What do you get when you funnel nearly $100 million into advanced wireless networking research? The National Science Foundation is hoping for multiple test-bed communities that model the wireless future and create a path toward tomorrow's smart, connected cities.
News of the US government's launch of the Platforms for Advanced Wireless Research (PAWR) project first came to light last summer. Then late last week, the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced an award of $6.1 million to US Ignite and Northeastern University to oversee the project, which will combine roughly $50 million each of public and private funds.
As leaders of the PAWR Project Office, or PPO, the early goal for US Ignite and Northeastern is to solicit requests for proposals from teams that pair communities or cities with academic institutions. These teams will submit plans for advanced wireless platforms that test new types of network architectures and mixed technology environments. Eventually, the hope is that these platforms will demonstrate how it's possible for smart communities to connect new sensors to secure, high-performance local networks to enable new civic-oriented applications and services.
A press statement from US Ignite notes:
US Ignite believes that true "smart communities" will be deeply sensorized and allow for the flow of real-time data over next-generation wireless networks to the community’s low-latency, programmable fiber network. From there, data will stream to a resilient and highly responsive community-based local cloud. Decisions made on that platform can then be turned into real-time actions that are communicated, in just a few milliseconds, to distributed municipal, public safety and privately operated infrastructure.
Although an official timeline hasn't yet been announced, the PAWR Project Office is already working on its RFP and says it expects to host an event in Washington, DC shortly after the document is released. The PPO also says it's aiming to have the first PAWRs up and running by late 2019 or early 2020.
The public funding aspect of the PAWR project is critical, but private industry involvement is equally important. All four major US wireless carriers have already signed on to participate, along with major industry vendors, including Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK), Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR), Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM) and many more. The collaboration aspect is crucial because while individual companies, communities and research institutions can run their own networking and smart city research, the US -- and the wireless industry as a whole -- will move faster and more effectively by combining efforts and sharing the technologies and practices that work best.
Collaboration is also necessary because networks of the future will combine technologies that cross multiple industry domains today. PAWR project sites, for example, are expected to include fixed network backhaul, software-defined wireless networking technologies, management of multiple spectrum bands and the ability to layer on new experimental applications as needed.
According to NSF, the establishment of the PAWR Project Office is the first step in a long-term, public-private partnership. Over the next seven years, NSF has tasked the PPO with soliciting research proposals, managing platform deployments and documenting program results. The networking technologies that develop should help support next-generation applications in transportation, public safety, healthcare and more.
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— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading