ABB Wireless

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A multi-use network that defies labels

As an engineer, it's my job to figure out ways to make our networks faster, more reliable, and easier to use. When a customer gives us the opportunity to log into their network, I like to take advantage of the chance to understand how it's working and what could be improved.

This morning, I logged into the Tropos Control web-based management console of what I thought was a city-wide meter reading network. The dashboard showed me a map of the routers (definitely city-wide), a histogram of throughputs (looked good -- 99% of routers were getting more than 1 Mbps), and a plot of usage. It didn't look right -- why was there almost 5 GB per hour of upstream traffic on the network? Utility meters couldn't possibly use that much bandwidth. I clicked through to generate a list of the top client devices on the network. Aha! The MAC addresses matched Axis Communications, a solution partner that makes IP video cameras. It makes sense -- the city has a high-capacity IP infrastructure, so why not use it for video surveillance, too? There was another unexpected graph on the Tropos Control dashboard. The number of connected client devices was not flat, but varied significantly throughout the day. This is characteristic of public access networks, where people come and go with their iPhones and laptops, but not of a meter-reading or video surveillance network, with devices connected 24/7. Sure enough, I saw iPhones and Centrino laptops in the client list, and a quick trip to the city's website confirmed that the network had been opened up to residents for free Internet access.

This is a great example of the value of a standards-based IP wireless network. Since so many devices are compatible, it's easy to just connect them up and add new applications. More and more cities are getting hard to label, with their meter-reading-public-safety-intelligent-transportation-system-video-surveillance-smart-grid-IP-wireless networks!

Cyrus Behroozi
Chief Scientist

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Trash Collectors Getting Out of the Dumps

It’s fascinating to discover new applications which sprout up once a city has a multi-use wireless IP mesh network in place. While we've heard alot about mobile workforce applications -- public safety, building inspectors, etc., one city has extended the concept to its Corp of Sanitation Engineers. At long last, workforce productivity trickles down to the largely ignored, much maligned, but longest standing (and very essential) member of the mobile workforce -- the garbage collector!

A city in the southeastern United States has put laptops and Tropos mobile routers in their garbage trucks to support a rather interesting application. It works like this, when the trash truck comes by a pick-up and sees a large pile of yard waste, like that dead tree you finally got around to ripping out last Saturday, the trash technician hits a button on the laptop, which records the GPS lat/long. A message gets sent over the wireless network alerting the green waste garbage truck to the location of a pick-up. Not only are the workers able to be more efficient, saving the city over-time pay, fuel cost and wear-and-tear on the trucks, but it enables real-time monitoring of the location and activities of vehicles.

While this is a clever little application for a workforce no one usually associates with being IT savvy, it never the less, is an application which generates real, and very measurable, cost savings for the city.

With shrinking tax revenues, an every increasing wave of green and clean regulation, and carbon footprint mandates on the horizon, it is encouraging to see a city take trash collection out of the dumps and into the limelight of cutting-edge IT technology.

Tom Blais

Director Product Management

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

FCC TV Whitespaces Ruling

The FCC just adopted a ruling allowing the operation of unlicensed wireless devices in television whitespaces while putting in place numerous safeguards to protect incumbent services including TV stations and wireless microphones. This is an exciting and welcome development that will spur innovation and result in the development of wireless technologies and products that can take advantage of this valuable spectrum to deliver the benefits of wireless broadband to consumers and municipal governments alike.

Check out this whitepaper that discusses the implications of this important ruling and outlines Tropos' position on the value that unlicensed operation in whitespaces has the potential to unlock.

Narasimha Chari

Ponca City Launches Citywide Wireless Broadband Network

I had the pleasure of spending yesterday with city leaders in Ponca City, Oklahoma, as they officially launched their combined city-services and residential-access wireless broadband IP network – “Ponca City Wi-Fi”.

The city announced a trifecta of wireless broadband services – mobile video for police officers, multiple applications to improve the efficiency of city workers – 75% of who are mobile – and free wireless Internet Service to Ponca City residents and businesses. From City Commission approval to final deployment, the procurement and deployment processes took less than six months to complete.

Just like visionary city leaders in prior decades who helped build municipal infrastructure for electricity, water, gas, telephone, and Cable-TV, Mayor Homer Nicholson and City Manager Gary Martin provided the vision and political will so that a new wireless communication infrastructure is now delivering applications which help to make Ponca City greener, safer, and smarter.


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Wireless Wolfsburg -- I want Internet access from my car!

You may have seen that Volkswagen has taken the lead in automotive technology innovation, launching Wireless Wolfsburg, a collaboration between the City of Wolfsburg and Volkswagen. The network was built using Tropos’ wireless broadband routers. The Volkswagen vision -- to explore new mobile Internet applications built into its cars – that’s everyday cars driven by you and me.

Last week at the International Suppliers Fair (IZB), there was a demonstration using a Volkswagen Tiguan outfitted with Wi-Fi. From the car’s navigation system interface, highlights related to the city of Wolfsburg were accessible over the wireless network -- local information such as such as events and cultural attractions, weather, and road conditions. Sort of a next gen local radio station but with more information – plus you can get the info you want when you want and where you want it. I was thinking how cool this would be when you’d like to go somewhere and are out and about but aren’t sure what you want to do…instead of running home and getting on the computer (or using the small screen on your iPod), or grabbing a newspaper, you can stay in your car and browse through your options…of course, probably not recommended while driving!