Section: Research Program

Characterizing urban networks

Our first objective is to understand and model those properties of real-world urban environments that have an impact on the design, deployment and operation of capillary networks. It means to collect and analyze data from actual deployments and services, as well as testbeds experiments. These data have then to be correlated with urban characteristics, e.g. topography, density of population and activities. The objective is to deduce analytical models, simulations and traces of realistic scenarios that can be leveraged afterward. We structure the axis into three tasks that correspond to the three broad categories of networking aspects affected by the urban context.

  • Topological characteristics. Nowadays, the way urban wireless network infrastructures are typically represented in the literature is dissatisfying. As an example, wireless links are mostly represented as symmetric, lossless channels whose signal quality depends continuously on the distance between the transmitter and the receiver. No need to say, real-world behaviors are very far from these simplified representations. Another example, topologies are generally modeled according to deterministic (e.g., regular grids and lattices, or perfect hexagonal cell coverages) or stochastic (e.g., random uniform distributions over unbound surfaces) approaches. These make network problems mathematically tractable and simulations easier to set up, but are hardly representative of the layouts encountered in the real world. Employing simplistic models helps understanding some fundamental principles but risks to lead to unreliable results, both from the viewpoint of the network architecture design and from that of its performance evaluation. It is thus our speculation that the actual operations and the real-world topologies of infrastructured capillary networks are key to the successful deployment of these technologies, and, in this task, we aim at characterizing them. To that end, we leverage existing collaborations with device manufacturers (Alcatel-Lucent, HiKob) and operators (Orange), as well as collaboration such as the Sense City project and testbed experiments, in order to provide models that faithfully mimic the behavior of real world network devices. The goal is to understand the important features of the topologies, including, e.g., their overall connectivity level, spatial density, degree distribution, regularity, etc. Building on these results, we try to define network graph models that reproduce such major features and can be employed for the development and evaluation of capillary network solutions.

  • Mobilities. We aim at understanding and modeling the mobile portion of capillary networks as well as the impact of the human mobility on the network usage. Our definition of “mobile portion” includes traditional mobile users as well as all communication-enabled devices that autonomously interact with Internet-based servers and among themselves. There have been efforts to collect real-world movement traces, to generate synthetic mobility dataset and to derive mobility models. However, real-world traces remain limited to small scenarios or circumstantial subsets of the users (e.g., cabs instead of the whole road traffic). Synthetic traces are instead limited by their scale and by their level of realism, still insufficient. Finally, even the most advanced models cannot but provide a rough representation of user mobility in urban areas, as they do not consider the street layout or the human activity patterns. In the end, although often deprecated, random or stochastic mobility models (e.g., random walks, exponential inter-arrivals and cell residence times) are still the common practice. We are well aware of the paramount importance of a faithful representation of device and user mobility within capillary networks and, in order to achieve it, we leverage a number of realistic sources, including Call Detail Records (CDR) collected by mobile operators, Open Data initiatives, real-world social network data, and experiments. We collect data and analyze it, so as to infer the critical properties of the underlying mobility patterns.

  • Data traffic patterns. The characterization of capillary network usages means understanding and modeling when, where and how the wireless access provided by the diverse capillary network technologies is exploited by users and devices. In other words, we are interested in learning which applications are used at different geographical locations and day times, which urban phenomena generate network usage, and which kind of data traffic load they induce on the capillary network. Properly characterizing network usages is as critical as correctly modeling network topology and mobility. Indeed, the capillary networks being the link directly collecting the data from end devices, we cannot count on statistical smoothing which yields regular distributions. Unfortunately, the common practice is to consider, e.g., that each user or device generates a constant data traffic or follows on/off models, that the offered load is uniform over space and does not vary over time, that there is small difference between uplink and downlink behaviors, or that source/destination node pairs are randomly distributed in the network. We plan to go further on the specific scenarios we address, such as smart-parking, floating car data, tele-metering, road traffic management of pollution detection. To that end, we collect real-world data, explore it and derive properties useful to the accurate modeling of content consumption.