Les Halles: Smart Infrastructure

Introduction

A certain degree of creativity was required to systematically approach our given variable, Smart Infrastructure. A primary example of this technology is, of course, WiFi networks, which are not visible to the naked eye. We were, however, able to recognize the inherently integral nature of technology in the Les Halles area. From smart phones to touch screen maps in the Forum des Halles shopping complex, technology is increasingly interwoven into the everyday happenings at Les Halles. Our chief observation was that, in many cases, these technologies did not function as originally intended.

While the interactive map at the mall, for example, was visually appealing, it was not responsive to touch and thus did not provide any useful directional information. Similarly, while the network “FreeWifi” is available throughout the Les Halles area above ground, the network has so many active users that the bandwidth is consumed to the point that function is rendered non-existent. The same is true for the “FORUM_DES_HALLES” WiFi network, though this network’s usage was harder to quantify for reasons that will be discussed later. These findings inspired us to propose that, in the reconstruction of Les Halles, the wireless infrastructure be redesigned as well. Specifically, construct the wireless network using multiple servers and routers specific to their geographic area as opposed to utilizing network extenders and repeaters, which tends to result in a slow connection for the user.


Data and Methods

To collect our data, we used the iOS application “Fing,” developed by Overlook Soft software company and downloaded from the Apple App Store. This application, when connected to a given WiFi network, will display for the user the number of devices connected to that network at a given time. Our data are presented as a function of time. Namely, the hourly intervals at which we recorded the number of users at a given location (Figures 1-3). We analyzed three WiFi networks: “FreeWifi,” “McDonalds_wifi,” and “PARIS_WI-FI_0107” on Wednesday, 17 June 2015. “PARIS_WI-FI_0107” is the network available for use in the Jardin du Nelson Mandela, and we wished to compare these numbers with the number of WiFi users in the more commercial portions of Les Halles.

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Analysis

In the case of “FreeWifi,” a peak in user volume is seen at 12h00 while a later peak is illustrated in the chart representing “PARIS_WI-FI_0107” at 13h00. We conclude that the large difference in user volume is due to the larger geographical area serviced by each respective network (it should be noted, however, that this increased geographic area further aggravates the issue of network dilution). Pure conjecture led us to believe that this time delay could be explained by the citizenry obtaining food at one of the businesses in the commercial areas of Les Halles and then proceeding to enjoy their lunch in the more open, natural area of the Jardin. Even given this highly quantifiable variable, we encountered some challenges. In the case of “FORUM_DES_HALLES” specifically, two users were recorded as being connected to the network at any given time. We came to realize that this outcome was a result of a series of network extenders. These devices essentially connect themselves to the central router in an effort to ease the load on the network bandwidth. Unfortunately, this methodology left us without meaningful data from inside the mall itself. Recognizing the integral nature of wireless networks in Les Halles, we worked to think of improvements to the existing system.


Proposal

We propose a redesigning of the physical portions of the WiFi networks in Les Halles in order to generate a useful, free network for those who visit. In order to do this most efficiently, we recommend constructing a network that utilizes multiple routers and mini-servers instead of central routers extended through network repeaters. As the system stands now, a significant amount of money is likely being spent to maintain the existing physical infrastructure, but the corresponding wireless network is next to useless. As an example, we tried to download the “Fing” application using the “FreeWifi” network. While this application is only 4.6MB in size, it took nearly 20 minutes to download. Network speeds this slow mean that the municipal money utilized to propagate this network is wasted. A small, additional investment in more routers would exponentially increase network speed by volumetrically increasing bandwidth capacity, thereby creating a wireless infrastructure that is truly useful to the citizens of Les Halles. Because personal technology increases the potential for global connectedness, this improved infrastructure in the form of improved WiFi networks will enable the continued, microcosmic development of Paris that will have staggering implications for the larger city of Paris on the world stage.

Team: Maryam Arif, Cynthia De Souza, Karolina Ladino Puerto, Jacob Scherba, Stephanie Ying

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