Powder (the Platform for Open Wireless Data-driven Experimental Research) is a facility for experimenting on the future of wireless networking in a city-scale “living laboratory”
Powder is run by the University of Utah in partnership with Salt Lake City, and the Utah Education and Telehealth Network. In addition to state-of-the-art off-the-shelf equipment, Powder will deploy cutting edge radio hardware and software being developed by the RENEW team lead by Rice University.
Powder is an end-to-end platform for research on mobile wireless networks. It provides radios that are programmable down to the waveform, attached to a network that can be configured by the user, connected to a wide variety of compute, storage, and cloud resources. Researchers can use this platform to build their own wireless networks, using existing protocols or technologies (such as 4G and MIMO), up-and coming ones (such as 5G and massive MIMO), or new ones that they invent and build from the ground up. In this environment, they can experiment with novel networks, devices, and applications.
Powder will be built over a 10 km² area of Salt Lake City, encompassing the downtown area, the University of Utah campus, and a residential neighborhood. This area includes a variety of terrain types, building sizes, and densities, making for a dynamic environment in which to perform real experiments. Within the area, there will be dozens of fixed stations and a hundred couriers, such as buses and utility vehicles, carrying mobile devices around the city. The result is that Salt Lake City will be transformed into a “living lab” for research in mobile wireless networking.
Powder will make a wide range of highly-programmable equipment available over a large geographic area and in a controlled, laboratory environment. Academic researchers and industrial partners can access this equipment from anywhere in the world, and run their own software on it to create experimental networks on real hardware in the real world. There are many existing software stacks and frameworks to help users get started, they can bring their own software, or they can develop it here. Powder is a multi-user facility, able to support multiple experimenters at the same time: each on their own hardware and using different frequencies.
Networks built on Powder are for experimentation: they will not provide service to end users. The role of user devices is played by a set of software-defined radios and commercial phones. Some of these devices will be stationary, for repeatable experimentation, and others will be on couriers to get true mobility. Experimenters can "bring their own devices" if they wish to test out new, experimental hardware. Experimenters can come on site to run experiments if they wish, but most will do their work from the comfort of their own offices.
Powder is currently in a "technology preview" stage - we will be making more equipment and regions available over the next three years.
We recommend that users of Powder join the powder-users mailing list. The list has a searchable archive, and is a good place to direct questions that are of general interest to Powder's user community. For questions that are not of general interest, such as questions about individual accounts or experiments, send mail to email@example.com.
General inquiries or comments about Powder (not support-related) can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org
To design and build the Powder facility, we have a number of partners in industry, government, and community organizations. These include members of the PAWR Industry Consortium, such as National Instruments, Crown Castle, Commscope, and Keysight. Local Utah partners include UDOT, L3-Communications West, and UTOPIA.