CityLab: a unique edge-computing and multi-wireless-technology smart cities testbed

Citylab (part of the City of Things programme) brings the Internet of Things connectivity to the city enhanced by edge-computing capabilities. It is a one-of-a-kind smart city testbed, connecting citizens with technology, through a wide deployment along the city of Antwerp, Belgium.

With this 100% realistic living lab and technical testbed environment, IDLab-imec and its partners offer tech entrepreneurs a lean and powerful gateway to large-scale network experiments, real-time big data, ideal for the development, testing and optimization of products and services with a positive impact on citizen life and work. It also enables governments to take smart decisions and offer improved services for citizen mobility, safety and quality of life. The City of Things programme consists of both a complete living lab methodology and a technical testbed infrastructure. The living lab is concentrated within the smart zone, the technology lab is called CityLab. IDLab develops and operates this CityLab smart cities testbed.  

CityLab testbed

While there is a considerable research and innovation effort related to the deployment of smart cities, there are still plenty of hurdles to move from R&D to implementation and real mass-scale deployment. Testbeds are the preferred tools for academic and industrial researchers to evaluate their research ideas, initial results, and early prototypes in a larger environment. Fully controlled and strongly managed testbeds, which provide guarantees on interference levels, are ideal for controlled experiments. However, while these controlled experiments are well suited for early stage experiments, there is a need as well for scaling the experiment up to more realistic environments, such realistic environment is given at Citylab since its outdoor deployment along the city of Antwerp.

University of antwerp academic fiber

Existing smart city testbeds often have some or more of the following downsides. First, they are often small-scale both in terms of device count (tens to hundreds) and in terms of geographic location (often only an indoor single room or building). Second, most testbeds are very homogeneous focusing on only one wireless protocol (e.g., ZigBee or WiFi only testbed). Third, testbeds are either oriented towards wireless communication experiments or oriented towards the end-users (i.e., incorporating a living lab).  A combination of both is often lacking. CityLab takes the next step, operating a Smart City IoT research testbed where industrial and academic research can be performed in a realistic, city-wide setting covering the complete eco-system for low-level wireless communications up to high-level living lab research, including edge/cloud capabilities, enabling the experimentation and testing of not only communications signal, but also edge computing facilitating the use of distributed solutions, including distributed artificial intelligence applied to communications.

To realize this, CityLab has deployed its edge-computing-oriented gateways on more than 35 locations in a dense zone in the city center of Antwerp, gateways supporting multiple wireless IoT communication protocols such as WiFi, Zigbee and Bluetooth. These gateways enable remote wireless experimentation with full bare metal flexibility, enabling experiments from the MAC layer until the application layer. Moreover, the testbed enables connectivity to sensors being deployed around the gateways. This integrated view allows performing innovative both communication and data-oriented experiments in a realistic, large-scale city environment with application domains ranging from a single home, over a harbor up to the entire city.

The CityLab testbed is a highly realistic, edge-computing, cross-technology testbed platform which validates key Smart Cities R&D results and facilitates innovative Smart City experiments on top of a large-scale testbed environment. The key characteristics of the City of Things testbed are:

  • City deployment: CityLab covers a dense zone in the center of a major Belgian city.
  • Cross-technology: CityLab nodes support major unlicensed wireless technologies such as WiFi, Bluetooth Low Energy, DASH7 and IEEE 802.15.4, supported by an own LoRa deployment.
  • Multi-purpose: experiments can cover either a dense and small location (e.g., a home) but can scale to the entire neighborhood.
  • Edge computing architecture: Citylab is deployed within an distributed edge computing architecture, which allows experimenters to benefit from the placement of processing functions at different locations of the network, and of the city
  • Multi-level openness: we allow experimenters to interact with the testbed on three levels.
  • Communication-level: network researchers can deploy their own network protocols on top of the nodes to evaluate their solutions in a realistic city-wide network.
  • Data-level: the CityLab nodes can continuously monitor the city parameters through sensors which can be deployed depending on the experiment requirements.
  • User-level: using a living lab approach we will engage with users, allowing them to provide their input on novel smart city applications.

Smart Highway

IDlab is building its Smart Highway testbed for vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communication that will be operational by mid-2019. The Antwerp Smart Highway test site will build on the E313 highway and shall be extended to the (urban) road network ensuring a connection to Citylab – providing a mixed environment for testing various V2X communication protocols and autonomous functionalities. A test site of around 30 km is aimed for. Along the road, Road Side Units (RSUs) are being installed to support short-range V2X communication (5.9 GHz) based on ITS-G5 and C-V2X (PC5 interface) between the vehicles and the roadside infrastructure Also long-range V2X communication (3.5 GHz) is aimed for by using small cell technologies (Uu interface) in the RSUs and making a connection to the LTE macro eNBs. The long-range communication is based on 4G and will be upgraded towards 5G-NR when available. Both commercial and software defined radio (SDR) communication modules are integrated in the RSUs.

What's in it for you?

Are you a:

  • sensor provider? Insert your sensors in a realistic, high-scale city testbed to evaluate your sensor performance.
  • data analyst? Get access to realistic sensor data from within a major European city and exploit real-life data sets.
  • network experimenter? Run your tests and experiments on a managed platform in a real city environment, to validate your research in a much more realistic setting compared to other, more artificial testbeds.
  • user researcher? Exploit the availability of large-scale data from real users living and working in a big city, to perform user research with real data.

Interested? Contact us!