The Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) are deemed to be a key element in the design of new services in smart cities, or smart and sustainable cities, as has been indicated by the GNSS European Agency and the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA). Some of its applications will include autonomous vehicles and machinery, control of the access to city centres, traffic management and the provision of environmental and positioning intelligence.
Within this context, the European Space Agency (ESA) has selected the HANSEL project – Navigation and GNSS in Smart Cities, with the involvement of the UAB, to develop a testing ground for the future navigation and positioning services needed in smart cities. The Bellaterra campus will serve as the testing ground and become an important contribution to the Smart Campus Living Lab concept, which the university is implementing on campus to make it a smart and sustainable environment.
HANSEL came into being as a result of a competitive call at European level which attracted the main companies and research centres belonging to the field of GNSS positioning systems. The project includes the involvement of not only the UAB, but also of the Catalan firms Rokubun,which is leading the project, and TrafficNow, as well as the Politecnico di Torino university and the Italian LINKS Foundation.
Signal Processing on the Cloud, Key for the Project
Among the positioning technologies included in the test bench is the GNSS receptor on the cloud, a task directed by Professor José A. López-Salcedo of the Signal Processing for Communications and Navigation research group of the School of Engineering, also formed by Professor Gonzalo Seco Granados, and which became the first remote GNSS signal processing platform.
GNSS signal receptors, such as the GPS used in mobile phones, receive the signal from visible satellites and conduct a series of operations until determining the positioning of the user. These calculations are very intense and rapidly wear out the battery of portable devices. The new receptor created by the UAB eliminates this inconvenience by conducting all calculations remotely on the cloud, thereby offering more speed, precisions and security in operations.
“The remote processing of GNSS signals on the cloud is one of the key services developed for smart cities, given that it opens the door to a positioning of ultra-low power consumption, adequate for small devices operating in the Internet of Things (IoT) and which commonly run on batteries. It also allows for the democratisation of access to advanced services, such as the detection of potentially false GNSS signals, by using authentication techniques, essential to critical applications such as self-driving vehicles.
In addition to GNSS receptors and computing on the cloud, during the HANSEL project researchers also evaluated the positioning features offered by other terrestrial technologies (4G, 5G, WiFi). The conclusions reached will help to further in the understanding of navigation and positioning technologies and how they act as catalysts in the creation of smart cities.
The development of smart cities is one of the challenges included in the UN's 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The creation of urban environments destined to improve the quality of life of people, by offering increased efficiency in services and meeting their needs through the use of technology, must also go towards solving the problems cities currently face. Although they only account for 3 per cent of the planet's surface, cities represent 60 to 80 per cent of the world's energy consumption and 75 per cent of carbon emissions.