The National Science Foundation (NSF), in coordination with a consortium of 35 wireless communication corporations, announced the fourth testbed in a diverse portfolio of large-scale wireless research platforms located throughout the United States. This wireless research platform is intended to drive innovation in rural broadband connectivity in Ames, Iowa.

The new regional testbed features wireless research to enable universal and affordable rural broadband. The testbed will demonstrate the benefits of such broadband connectivity, focusing on precision agriculture in both crop and livestock farms.

NSF’s Platforms for Advanced Wireless Research (PAWR) and the industry consortium will provide $7 million in funding for this new platform. PAWR will also establish a wireless connective lab across Iowa State University, the city of Ames, and surrounding farms and rural communities in central Iowa.

“This public-private partnership showcases NSF’s unique ability to foster a national innovation ecosystem,” said NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan. “By bringing together academia, industry, government, and local communities, the Iowa platform will support breakthrough solutions to connect the unconnected. As a result, we will be able to strengthen our efforts to address our Nation’s digital divide, finally allowing millions of Americans to gain access to basic information and resources.”

The project, dubbed ARA: Wireless Living Lab for Smart and Connected Rural Communities, will complement the technical specialties of earlier PAWR platforms. It will also enable a wide range of wireless technology and create a “deeply programmable infrastructure,” especially for services that directly benefit precision agriculture in both crop and livestock farms.

The ARA testbed, based out of Iowa State University, encompasses a team of researchers, including students, will collaborate with state, community, and industry partners like the Iowa Communications Network, Iowa Department of Transportation, Iowa Statewide Interoperable Communications System, Iowa Regional Utilities Association, city of Ames, local school districts, Meskwaki Tribal Nation, Woodland Farms, and U.S. Cellular.

The new platform also receives an additional $1 million in financial support from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture within the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

With the platform’s launch, Iowa’s ARA joins three other PAWR testbeds: POWDER-RENEW in Utah; COSMOS in New York City; and AERPAW in North Carolina.

Read More About
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk State and Local Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.