Dublin's Bigbelly solar powered trash cans were already smart, sending alerts when they were almost full to optimize collections. Now they are also being used to measure city activity and house small cell infrastructure to improve connectivity across Dublin.
This is the latest example of cities re-using existing smart infrastructure to meet the urgent new challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As part of a pilot project with Dublin City Council, smart bin provider Bigbelly configured its system to include timestamps that are triggered at each landfill.
These data provide a snapshot of the “pulse of the city” at a time of unprecedented demand for these insights locally and nationally, said Jamie Cudden, program manager for smart cities in Dublin.
“Our 350 bins are located in parks, in the city center and in the suburbs, so you can get an idea of what is happening in different parts of the city. The data compliments other data sets related to the city's activity and activity, ”he told Cities Today.
Small radar sensors were also placed around about 20 of the bins in order to achieve better granularity of the data, e.g.
The Internet of the trash can
Dublin continues to operate its trash cans and is exploring their use as a platform for small cell devices to densify networks and pave the way for 5G.
This is part of the city's wider efforts to improve connectivity in the city, including the creation of a new dedicated telecommunications department, as the pandemic has highlighted the importance of internet access to work, education and social connections around the world.
Dublin chairs the Connected City Infrastructure program as part of the Telecom Infra Project (TIP), which brings together companies like Cellnex, Three Mobile, Siklu, Schréder and Ligman, and Bigbelly to develop a standardized approach that enables radio and Wi-Fi Devices that can be easily integrated into existing and new street infrastructures such as street lights, smart masts, trash cans and more.
The initiative aims to help cities make the provision of telecommunications services easier and faster for operators. Expanding the market and scale for infrastructure and equipment providers; and reduce visual clutter by increasing the number of small cells.
Vishal Mathur, Global Head of Engagement for the Telecom Infra Project, told Cities Today that TIP is working with a growing number of cities alongside traditional telecommunications industry players and startups.
He said: “The idea is that by introducing open interfaces and disaggregating networks, you bring the hardware down to the lowest common denominator to achieve economies of scale and hardware – radio units, WLAN access points – and then” software “so much intelligence as required.
“That drives competition and lowers the entry barriers for new players. We're breaking these lock-ins [between buyers and providers] and we're changing the way networks are invested in the future. “
The TIP initiative also follows the adoption of new specifications by the European Commission on the physical and technical properties of small cell devices and recommends that antennas that comply with these guidelines be exempted from building permit requirements.
“The new small cells (antennas) are less visible (either fully integrated and invisible to the general public or, if visible, take a maximum of 30 liters).”
Solutions developed as part of the Connected City Infrastructure project will be validated in the Smart Smartlands testbed in Dublin to expand across the city. This will culminate in a blueprint that other cities and stakeholders can adopt on the operational and business models for delivering small cells on road goods.
Mathur found that operating models can vary based on the location and availability of the assets.
He said, “If Dublin can develop a digital map of all of its assets, street furniture and locations etc and see which ones have fiber and power, where the street lights are etc, it is a massive strategic advantage that they can take advantage of quickly to procure services, or to bring attendees to the table with connectivity, small cell solutions, or street furniture solutions.
“What we are setting out is the framework.”
Dublin has now also set up its own telecommunications unit to optimize access, accelerate rollout and attract private investment. It works with the City of Glasgow, which recently set up a similar department.
The team will act as a single point of contact for telecommunications issues and asset management. You create a data catalog and define the legal framework for the provision and use of the infrastructure.
“The reaction from operators in the industry is that they are absolutely thrilled,” said Cudden. “In the past, they may not have looked at the city because it was difficult to work across silos and with different property owners.”
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