Theft and loss reduction
· Management asset optimization to identify infrastructure weaknesses in advance of a crisis
· Customer service enhancement, response improvement, and user conservation
Looking ahead – what is trending?
The digital age is here to stay. Utilities, municipalities and citizens alike, must recognize that the Internet of Things (IoT) is rapidlyevolving, creating unheard of connectivity among, and between,machines, devices, animals, and humans. With IoT comes new breeds of utility applications that require a network to be well-suited for existing and future applications.
“Utilities are pushing for greater automation and better visibility of their networks. This requires connectivity to a broader range of smart devices covering a larger geographic area and capturing data more frequently,” says Wheatley. “So it is imperative for utilities to keep the long game in sight when choosing the right communication network. In fact, if a network cannot enable broad, and rapidly expanding, applications, it should not even be considered as a smart utility solution.”
Steve Toteda is the vice president of global marketing and technology for Sensus, a Xylem brand. In this role, Toteda is responsible for the overall development and launch of new products and solutions for a global market. Toteda brings 25 years of leadership experience in large-scale licensed and unlicensed wireless network solutions and sensor networking for Utility and Industrial applications, including Water & Wastewater and Energy and emerging architectures for IoT. Steve earned his bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering and master’s degree in Material Science from Lehigh University in Pennsylvania and received his MBA from Columbia University in New York.
In the last week, Sprint has opened the Curiosity IoT and 5G proving ground at Peachtree Corners, Georgia; and Verizon turned on its 5G Ultra Wideband network at the Mcity test facility at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
The Curiosity laboratory promises a “real-world smart city infrastructure” and 5G connectivity to enable companies to test cloud AI, robots and autonomous vehicle technology, among other things. The living laboratory, which includes a 1.5-mile autonomous test track located within an existing 500-acre technology park, enables companies to develop and test emerging technologies with live smart city infrastructure, next-generation connectivity amid real-world conditions.
The companies involved include Local Motors, an autonomous passenger shuttle; CloudMinds: a humanlike service robot with AI in the cloud; Softbank Robotics autonomous floor cleaner; Autonodyne Autonomous Drone, Valqari Drone and “Mailbox” Landing Pad; Georgia Power Smart Light Poles; Reef Kitchens Delivery-Only Kitchen Solution; and Kia Autonomous Vehicle
Verizon 5G Ultra Wideband Network at Mcity Test Facility
Verizon is working with Mcity to advance transportation safety and shape the future of autonomous vehicles and smart cities using 5G. Adding Verizon 5G to the Mcity Test Facility required installing 5G-connected cameras at every intersection inside the facility to help identify traffic and pedestrian patterns to prevent collisions. While connected cars have sensors that can “talk” to each other to help avoid accidents, cameras connecting to traffic light signals can help protect people walking or biking. The 5G-connected cameras were installed by Econolite. Verizon and Econolite are members of Mcity’s Leadership Circle of industry partners.
Smart communities will enrich the lives of residents and make local governments more efficient in responding to their citizens’ needs. From security to convenience to revenue generation, smart city applications will change the way cities operate and the way we live and work. It all starts with connectivity – smart city residents, vehicles, systems, and applications must be connected. In addition, in most cases that involves fiber infrastructure. There are three key trends that will impact smart cities in 2019. Let us take a look
Companies have traditionally built out specific, siloed applications like surveillance cameras, smart lighting or traffic sensors. In 2019 they will start to take the longer view and think about building a basic infrastructure to support all smart city applications. It only makes sense; otherwise, the city is digging up the same streets every year, or so, to add infrastructure for each new application. For example, one city installed basic security cameras on light poles, but did so without installing fiber connectivity that would enable adding small cells or implementing facial recognition applications for the cameras to those poles. Now, the city must upgrade its light pole connectivity network – a painful and costly process.
To avoid having to upgrade networks in the future, city planners are now educating themselves about future possibilities, consulting with IoT vendors and network connectivity vendors, and working to develop a plan for the long term. For example, Stockholm as well as Chattanooga, Tennessee and Lincoln, Nebraska have built high-speed fiber networks around their cities with enough bandwidth to support new IoT devices and applications well into the future.
Overall, data connectivity is becoming the cities fourth utility – it is a must-have to do business, and cities are recognizing this. Connectivity in homes and businesses is a competitive advantage for cities, and they are rushing to implement it.
Like water, gas and electricity, cities do not always deliver the service, but they enable construction of the basic infrastructure that delivers the service. We are starting to see more projects that combine government funding with public/private partnerships. In Europe and elsewhere around the world, many national governments are mandating and providing funding for large fiber build-outs. In North America, service providers, developers and local utilities are deploying parts of the civic connectivity infrastructure, while the city facilitates permitting and planning for construction.
Electric utilities are in a unique position to deploy fiber infrastructure because they already own rights-of-way and have existing overhead poles or underground conduits that can accommodate new fiber, so they can deploy fiber more quickly and at a lower cost. In some cases, cities in North America are funding or partnering with local power companies to build out the “middle mile” of the fiber network – the part from central offices or other distribution hubs to neighborhoods or business parks. Middle-mile networks are the most common municipal model due to less risk, decreased cost of deployment and the ability to lease excess conduit/fiber to private providers. Cities and municipal organizations building middle-mile networks include Centennial, Colorado and Howard County, Maryland to name just a few.
In many other cases, cities are also building the “last mile” that connects customers, often in partnership with local municipal electric companies. Ammon, Idaho; Hudson Oaks, Texas; and Fairlawn, Ohio; all are deploying last mile connectivity on their own, while Chattanooga, Tennessee; Lafayette, Louisiana; and Longmont, Colorado are partnering with local electric utilities to reach end customers. We see similar trends internationally in Stockholm (Stokab), Netherlands (Reggefiber, Citynet Amsterdam), and Singapore (OpenNet) just to name a few. Carriers are also building their own last-mile networks, and 5G access will play an increasing role in delivering this connectivity, either through the densification of mobile networks or deployment of new fixed access solutions. Verizon has already launched 5G wireless access trials in several cities in 2018.
In the past, service providers built separate wireless and wireline networks. Wireless infrastructure is becoming more centralized. Therefore, it makes more sense to converge all the wireless backhaul traffic onto the same fiber used by wireline services. The process of fiber network convergence is primarily driven by the development of enabling technologies, user demand, and service providers’ capabilities. Large, incumbent service providers have both wireline and wireless operations. Therefore, converging onto a single network and maximizing asset utilization makes excellent business sense and will be a push for 2019.
Real-life examples have occurred where a fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network was built and several months later, the same construction crew dug up the same street to lay fiber for a cell site, which is wasteful and disruptive. Network convergence would mean one build-out that could be used for multiple service delivery platforms including FTTH.
That said, most cities will incorporate different providers’ networks in their overall infrastructure. How should they tie all these networks together? The first step is to put all this fiber, from different vendors, in the same trench and in the same conduit. Some networks need to be private (public safety, for example), but cities can, at least, ensure that all networks use the same conduit and, perhaps, even the same fiber bundle. After all, when the U.S. Interstate Highway system was built, there were not separate roads for trucks, cars and motorcycles –a shared infrastructure was built. It makes sense to do the same with fiber networks.
Applications drive the need for more bandwidth: parking, smart meters, public safety (surveillance cameras), traffic management, 5G small cell densification, waste management, and coordination of departments for emergency services are just a few examples. It is easy to see that a single converged network would be the most cost-effective way to support these applications. When a city builds out a fiber network to its light poles, for example, those poles can support smart lighting, surveillance cameras, and small cells for 5G network densification.
In fact, the emergence of 5G networks, over the next couple of years, is a major driver for fiber deployments. 5G will not only bring faster speeds, but also much denser small cell deployments due to distance limitations with millimeter wave technology and ultra-low latency applications at the edge. By providing the pole infrastructure and facilitating permitting, a city can speed the build-out of fiber-to-the-pole networks by utility companies or service providers.
By meeting these expectations, 5G will foster new applications. Large companies like Netflix and Uber were built because fiber and 4G mobile wireless infrastructure were there to support their services. With its increases in bandwidth and coverage ubiquity, 5G will drive similar innovations, but it will rely on fiber for transport to and from the rest of the city’s network.
Cities are implementing smart city applications because they improve efficiency, reduce costs, generate new sources of revenue, and most importantly, improve the lives of their citizens. By planning ahead, using creative funding approaches, and converging networks around citywide fiber rollouts, cities will move forward on the path to becoming smarter in 2019.
Morné Erasmus is the director of Smart Cities at CommScope. He is responsible for leading the company’s global smart city program and is a regular presenter at industry conferences. Since joining CommScope in 2012, Morné has held senior roles in Technical Sales and Segment Strategy. He has more than 20 years of experience in the technology industry, spanning five continents. Morné holds a degree in electrical engineering from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology in Cape Town and is currently based in Dallas, Texas.