On the same day that a commercial carrier officially turned on its 4G mobile network in New York City, the country's top wireless researchers were pushing the boundaries for the 4G future: Technology that displayed open parking spots in the notoriously congested Brooklyn neighborhood adjoining Polytechnic Institute of New York University (NYU-Poly).
NYU-Poly and Rutgers University professors and students beamed their live demonstration this week to Washington, D.C., where more than 300 researchers from academia, industry and government gathered as part of a National Science Foundation initiative to take America's mobile phone systems beyond today's typical third generation mobile networks (hence 3G) to 4G, in which data is transmitted up to 15 times faster. The project is called GENI, for Global Environment for Network Innovations, and it aims to encourage experimentation and research in wired and wireless networks.
The one-day Brooklyn parking demonstration used NYU-Poly's new open, public 4G WiMAX network and eight automobiles equipped with ultrasonic sensors developed by Rutgers. As drivers cruised downtown Brooklyn streets within the NYU-Poly/GENI 4G network, sensors fed data to the 4G antenna atop its Dibner Building at 5 MetroTech Center, then to the Rutgers server where its ParkNet software compiled real-time information on a map that showed each parking spot either red (filled) or green (available). Thanks to the high-speed capability of 4G, researchers could view the maps in real time on their 4G-equipped laptops. Any commercialized version would include 4G smartphones, too.
Researchers envision that drivers would equip their vehicles with such sensors in exchange for information that would let them make informed decisions about whether to take mass transit or park at a distance from their destination.
Traffic congestion costs the U.S. $78 billion annually. One Brooklyn neighborhood (Park Slope) study found 45 percent of driving is in search of a parking space; in SoHo, it's 28 percent. Congestion also takes a heavy toll on air quality.
The parking demonstration was transmitted live to the GENI Engineering Conference #9, and it was the first example at NYU-Poly of the technology that the GENI 4G network will enable. Working with Rutgers, Raytheon BBN technologies and five other universities all using the same WiMAX network, students and faculty will explore research and innovation aimed at opening network experimentation to more people. Rutgers is the lead university, and NYU-Poly piloted the WiMAX platform for all the schools.
"The WiMAX network will allow NYU-Poly to accelerate our contributions to cooperative networking and advance the leading research conducted at NYU-Poly's Center for Advanced Technology in Telecommunications, one of the State of New York's original Centers for Advanced Technology, as well as the Wireless Internet Center for Advanced Technology, funded by the NSF," said Shivendra Panwar, director of both centers. "It will prove particularly helpful in helping us design and develop standards for cooperative networking, a technology that promises to greatly increase the reliability and speed of wireless communication."
Thanasis Korakis, research assistant professor, heads the 4G project at NYU-Poly.
The Federal Communications Commission granted NYU-Poly two licenses for channels within the 4G band to establish a public 4G WiMAX network and study it. A 4G hot spot differs from the typical WiFi hot spot in that a single tower covers an area large enough to allow connections while the user is mobile. Several new laptops have 4GWiMAX capability; earlier models can install an inexpensive dongle to access NYU-Poly's coverage free of charge.