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The missing link: Connect at the edge

By October 6, 2023October 23rd, 2023No Comments

Welcome to the intelligent city of the future where the world isn’t just smart, it’s fast.

The smart city is already here, but there’s an even more intelligent and capable smart city on the horizon. There are smart cities in the Netherlands, the UK and Asia, intelligent spaces where machine and man cohabit in worlds where services are streamlined and simplified, where systems are smart enough to provide immediate care, and where citizens can engage with technology in ways that make their lives easier and more efficient.

However, these cities have hovered on the edge of true potential. They’ve been limited in their ability to translate data and information at speeds fast enough to truly transform smart city capability into real-time reality. Now, with the implementation of edge computing and communication technologies, such as 5G–these near real-time decisions are made possible. This, in turn, has made rapidly evolving technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), Industrial IoT (IIoT), artificial intelligence (AI) so more accessible, useful and reliable. Edge computing and 5G are two complementary technologies; edge computing brings the processing power to the device itself which allows for even faster, localised decision making and 5G is set to connect the device to the world at speeds that allow near real-time access to relevant information.

“When the computer was first invented it was the size of a room and could barely manage basic calculations,” says Ruby Hansen, Business Development Manager at ATVANCE Intellect Netherlands. “It was limited and bulky but it opened our eyes to the possibilities. What could we do? What lay ahead? Today, our computers have powerful microchips, we have Wi-Fi, we have the internet, and each of these has changed our lives in remarkable and unexpected ways and shows how rapidly technology can evolve.”

This is pretty much what defines the next evolution of the smart city. It’s here, it’s capable, it’s got some amazing applications, but it’s been limited. Now, with edge compute and 5G, the missing links in its evolution have been found and the world is ata remarkable inflection point where the smart city could rapidly evolve in ways that will change the way people live, work and experience the world around them. Edge compute is one of the building blocks of the smart city and its evolution has been triggered by numerous factors over the past few years. Defined by Deloitte as the ability to leverage industry 4.0 technologies to interpret information and intelligence right where the data is captured, the edge is essentially the end point of technology. It’s the very tip of the iceberg where the device meets the data, and the ability to translate this data instantaneously to transform speed to decision making is edge compute. But this has been limited by connectivity, until now.

“The connectivity provided by 5G is set to transform how devices connect and share data on the edge,” says Hansen. “For IoT and IIoT devices, for mission critical devices, the ability to translate and transmit the data on the edge will change how smart cities and solutions operate. Take, for example, the self-driving car and smart road infrastructure–in a connected city, road incidents can be communicated instantly to smart infrastructure to automatically control the situation. For example, closing lanes, reducing speeds or engaging playbooks that re-route traffic preventing congestion. As edge computing capabilities increase and with the high connectivity 5Gprovides, informed decisions can happen in real-time between the assets without having to involve central processing and decisionmaking.”

Latency and processing time are critical to ensuring that smart city services achieve their true potential while ensuring the safety of human life. Speed to healthcare services; speed to stopping the momentum of a self-driving car; speed to monitoring, and reacting to, cyber threats–reaction times have to be split second and 5G is the catalyst. With this technology rapidly deploying across country and city, the real value of IoT, IIoT and smart city can be realised. Currently, speed is limited not just by the network capability –4G is not fast enough for the smart city as its latency is too great and, interestingly, neither is cloud.

“Edge compute takes the essential processing out of the cloud because cloud services and processing are not fast enough or failproof enough for what’s required to fully develop the smart city,” says Hansen.“ Cloud first is still a trusted and relevant step for organisations looking to translate cost savings and embed agility, but for the smart city and other critical infrastructure, the data has to sit at the edge and this needs smart and fast infrastructure that can fully realise this reality.”

The applications of 5G, IIoT, IoT and smart services don’t exclusively belong to citizen services and smart city capabilities, industrial verticals are beautifully poised to take advantage of edge and 5G on their road to digitisation. Wireless performance, mobility, scalability and network convergence all have the ability to transform automation infrastructure and enable new applications and innovations. However, many organisations are already facing cybersecurity risks from this convergence and 5G isn’t going to sweep those under the rug. Smart is as much in how edge and 5G are implemented as in the results they achieve.

“As more smart connected devices are implemented it becomes more and more important that standards for device communication and data interpretation are implemented. This will allow more devices to speak the same language, enabling a wider information network and result in more informed processes and decision making,” explains Simon Ric –Hansen, Senior Solutions Architect at ATVANCE Intellect Netherlands. “Another challenge that presents itself with connected devices is security. By enabling communication on devices, it opens them up to external interference which could lead to bad actors influencing the running of a Smart City. For example, causing traffic chaos by turning all traffic lights to green. A comprehensive security strategy should be in place to prevent such attacks and ensure the integrity of the Smart City.”

The evolution of technology, the arrival of the smart city, and the transformation of 5G don’t come without challenges. That’s a given. However, the technology to create solutions to these challenges and the wherewithal to translate them into opportunities is here, today. The future is smart, fast and secure. And for the people. It’s innovation and transformation. And it’s taking the smarts of the city in countries like the Netherlands and turning them into exceptional intelligence. The smart city of the future isn’t in the imagination anymore – it’s here, it just keeps evolving as smarter approaches and technologies become available.

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Ruby Hansen

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