Research & Innovation

SpiderRadio Wireless Technology Deployed in South Africa

The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) report on wireless spectrum contains a number of recommendations to improve spectrum efficiency to spur economic growth. Included among these recommendations is the need for investments in developing innovative wireless technologies that enable dynamic spectrum sharing for supporting rural broadband and robust public safety communications.

With funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Institute of Justice (NIJ), two Stevens Electrical and Computer Engineering professors, Rajarathnam Chandramouli ('Mouli') and Suba Subbalakshmi, have developed an Internet cloud controlled cognitive wireless router called SpiderRadio, which solves some of the key challenges in dynamic spectrum sharing and management. Vidya Sagar, a Ph.D. student and an Innovation & Entrepreneurship Doctoral Fellow (I&E) at Stevens is a core member of the project. The SpiderRadio technology has been recognized as  “Best Investment: Public Safety” in the NITRD Wireless Spectrum R&D (WSRD) Steering Committee report on wireless spectrum related federal R&D investments.

“SpiderRadio is another example of how Stevens faculty bring their research from the lab to the field to solve pressing problems, and help society meet its technological needs at the global scale,” says George Korfiatis, Provost and Vice-President, Stevens Institute of Technology.

“Hurricane Sandy damaged several cellular base stations resulting in the loss of wireless access for millions of customers. Cognitive radio technologies such as SpiderRadio could alleviate these losses by sensing the operating wireless environment and allowing users to dynamically share their spectrum such as their home WiFi,” explains Subbalakshmi.

During the Boston Marathon bombings first responders dependent on commercial wireless carriers were unable to communicate effectively due to severe network congestion from a sudden surge in call traffic.

“This is the exact opposite of the Hurricane Sandy situation. During the bombings the wireless base stations were functioning but the cellular core network could not handle the pressure,” says Mouli.

SpiderRadio’s dynamic spectrum management capability will automatically give priority to first responder communication during an emergency situation and continually sense and switch between multiple networks or spectrum; aggregate bandwidth to support HD quality real-time video streaming, etc. It can operate on any available spectrum including LTE, 4.9GHz, and WiFi, in any given location. The SpiderRadio router and the cognitive server have been delivered to the Brookline PD for evaluation in the field. Both the professors are closely following the FirstNet initiative that will provide emergency responders with the first nationwide, high-speed network dedicated to public safety.

The government of South Africa is funding a pilot trial to evaluate SpiderRadio to address that country’s needs for low cost, broadband Internet access. Conventional fiber or copper line based Internet is not always an economically feasible solution, especially in rural settings. The University of Pretoria (UP) in collaboration with Stevens will demonstrate SpiderRadio’s ability to aggregate data rates from multiple low cost long-range wireless links in the WiFi bands. The pilot trial will demonstrate the performance under various conditions, such as dynamic interference, random and burst packet losses, random delays, connection loss, etc., as well as application requirements, such as prioritized flows, HD video casting, voice and data for telemedicine, remote education, and so on.

This will be a game-changer for South Africa and other emerging countries where deeper broadband penetration can help economies grow. Since SpiderRadio operates on any frequency it can be rapidly deployed on existing spectrum (unlicensed or licensed) without waiting for the government’s decision on complex spectrum policies on specialized bands such as the T.V. white space. By combining COTS hardware with innovative algorithms and software implementation SpiderRadio minimizes the deployment cost.

“We hope to compete against Google's TV white space wireless technology that was tested in Cape Town, South Africa,” says Mouli, “in cost, performance and immediate roll out due to current spectrum policies in that country.”

“This technology has great potential to improve the quality of life for millions of people living in rural areas, both in the U.S. and abroad,” says Michael Bruno, Feiler Chair Professor and Dean, School of Engineering and Science.  “Regions that rely solely on wireless communications are particularly vulnerable to degraded and disrupted service. SpiderRadio addresses this critical need in an elegant way, while also supporting applications that will improve emergency response."