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We considered several communication characteristics and requirements including bandwidth, delay tolerance, power consumption, reliability, security, heterogeneous network support, network type, and mobility support. In addition, we studied the suitability of different networking protocols for different smart city applications.

These protocols are IEEE With this, we are providing a comprehensive study in networking architectures and protocols for smart city systems. Development and operation of smart city applications can face many challenges. To identify and understand these challenges, we discuss some important smart city applications used or proposed for different domains. We highlight their benefits as well as their development and operational challenges. This will help us identify the type of support needed by the networking platforms designed for smart city applications.

In the energy domain, smart city applications are used to add values such as efficiency, reliability, and sustainability of the production and distribution of electric power in smart grids [ 19 ]. A smart grid is a renovated electrical grid system that uses information and communication technology ICT to collect and act on available information about the behavior of suppliers and consumers in an automated fashion.

A smart grid uses CPS to provide self-monitoring and advanced control mechanisms for power productions and consumer needs to increase grid efficiency and reliability. In addition, CPS systems are used to control the processes of generating renewable energy from hydropower plants [ 20 ] and wind power plants [ 21 ]. Furthermore, some applications are used to monitor and control energy consumptions in smart buildings [ 3 ].

Smart building systems are usually equipped with different types of sensor nodes that monitor the current energy usage and environmental conditions.

These sensors report their observations and measurements to a centralized monitoring and control system. The control system implements intelligent algorithms to control the sub-systems used in the buildings to optimize energy usage based on the sensed observations and current operational and environmental conditions.

In the transportation domain, an important smart city application area that recently received high attention is intelligent transportation.

What is a Wireless Sensor Network?

Vehicular safety applications constitute one of the most important classes of such applications. There are many safety applications for vehicles including lane change warning messages, emergency breaking, collision avoidance mechanisms, and blind spot monitoring.

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These applications provide fully automatic or semi-automatic actions to enhance driving safety. The most important features of such applications are the real-time and reliability support in detection and response. All aspects of vehicular safety applications including threat observations, decision making, communication, and actions must be reliable and able to run in real-time.

This imposes a serious restriction on how the software is designed and how well it supports high levels of integration across all the devices involved to ensure real-time and reliable responses. In addition, self-driving cars are considered as important smart city applications [ 22 ]. Since they practically integrate all the mentioned features in addition to vision and monitoring components to allow the vehicle to navigate the roads based on sensed data and intelligent software that interprets and responds to this data in real-time. Another intelligent transportation application include intelligent traffic light controls, which include monitoring devices across multiple locations to accurately predict traffic patterns and adjust traffic lights to optimize flow.

One example of such domain is discussed in [ 23 ]. In addition, smart city systems can be used to protect water networks and to make them smarter, more efficient, more reliable, and more sustainable. CPS systems can be embedded within water networks to provide some monitoring and control mechanisms and to add smart features to the operations of water distribution [ 24 ]. One of these functions is to provide early warning mechanisms to identify problems in water networks. For examples, leaks and pipe bursts can be easily detected while fast and temporary solutions can be applied to reduce water waste and to minimize further risks or damages to the network.

Other smart city applications include greenhouse monitoring that aims to provide efficient control for suitable climate, soil, lighting, and water level in greenhouses [ 25 ]. In addition, some applications involve autonomous operation of unmanned vehicles using CPS systems. Such systems provide networks that connect the payloads on the unmanned vehicles like sensors, actuators, cameras, storage, communication devices, and microcontrollers [ 26 ].

Additional smart city systems are also used to automate, control, monitor, and enhance manufacturing processes [ 27 ]. Finally, monitoring and controlling oil, and gas pipelines is another one of the applications for smart cities. We discuss the corresponding architecture and features of this and other important applications in the section illustrating selected smart city systems later in this paper. In this section, we investigate the different networking and communication requirements of the various smart city applications, as well as the protocols that can be used to connect the components used to support such applications.

As shown in the table, applications with short range communication such as smart buildings, and smart water networks can use protocols from the personal area network PAN class such as IEEE These protocols are generally characterized by lower bandwidth, low energy consumption, and short range. Applications requiring longer ranges such as intelligent transportation, and manufacturing and control use protocols, which are in the local area network LAN class, such as IEEE All of these protocols have provisions to support asynchronous and synchronous data connections.

The former can be used with smart city applications with best effort traffic, which can tolerate delay, while the latter can be used with applications that generate traffic requiring more stringent quality of service QoS requirements such as larger bandwidth and limited delay.

Such applications involve real-time and multimedia communication.

Protocols and Architectures for Wireless Sensor Networks

In addition, these protocols have reliability and security services. However, most of the security features require more processing, and can cause added delay and energy consumption. Consequently, these considerations should be taken into account before enabling such features. Also, the table shows that certain applications, such as intelligent transportation, have low bandwidth requirements.

Others, such as smart buildings, gas and oil pipeline monitoring, and UAVs require more bandwidth. However, even inside the same type of applications, the bandwidth requirements can range from low to medium or even high, depending on the type of data that is generated.

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For example, telemetric and control data such as UAV ground-to-air control commands only require small bandwidth, while UAVs taking images and videos, and transmitting them to ground base units require considerably larger bandwidth. In addition, it is shown that some applications have low tolerance for end-to-end delay. Such applications include intelligent transportation. This is the case, since the data that is being transmitted needs to arrive within microseconds in order to allow the control systems to react within an acceptable time frame to avoid car imminent danger or life-threatening collisions.

On the other hand, other smart city applications have higher tolerance for delay. These applications include ones that rely on the collection of information and monitoring data for later analysis. Examples of such applications include UAVs taking images for later processing. Power consumption is also an important requirement for smart city applications.

However, as shown in the table, some applications that have local high energy sources such as smart grid systems, can tolerate protocols with higher power consumption levels. Other applications, which have energy sources with limited capacities have medium power requirements.

Protocols and Architectures for Wireless Sensor Networks

Other applications have very limited energy sources and require protocols with low or very low energy consumption characteristics. Such applications include gas and oil pipeline monitoring, smart water networks, and UAVs.


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Reliability is another important parameter in smart city applications, and the table shows that most applications either have medium reliability requirements such as smart water networks, while others have high reliability requirements such as smart grid, and intelligent transportation. With respect to security, most applications require medium to high security.

For example, applications such as manufacturing control and monitoring require medium security, while others such as smart grid have high security requirements due to the sensitivity of the data and criticality of the functions that are performed.

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Most smart city systems include networking protocols, which connect the various components within the system. Examples of such systems include include smart buildings, and intelligent transportation. In such cases, these protocols must be able to co-exist without interfering with each other. In addition, appropriate mapping of the various control information inside the headers at the various layers of the networking stack of the different heterogeneous protocols and networks must be done to ensure seamless and efficient operation.

The table also shows that some smart city applications such as gas and oil pipeline monitoring, and UAVs mostly involve wireless communication.


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  5. Others, such as smart buildings and intelligent transportation involve both wired as well as wireless communication. In such cases, communication within a particular physical system can use wired networking e. Finally, mobility is another important characteristic of smart city applications. The table shows that some systems have low or medium mobility such as smart grid, gas and oil pipeline monitoring, and smart water networks.

    Other systems have high mobility such as intelligent transportation, and UAVs. Consequently, the networking protocols that are used to connect medium to high mobility smart city systems must be robust and adapt well to node mobility without consuming too much bandwidth on control messages and related processing to readjust to changes in the network topology.

    In addition to the requirements and characterization of the links between nodes in smart city systems, we identify the following additional issues and challenges, which must be considered. Smart city systems rely on various heterogeneous networking protocols at the physical and data link layers, which use different medium access control MAC strategies Interoperability between these protocols is important in order to provide seamless integration of the underlying technologies.