How 5G, IoT, edge computing and private networks can bring ‘smart gardens’ to life

By: Gagandeep Singh, Ericsson

According to the World Economic Forum, about 50 percent of the global population lives in and around cities. In the United States, this number is closer to 80 percent.

At the same time, a global push for a more sustainable future is encouraging cities and residents to come up with green and environmentally responsible solutions, leading to a rapidly increasing demand for new ways to maximize existing resources to create this more ecological city lifestyle.

This is a challenge. While most suburban households have some space for gardening, city dwellers typically have no more than a small balcony, often without direct sunlight. City parks provide an interesting venue to develop community gardens, but garden management can be cost prohibitive.

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For years, city ecosystems have struggled to enable connectivity to green spaces and public and private gardens, such as terrace gardens, green spaces around buildings and vacant lots. Now, powered by 5G wireless technology, telecommunications providers and innovators can eliminate many of the costs associated with garden management, such as watering, and finally make green spaces a reality.

Most people have heard about the consumer benefits of 5G wireless, but there is so much more. With 5G, cable or fiber are no longer required for that last mile, significantly reducing the cost of access. For the price of a gateway, municipalities, businesses and consumers alike can have ubiquitous wireless access wherever it is needed, paving the way for deploying technologies such as Internet of Things (IoT), private networks and edge computing. Today, there are many opportunities to leverage Internet access to manage basic tasks, with new use cases being built daily.

In North America, 5G technology powers high-speed networks to provide Internet access to smart phones, tablets and laptops like never before – you can download an entire two-hour movie in minutes through the powerful wireless technology with the lowest possible network latency.  

All major cities and suburbs have deployed or are deploying 5G networks. As of the first quarter of this year, three of the top wireless carriers in the United States are collectively providing 5G network coverage to nearly 700 million Americans. The same 5G access can be used to build self-sustaining, cost-effective community gardens by connecting sensors and gateways from anywhere and using advanced analytics to provide manageable insights through a simple phone or a desktop application.

This ubiquitous access is making it easier than ever to implement IoT, a technology ecosystem that defines the design and implementation of sensors, firmware and a data bus used to collect the data and upload it to the Internet. In the case of community gardens, sensors can collect data needed to manage the green space without significant infrastructure, implementation costs or additional resources.

Another powerful complementing technology for this use case is “edge computing.” It enables the data processing to sit at the “edge” of the network, enabling powerful data collection, eliminating the need of high-cost data processing options in the network. Edge computing will be key to creating a connected community garden solution, and it is now within reach.

Finally, private networks can provide broadband over the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) band to support any private enterprise, from schools and factories to office buildings and small businesses. These dedicated networks provide high-speed network services to users and can be used as dedicated access isolated from the Internet and other public networks, improving service levels. Private networks support coverage areas of any size, from small to wide to indoor or outdoor, and can be mixed and matched to fit all industry site types and traffic scenarios even as networks grow in scale and complexity. For connected community gardens, this can be used as dedicated access if available.

Smart Gardens

One example of leveraging 5G wireless technology to build a green space is at the Girl Scouts’ 92-acre STEM Center of Excellence near downtown Dallas, Texas, where Ericsson’s Girl Scout Alliance and the Girl Scouts North East Texas are building the first technology-powered  Connected Greenhouse. This greenhouse implements use cases leveraging technologies including 5G, IoT sensors, data analytics, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), application development and robotics. By connecting students to science and nature, this greenhouse teaches them about the technology used to maintain the garden, build self-sustaining systems and create new applications.

Thanks to 5G wireless access providing that last mile of connectivity, these types of connected gardens are possible everywhere, making green spaces and parks easy to implement and maintain, improving residents’ quality of life and improving the environment at the same time.

Connected gardens are just one application wireless technology will enable. This same ecosystem can be extended to other city management use cases as well, such as security, utilities and trash management. For example, imagine an industrial version of the Roomba robot vacuum keeping city streets from litter. The possibilities are truly endless.

About the Author

Gagandeep Singh is driving innovation as a Senior Engineer at Ericsson North America. Currently, he is the technical lead responsible for delivering a large core network deployment in North America handling 17 million active subscribers. He also leads solution architecture and deployment in Ericsson’s partnership with Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas. His dream is to build community access and engagement with locally available public and private amenities, such as urban gardens.

He proved this idea in a recent Ericsson Hackathon, where he created a fully integrated end to end social gardening experience in urban environments, facilitated by cellular networks powered by 5G IoT and big data analytics. Gagandeep then realized that vision with the Connected Greenhouse at the Girl Scouts’ STEM Center of Excellence and plans to leverage that use case to build more green spaces across America and the world.

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