Edge computing and Smart cities

Technology gives us the opportunity to live better in an urban environment, and data is at the heart of the city of tomorrow. At the public and private level, initiatives are multiplying to encourage smart cities.  In Europe, cities such as Stockholm and Amsterdam are pioneers, while Paris is clearly lagging behind according to a ranking by the consulting firm McKinsey. The transition to the smart city will only be possible if a suitable network is set up using edge computing, an essential element to enable the development of these modern cities.

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Smart cities, a reality in the making

Smart cities have been discussed for more than a decade now. These cities of the future will be intelligent and ultra-connected, enabling the development of their inhabitants while optimizing the use of energy and rationalizing their operations.

 

Asia is ahead of the curve in this area because of its tremendous propensity to accept new technologies. Their more flexible regulations on the protection of individual freedoms are also at issue.

 

In Europe, there are already several concrete applications that bear witness to this evolution in the areas of traffic and waste management mainly. In Portugal, for example, the city of Cascais - well known to surfers - was able to reduce its fleet of garbage trucks by about 20% thanks to an intelligent alert system.

 

It is true that more efficient city management goes hand in hand with cost savings and rationalization. According to McKinsey, the transition from the classic urban model to a smart cities model is based on eight priorities: mobility, security, health care, energy, water, waste, housing, and civic engagement. By making this transition, residents can expect real changes, including a reduction in crime rates of between 30% and 40%, a reduction in the estimated shuttle time of between 15 and 30 minutes, and a faster response from emergency services.

 

This is enough to seduce. Smart cities promise us a more pleasant and efficient model of urban life, all while reducing pollution and protecting the planet. The number of potential changes is also enough to make the whirlwind. A better world is here, at hand, in theory at least.

 

In practice, the ideal smart city is much more complicated to set up. Indeed, this model implies an optimal network and real-time interconnectivity between urban elements, individuals, connected objects and public authorities. To achieve this interconnectivity, two elements are essential: 5G and edge computing.

 

If 5G is being rolled out, it will be years before its coverage is optimal. On the other hand, thanks to edge computing - also known as periphery computing - it is already possible to improve the management of cities and start moving towards smart cities. This technology is therefore crucial.

Edge computing, why is this essential for smart cities?

Edge computing or periphery computing is the counterweight to cloud computing. While the trend was to centralize data in the cloud center, one thing was clear: the permanent creation of data requires a decentralized network architecture to ensure scalability.

 

Indeed, while data creation follows an exponential curve, the risks of bandwidth saturation are very real. Data in astronomical amounts is sent to data centers in the cloud to be processed, which increases latency and slows down processes. While latency is acceptable for some applications, most uses of data related to a smart city model involve real-time processing. The most egregious example is that of connected cars where a second of lag can of course have a disastrous impact.

 

Edge computing, which is based on a network of micro data centers located on the periphery (or even inside) cities, allows us to provide this rapid response time and thus to use the full potential of the Internet of Things to improve cities.

 

It goes without saying that the rise of smart cities is concomitant with the increase in connected objects. In the coming years, most networks will be redesigned to deploy hybrid architecture. The consulting firm Gartner estimated in 2018 that only 10% of the data created in companies was processed outside a data center in the cloud (the "traditional" data centers). According to them, this figure is expected to reach 75% by 2025. So we're seeing a real shift in computing power from the cloud to the network periphery.

 

Although the numbers vary from source to source, the segment is huge. One of the most frequently cited studies estimates that the size of the edge computing market will triple over a 5-year period to a minimum of $9 billion by 2024.

 

While this change is essential to enable the advent of smart cities, it may also bring new challenges. Indeed, the proliferation of micro data centers in the form of phones, computers, servers, drones or others will create a multitude of entry points for cyberattacks. In addition, the management of waste from these devices will quickly become obsolete as technology develops will be a real headache.

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Software: the bridge between edge hardware, connected objects and data centers

To ensure interoperability and efficiency of smart cities, data produced by connected objects must be processed in the right place and in the right way. Software is the missing link to perform these operations.

 

Indeed, if the projects flourish to invent the city of tomorrow, many will not succeed (the proportion of failures is estimated at 30% by 2030). Among the reasons for a possible disappointment, the lack of added value is prominent. Indeed, what is the point of investing in smart city applications if it does not benefit the inhabitants? To value data and extract useful information to better manage the city, it must be handled appropriately. The principle is the same on the scale of a small company as on the scale of a megalopolis: without a conductor, no music.

 

Ryax develops intuitive and adaptive data processing solutions that can be used from a smart cities perspective. Whether it's a village of a few souls or a capital city, our dynamic software can help

La Ryax Team.