mmWave sensors make cities smarter

 According to a paper published by the United Nations, the world’s population is projected to grow to reach 9.1 billion people in 2050 –2 billion more people than there are today. The current migration of the world’s population to urban centers will continue at an accelerated pace. In fact, projections estimate that 70 percent of the world’s population will reside in urban areas, compared to 49 percent today.

These urban centers will need to strike a balance between geographical sprawl and an increased scarcity of resources, such as arable land, water and energy. Urban planners are rapidly adopting technology to meet these challenges, creating smart cities to maximize resources and improve the quality of life of exploding populations. These smart cities are deploying sensors to monitor resource levels, as well as the movement of people and goods. Sensors using millimeter-wave (mmWave) radar technology will become prevalent because of its unique characteristics of range, velocity and angle detection with high accuracy, long distance and robustness of operation independent of environmental conditions.

Let’s examine the application of mmWave sensors in smart cities.

Level sensing

Resource conservation will require intelligent management of the contents of potable water systems, sewage wastewater and underground fuel tanks. Sensing systems in today’s infrastructure will need to improve by orders of magnitude in order to more accurately monitor resource consumption and detect leaks. mmWave sensors enable high-accuracy, non-contact range measurement that is robust in high-temperature, high-humidity tank environments, suitable for easily tracking levels within these crucial systems. TI’s Power Optimization for IWR1443 77GHz-Level Transmitter Reference Design shows how pairing the IWR1443 mmWave sensor with an MSP432™ microcontroller (MCU) creates a low-power level-sensing system designed to meet the power constraints of 4-20mA loop-powered systems.

Traffic monitoring

The annual economic cost of urban gridlock (of people and goods) in the United States alone was $124 billion in 2013; According to a report from INRIX and the Centre for Economics and Business Research, this cost will increase 50 percent by 2030, to $186 billion. Smart cities must reduce traffic congestion and keep traffic flowing, especially in areas such as intersections and highways.

mmWave is a powerful sensing technology for traffic monitoring, with an inherent capability to measure the range, velocity and angle information of a vehicle’s distance from intersections, as well as the vehicle’s  speed and lane occupation, which can be used for green-light control, traffic-flow monitoring and vehicle counting to help reduce the impact of urban gridlock.

TI’s novel integration of front-end, MCU and processing elements into single-chip sensors enables an ultra-small form-factor that’s nine times smaller than legacy radar systems, with vastly improved performance. This smaller form factor makes installation easier and more cost-effective for cities and municipalities.

TI’s Traffic Monitoring Object Detection and Tracking Reference Design Using mmWave Radar Sensor shows the use of the IWR1642 as a single-chip sensor for detection, clustering and tracking of objects, including vehicles, at distances up to 175m and speeds up to 70km/hr.

Intelligent lighting

As energy resources spread across a larger population, no conservation effort can be overlooked. Just as when we turn off lights when we leave a room, outdoor luminaires should be intelligent enough to turn off or dim their lights automatically when no vehicles or pedestrians are present. This straightforward conservation strategy can also increase the quality of life for residents by reducing light pollution.

To do this, outdoor luminaires would need to be able to sense without light when a vehicle or pedestrian approaches. Adjacent streetlights could illuminate based on an object’s direction of travel and speed. Unlike other sensing technologies, mmWave sensors do not require the ambient lighting of a streetlight to operate and are robust against environmental conditions and weather. mmWave’s ability to accurately detect the position and velocity of objects across distances greater than 100m will enable lighting control systems to monitor movement trends and take actions for other systems, such as those for traffic infrastructure.

City-wide mmWave sensors improve quality of life

These are only a few applications of mmWave sensors in a future smart city. Transportation systems, goods delivery, security systems and service robots also come to mind. What other applications could you envision using mmWave to improve the quality of life in the smart cities of the future?


This content originally appeared on Wireless Design & Development