CityLab: a smart cities testbed

The CityLab testbed is a smart cities FIRE testbed federated through the Fed4FIRE federation, operated by imec. It is intended for large-scale wireless networking experimentation at a city neighborhood level in the unlicensed spectrum. CityLab is located in the city center of Antwerp, Belgium. The testbed can be found in the streets in and around the city campus of the University of Antwerp, in an area of about 0.5km by 0.5km. This testbed is located in a highly realistic environment where experiments typically face a lot of external radio interference from nearby equipment (e.g. WiFi networks, IoT devices, …).  Hardware is installed at 50 locations, each with its own gateway attached to houses in the street or installed on a pole on a roof. Each gateway houses multiple radios with full low-level access for experimenters, including WiFi at 2.4GHz and 5GHz, Bluetooth, Zigbee at 2.4GHz and 868MHz, custom sub-GHz protocols at 868 and 433MHz and a Lora client module. A gateway is connected to the academic fiber network over Gigabit Ethernet, enabling high-bandwidth low-latency experimentation.

On top of this infrastructure, sensor data stream access is being realized as a next step.

1.1 Hardware

Embedded PC PCEngines APU 2C4 AMD GX-412TC CPU, 4 GB DRAM
WiFi Ath10k card supporting IEEE 802.11ac at 2.4GHz and 5GHz,
connected to 3 dedicated dual-band antennas
WiFi+BLE Intel AC7260 card supporting IEEE 802.11ac at 2.4GHz and 5GHz (client) + Bluetooth Low Energy, connected to 2 dedicated dual-band antennas
Zigbee OpenMote + OpenUSB board supporting IEEE 802.15.4 at 2.4GHz and 868MHz, connected to 2 dedicated antennas
Sub-GHz 2 Octa EZR USB boards + radios Olimex debuggers At 433MHz and 868MHz, capable of running DASH-7, IEEE 802.15.4g, … and connected to 2 dedicated antennas
LoRa client EFM32GG module + HopeRF RFM95W radio 1 for a single-channel LoRa client, with 1 dedicated antenna
USB hub for possible hardware extensions

1.2 Experimentation

Experimenters using the testbed get bare metal access to all outdoor equipment, supporting kernel-level experiments outdoors. Based on the experiment requirements, experimenters can pick the desired nodes on a map of the city, referring to the node documentation and coverage maps. The experimenters can then use jFed to deploy their Linux distribution of choice on the gateway, combining network modules as required.

1.3 Deployment

As shown on the map below, the gateway deployment is very dense, mesh networking experiments are possible as each gateway sees at least one other gateway (usually multiple gateways) at 2.4GHz. Nodes in blue are active today, nodes in orange are being deployed in the second half of 2018.

More technical information on CityLab can be found at

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