About ARA and the current problem solving goals:
ARA is an at-scale platform for advanced wireless research to be deployed across the Iowa State University (ISU) campus, City of Ames (where ISU resides), and surrounding research and producer farms as well as rural communities in central Iowa, spanning a rural area with a diameter of over 60km. At its foundation is the deployment of advanced wireless access and backhaul platforms (e.g., low-UHF massive MIMO and long-distance free-space optical communications) in real-world agriculture and rural settings, capturing the systems and environmental properties as well as the application and community contexts of rural broadband. ARA features the future of precision agriculture in both crop and livestock farms, involving automated ground vehicles as well as cameras and nano-sensors. Collectively, the ARA hardware and software systems enable cross-discipline, cross-community collaborative research, education, and innovation to drive the development of rural-focused wireless technologies that provide affordable, high-capacity connectivity to rural communities and industries such as agriculture.
On ARA’s edge and cloud computing research:
The ARA cloud computing and storage resources will be deployed in the ISU data center, and edge resources deployed in a distributed manner across ARA farms and communities to enable low-latency wireless applications. AraRAN wireless access infrastructure will be deployed to provide high-capacity, low-latency connectivity to user equipment (UE) such as ag ground vehicles and robots, phenotyping cameras and sensors, police cars, school buses, and students’ laptops. In total, there are 12 AraRAN base stations at fixed locations and 1 on a portable infrastructure. With CHI@Edge as its baseline, the base stations and UEs will act as edge devices which are enrolled on the CHI@Edge controller. A high-level deployment scenario for 1x BS edge node and 1x UE node can be seen below.
Complete deployment map of the ARA wireless living lab can be seen below.
Some of the application scenarios shown below, enabled by ARA with CHI@Edge as a baseline software platform are in high-throughput crop phenotyping, precision livestock farming, agriculture automation and rural education.
On testbed needs:
The current version of Chameleon’s edge testbed (CHI@Edge) (even in preview mode) provides promising support as a baseline for the ARA wireless living lab and the application scenarios mentioned above. However, some refinements and extensions are required to CHI@Edge to support wireless resource specifications, resource modeling and reservations e.g. wireless guard, frequency channels, resource blocks, power levels, radios, eNBs and UEs, site selection (channel conditions) etc. to name a few. The ARA project team will partner with the Chameleon team to make these CHI@Edge extensions available to the broad community, to deploy the extended CHI@Edge into the ARA infrastructure, and to potentially integrate ARA with Chameleon for integrated wireless and cloud experiments.
About the author:
Hongwei Zhang leads the Dependable Networking and Computing research group at Iowa State University, exploring theories, methods, and systems building-blocks for addressing dynamics and uncertainties in networked systems. His current research focuses on the modeling, algorithmic, and systems issues in wireless sensing and control networks (e.g., those in 5G and beyond) as well as their applications in extended reality, connected and automated vehicles, precision agriculture, smart energy grid, industrial IoT, and cyber-physical-human systems in general. His dream is to build production-quality, open-source platforms for advanced wireless applications.
On his most powerful piece of advice:
Work on “cold” problems that intrigue you.
Interested readers can explore the following resources:
ARA website: https://arawireless.org
ARA vision paper:
Hongwei Zhang, Yong Guan, Ahmed Kamal, Daji Qiao, Mai Zheng, Anish Arora, Ozdal Boyraz, Brian Cox, Thomas Daniels, Matthew Darr, Doug Jacobson, Ashfaq Khokhar, Sang Kim, James Koltes, Jia Liu, Michael Luby, Larysa Nadolny, Joshua Peschel, Patrick Schnable, Anuj Sharma, Arun Somani, Lie Tang, ARA: A Wireless Living Lab Vision for Smart and Connected Rural Communities, 15th ACM Workshop on Wireless Network Testbeds, Experimental evaluation and Characterization (WiNTECH), 2021