Feeling Smart City Through Edge Computing

Berlin, capital of Germany, and Barcelona, one of Europe's most famous cities, have a reputation for constructing their smart cities with green energy, low carbon, and intelligent features. The three elements supplement and bring out the best in each other.


In China, smart cities are at the advanced phase of urbanization, and its construction goes along with the driving wave of urban informatization with Chinese characteristics, being of both strategic and practical significance. The goal of building smart cities is to create a convenient, comfortable, and safe living environment. It requires improvements in integrated urban management, economic construction, and people's livelihood services to realize awareness, interconnection, and intelligence of cities. In order to achieve this goal, we need to master advanced and innovative technology.


The construction of smart cities is therefore a large-scale informatization project which requires the construction of multiple information systems and scientific application of comprehensive integration technology. This will upgrade the entire city's infrastructure, and support city's transformation and industrial upgrade.


Home or abroad, in Shenzhen or in Guiyang, IoT is the foundation and key to intelligent infrastructures, with edge computing playing a vital role in IoT.


Edge computing can be applied in various scenarios during smart city construction, including network rollouts, sensor installations, system platform construction, and data collection. For example, sensors are installed on light poles along the streets to collect the city's road information, and detect environmental data, including air quality, illumination intensity, and noise level. When faults occur on streetlights, O&M personnel will be informed of the faults in time. Sensors can also be installed in elevators to collect information such as the elevator's passenger capacity and running time, then upload the information to the cloud platform, optimize elevator's operation, and rectify the faults based on statistics and analysis.


Parking sensors can be installed in a parking lot within a commercial building so that the property management company can schedule parking resources more reasonably. In addition, drivers can acquire free parking space information through sensor signals. A sound parking sensor system consists of collection, analysis, and scheduling of backend parking resources, as well as on-site parking information collection. This can resolve the peak time parking issue to some extent.


Challenges Brought by Intelligence

To make the above scenarios a reality, there are still many challenges we need to face.


First, traditional informatization projects are based on IT architecture and management mode while smart cities will apply a huge amount of Operation Technology (OT). This indicates that IT and OT departments will work closer together in the future, while CIOs might have to take a network architecture into consideration.


Second, we have to monitor an increasing number of sensors, and extract data from them for performance analysis. This demands a system to connect to sensors for management. Meanwhile, data from devices need to be imported to the system to ensure secure local data access.


In a smart city system, there will be a fine line between OT and IT sectors. However, the long history of isolation between the two fields will make integration yet another challenge. In an ideal situation, mobile device control systems should be built on an IT infrastructure as early as possible in order to realize the above application scenarios in the construction of smart cities.


New Ecosystem Initiated by the ECC

It is of critical importance to construct edge computing systems of mobile devices. Then, what is edge computing?


Edge computing is an open platform at the network edge near things or data source. It integrates networks, computing, storage, and application core capabilities, while providing edge intelligent service. It meets the requirements of industry digitalization in terms of agile connection, real-time service, data optimization, application intelligence, as well as security and privacy protection.


Its core objective is to enable higher intelligence at the network edge, with one of the typical applications being predictive maintenance, indicating intelligence and representing the future transformation of service and business models.


Edge computing not only processes local data and provides service for local decisions, but also implements a challenging cross-vendor and cross-application integration and interoperation.

As a major trend of the IoT's development, edge computing has gained attention and support from multiple roles in the industry chain. Huawei has played a role with the release of Elevators Connection Solution and Connected City Lighting Solution, focusing on infrastructure, energy-efficiency management, and intelligent O&M. Additionally, Intel from the chip and sensing sectors, ARM, and iSoftStone with rich practical experience in the smart city construction, Shenyang Institute of Automation of Chinese Academy of Sciences, and China Academy of Information and Communications Technology (CAICT) have expressed recognition of the edge computing's future.


On November 30th, the Edge Computing Consortium (ECC) initiated by the preceding six industry entities will be officially set up. Now, the ECC strives to reach consensus in IT and OT sectors and across industries, define an open architecture, set the edge computing application examples of typical industry scenarios, and carry out standard research. At the same time, the ECC has a goal of building an open industrial ecosystem to support smart project construction.


The ECC's establishment will undoubtedly offer new thoughts and breakthroughs to the construction of smart cities, serving as a driving force to the city's intelligence.


Abundant OT-IT Smart Applications

Currently, OT-IT-based smart city typical applications include smart elevators and smart lighting.

Edge computing can be apprehended in the following four dimensions when applied in the smart elevator scenario.


First, edge computing enables real-time elevator fault response. Generally, the Elevators Connection solution uses the data transmission link connecting sensors, remote apps, and the cloud. When the link is interrupted accidentally, the sensor's edge components must be independent of the fault and have computing capability. Edge computing provides the capability for specialized elevator solution providers.


Second, edge computing ensures local resilience of real-time data. In the Elevators Connection solution, it is important to transmit the data to the cloud. However, once the link with the cloud is interrupted, the edge gateway must be capable of storing data on the gateway in real-time, and upload the data once the network fault is removed.


Third, edge computing aggregates data. Elevator's sensors collect a huge amount of information every day. In that case, edge computing can aggregate and process some data in time, without the need to connect to the cloud and upload the data.


Fourth, edge computing implements service monitoring and attack defense. In the Elevators Connection solution, smart gateways can be deployed on the elevator's sensor edge components to monitor and protect the cloud, local devices, as well as provide data encryption.


In addition, lighting control is also a typical scenario where edge computing can be applied in. After the ECC is set up, edge computing will be widely recognized and approved by the industry, and attract more industrial alliances. We believe that a smarter and more personalized service experience will emerge along with more abundant smart city project applications.


We are looking forward to the changes and impact that the ECC will bring to innovative IoT applications, information industry value chains, supply chains, and the ecosystem.


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To promote in-depth industry coordination, accelerate innovation, and boost the application of edge computing, six industry entities have joined together to establish the ECC. The ECC is dedicated to advancing cooperation among industry resources from government, vendor, academic, research, and customer sectors, and pushing forward the sustainable development of the edge computing industry.
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