Frank Knox, Co-Founder, CTO, Edge Velocity
By now we’ve all heard the term “Smart City” – it’s the designation used to describe an urban environment that utilizes different types of electronic data collection to more efficiently manage and utilize infrastructure and resources. It’s a noble concept, but not necessarily new.
Where things have gotten interesting is where this collection of data has intersected with our ability to provide reliable, “always on” connectivity in today’s increasingly connected world of devices and “things.” The result is what is becoming known as “Safe City” implementations that are currently being tested and deployed by some of the world’s leading municipalities and government organizations.
Safe City deployments represent a logical evolution of the Smart City concept offering a network of sensors and systems attached to physical “things” within an urban environment. We can now leverage the information to gain critical insights and make actionable decisions that make our cities safer, more efficient and healthier places to live.
The use cases and applications of the combination of data and robust, reliable connectivity are immense and staggering to attempt to quantify. Think about how law enforcement and first responders might leverage the intelligence and connectivity to enhance operations and deliver a more efficient public service. Or consider the ability to constantly monitor air quality across a sprawling metropolitan area to ensure citizens are kept aware of the changes in the air they breathe.
So, what’s changed? Why haven’t we been able to do this previously?
As is the case with any major project involving a host of organizations, service providers and legislators coordination, alignment and control of these types of efforts is far from trivial. That is not the real reason, however.
The primary factor that has prevented Safe Cities from being widely deployed until now is a lack of reliable connectivity. Sure, we have had cell phones and the ability to connect and share information across cities, and across the world. What we have not had is the ability to connect devices and things (trash trucks, bicycles, wind sensors, traffic lights) in a meaningful way where we can GUARANTEE they will be connected continuously. For a Safe City project to work, there is no room for downtime. If a network link fails, another must have been identified and be ready to ensure transmissions never stop. We have not been able to do this, until now.
Through advances in software-based solutions, we now can cost-effectively deploy “intelligence” into the edge of the network separating the device from the broader network. By pushing this intelligence further out into the network, we are able to ensure that devices can find multiple paths for communicating critical information, even during the harshest of conditions and environments.
Through this new form of edge computing, we now have the confidence that devices will be on network, and we have the data and ability to control our cities to make them better, “Safer” places. Armed with intelligence and continuous connectivity, we now have the ability to make our Smart Cities become Safe Cities in 2018 and beyond.