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Building a public, statewide IoT network for New York

The nation’s first statewide public infrastructure for the internet of things is being designed by researchers at Cornell University.

Working with community partners in each of New York’s counties, the research team is setting up networks based on low-power wide-area network (LPWAN) technology. This form of unlicensed long-range, low-frequency radio is frequently used for IoT applications, such as smart electric and water meters, traffic monitor or flood sensors.

The work is being funded by a $1.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation.

The researchers see rural communities as testbeds for developing new networking solutions that can “leapfrog traditional wired broadband technologies and create new opportunities for local technological development and innovation,” according to the NSF grant summary. The team plans to develop a “scalable and adaptable network topology” that would provide 100% LPWAN coverage for cities, towns and villages.

“We want to provide universal network coverage, ensure data privacy, promote responsible data-sharing, scale up successful internet-of-things implementations and spur technology innovation in underserved areas,” said Max Zhang, a professor in Cornell’s Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and the project’s principal investigator. “We aim to create a public internet of things model that works here and then becomes replicable for other states.”

In 2019, New York’s Tompkins County became the first community in the U.S. to provide its residents with free IoT access, according to Ken Schlather, executive director of the Tompkins branch of the Cornell Cooperative Extension who will coordinate the project’s community engagement with every New York county.

A pilot program of IoT-enabled commercial buildings reported energy cost savings of between 15% and 30%, on par with results from other larger studies, Schlather said.

“You need to create a reliable internet of things infrastructure to handle a digital world,” Zhang said. “This is an opportunity for rural communities. You cannot have a digital revolution in digital darkness.”

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