Geo Week News

May 8, 2019

How 5G is used for creating and consuming live traffic maps

Mapbox 5G

The latest Mobile World Conference (MWC) event was all about the transition from 4G to 5G technology. At the same event, location intelligence startup Mapbox demonstrated how 5G networks are used for creating and consuming live maps on smart devices, leading to safer and more efficient traffic management.

What is 5G and how does it work?

5G stands for fifth-generation cellular wireless, a technology that will replace 4G in the next decade. Over time, technological innovations, such as new wireless networks and telephones will enable the transition from 4G to 5G. The benefits of 5G technology are threefold: high speeds data transmission, lower latency (large data volume processing with minimal delay) and the capacity to connect more devices at a time to the same network. 5G will use a similar encoding than current 4G, but using optimized hardware and smarter designed networks, promising data speeds up to 20Gps and 1ms latency.

At the moment, new applications are being developed that will use 5G technology once it’s available. For consumers, home internet and smartphones will become much faster. It is expected that the industrial uptake of 5G will be much larger than for consumers, for example for IoT networks and robotics, such as future generations of fully autonomous cars. These will require 5G’s low latency networks in order to be able to communicate with surrounding vehicles, resulting in safer traffic management.

5G, live traffic map updates and autonomous vehicles

Although 5G is not yet available, it is expected that it will enable the creation of many new geospatial applications. A recent partnership between location intelligence startup Mapbox and Sprint shows how 5G networks enable data capture and interpretation used to produce “live” traffic maps, that are used by autonomous vehicles to navigate safely. Sprint is a US-based communications services company, that serves almost 55 million connections and will launch a 5G network in the future.

Sprint developed a distributed IoT network named Curiosity IoT, that was built for better data and device management. Combined with 5G technology, newly captured data can be turned into actionable intelligence right away, which is the philosophy behind Sprint’s collaboration with Mapbox, so that real-time updating of Mapbox’ precision maps will become a reality.

Effectively, three technologies are combined here: the first one being Mapbox Vision, a sophisticated set of future-ready features that turn cameras into connected sensors. Second, Mapbox Vision utilizes Sprint Curiosity, updating maps in real-time through a distributed network of sensors across the Sprint Curiosity IoT network. The third technology is obviously 5G, that is coupled with Sprint Curiosity IoT.

How it works

Before maps are consumed by autonomous vehicles, their underlying data needs to be captured, interpreted and distributed to the autonomous vehicle consuming the live map. The data capture process happens as follows: using Sprint 5G-enabled Curiosity IoT, Mapbox will be able to collect higher volumes of data through its Mapbox Vision SDK and camera-enabled autos, trucks, buses, and smart machines. Changes along the roadway captured through Mapbox Vision are interpreted next by Curiosity IoT’s edge computing, that performs data capture and analytics at the source, after which these changes are translated into continuously updated “live” maps, an automated process that uses AI.

This workflow will allow high definition maps of the road network to be distributed, consumed, and updated seamlessly, providing automated vehicles and other mobility services with the live location data required to operate safely and efficiently. Because data is continuously updated and consumed, maps will immediately adapt to their environment providing the most accurate and responsive location, routing, logistics, and other critical business, traffic, and public safety decisions.

Although Sprint is not yet integrated with 5G technology, its 5G maps were demonstrated last February at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Mapbox and Sprint expect the market for IoT devices to grow significantly in the coming years, with a high percentage of these devices to leverage a real-time visual context while traveling the road.


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