- By Yamuna Bindu
A smart city has billions of connected devices and systems. This includes smart street lighting, pedestrian management, road management, waste management, air/noise quality monitoring, smart medical systems etc. Enormous volumes of data will be generated for security, productivity and the quality of life of the citizens. A unified data management framework is imperative for the smooth functioning of a smart city. However, storing and processing such massive amounts of data via the internet will put tremendous pressure on networks and make a dent in the city’s funds. The best solution to this would be to store data locally for easy and immediate access. This is usually done with edge computing.
Understanding Edge Computing
Unlike the standard internet model that relies heavily upon cloud technology services provided by Google, Microsoft, etc., edge computing is a complementary model where the processing of information and its storage is done at the very edge of the network. This means that the information under edge computing is stored as close as possible to the end-points of a network and the devices it is servicing.
This method of processing and storage of data lets organizations render services even when there is no internet connectivity and enabling localized data processing.
Since edge computing makes it possible to develop applications without an internet connection, the installed multiple edge servers will form a network, enabling apps and services to run locally at the edge as opposed to it running on a central cloud platform. As a result, autonomous operations can be performed even when backhaul coverage is lost and lower latency will be required since applications are located nearer to the data source. An open platform will be freely available for third-party developers to develop new applications.
The Need for Edge Computing for Smarter Cities
Smart city development pilots and projects have been replaced with more wide-scale deployments. The concept of a smart city has the IoT (Internet of Things) as a foundation – a network of connected devices offering easy and real-time data exchange for the efficient management of services.
Common examples of IoT deployment include tracking of buses, traffic light and signage management, control of street lighting, refuse monitoring, air quality control, etc.
There are several operational benefits to such deployments. However, too many applications lead to the formation of a large number of data streams, generating the risk of network overloading issues. If these data streams are forced to remain in connection with cloud-based data centres.
The wireless network on which the connectivity of the data sensors depends upon – 5G – is still in a precarious state, even in developed countries. 5G may be the panacea to all network infrastructural problems, but there are only a few widespread commercial deployments of it as of now. There are few proper use cases that justify its costs.
The technology of edge computing can lead not only to operational cost savings but also to an unlimited range of smart apps that can be managed through a single platform, as opposed to siloing it across management devices.
Edge Computing in Everyday Life
Here’s how edge computing technology can improve things in our daily lives:
- Street Lights
Smart street lights are growing in popularity, as a result of which there is a rising demand for networking, computing, and storage resources. What smart streetlights need is a highly scalable system that can facilitate easy migration, fast deployment, and high resource utilization. Many cities are replacing their sodium street lights with LED-powered ones. Edge computing provides lighting controls and a means for deploying a universal platform on which other smart apps can also be developed.
- Security CCTV Cameras
Today’s smart cameras can be made ‘conscious’ using edge computing to recognize objects and faces. Low-cost and straightforward wireless IP cameras on the market today from which footage can be stored locally in edge for easy and immediate access. This would help save on backhaul costs.
- Connected Parking Meters
Edge computing is also being used to deploy smart parking meters, where such systems can be monitored on demand. The data will be transmitted to a central database only in case of a fault, for easy local access.
- High-Bandwidth Messaging Services
Edge computing can help provide a high-bandwidth messaging platform that can run without a connection to the internet on standard smartphones and tablets. City workers can use this high-resilient local area network for quick exchange of information.
While smart cities pose a challenge with the vast volumes of data that they will generate and the billions of smart devices that will need to stay connected to each other at all times. Thankfully, edge computing can effectively deal with these problems by offering smooth operation without internet connectivity, enhancing security as the processes are limited to the “edge,” lowering operating costs, and reducing risk with compliances.