Smart Cities Drive Progress with Analytics at the Edge

Drawing on the combination of Edge computing, the Internet of Things, computer vision and data analytics, smart cities are cultivating safer, healthier and more livable urban environments.

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Dell Technologies

In recent years, I’ve written often about smart cities and the benefits they are gaining from Edge and IoT solutions. These have all been great stories to tell. They spanned the United States, from a look at a proposed e-parking solution for San Francisco to an IoT lab in New Bedford, Massachusetts that is focused on helping smart communities strengthen their economies and become physically healthier.

Today, I’m once again diving into the use of Edge computing solutions in digital cities, because this is a story that keeps getting bigger and better. In this case, I will take a broader look at the innovative ways in which smart cities are putting solutions to work to cultivate safer, healthier and more livable urban environments.

Let’s begin with the big picture. For digital cities, there are compelling reasons for moving data analytics to the Edge, when the data is generated and captured, rather than sending everything to analytics engines in corporate and cloud data centers. In many cases, applications require that data analysis takes place in near real time, as the data is generated. There simply isn’t time to send data to a distant data center for analysis. In other cases, it doesn’t make sense to pay the costs of transmitting data over a network and storing it in the cloud when it might be needed for immediate purposes.

Considerations like these build the case for analyzing many types of data at the Edge, where the sensors, cameras or other devices are located and where intelligent systems can take immediate actions based on the results of data analytics. And there’s good news on this front. Digital cities around the world are catching the Edge and IoT wave. One study found that 83 percent of smart cities and government agencies are actively using or exploring IoT.[1]

Some common use cases

The use cases for Edge and IoT solutions in digital cities span the range of municipal operations, from public safety and security to smart utility metering and parking. I’d like to examine a few of these use cases, to show how municipal operations can be transformed with Edge computing.

Public safety and police monitoring

With it comes to protecting the public and fighting crime in today’s cities, Edge solutions are now “must-haves.” As a just-released eBook from Dell Technologies and Intel notes, smart cities bring together solutions that improve emergency preparedness and provide first responders and law enforcement with greater situational awareness. Many of these solutions incorporate computer vision capabilities to help public safety officials keep an eye on the city.

On the crime-fighting front, Edge solutions can aid police in solving crimes after they happen, as well as in deterring potential crimes. For example, with computer vision and sound sensors on the street, police can pinpoint specific information, such as the point of origin of gunshots, and rapidly secure an area.

Traffic and public transportation monitoring

With Edge solutions, cities can help their residents and public safety personnel move about more easily. For example, data from embedded sensors, video cameras, crowd-sourced traffic information and other sources can help city operators better understand traffic and pedestrian patterns and make adjustments in real time, such as routing emergency response vehicles around congested areas.

Here’s another example: In times of emergencies on the streets, city operators can activate street lights to help guide emergency workers to specific locations. Lights can also be flashed in sequence, or the colors can be changed, to indicate emergency evacuation routes during natural disasters, such as floods and tornados.

At a broader level, Edge solutions can improve drive time for urban commuters. An Intel-sponsored study by Juniper Research found that gridlock causes drivers to lose up to 70 hours per year.

The study determined that an integrated IoT-enabled infrastructure of intelligent traffic systems, safer roads, directed parking, and frictionless toll and parking payments could allow drivers to avoid spending 60 unproductive hours a year in their cars.[2]

Utilities for smart metering and billing

Today’s cities are constrained by the limited availability of natural resources. Smart cities have adopted creative approaches to addressing this problem, including smart utility meters that provide consumers and businesses with real-time information on energy usage. These solutions give users far greater control over their power usage and bills.

This is the case in cities like Fort Collins, Colorado, where homes, businesses and schools are equipped with smart meters. These meters provide two-way communication between the meter and the local utility, allowing accurate and timely meter readings and enabling the ability to turn a utility service on and off remotely.[3]

Smart parking and smart waste management

In the digital city, smart parking can lead drivers right to open spots, reducing congestion from circling vehicles. Additionally, sensors or cameras can monitor vehicles for parking violations without sending personnel out on the street. Cities that adopt smart parking can see an increase in parking revenues and in retail tax revenues, since shoppers spend less time circling and more time buying.

Edge solutions can also lead to smarter waste management. In one of these use cases, sensors on trash cans and recycling bins keep tabs on the volume in the container, so the responsible parties can empty them before they overflow and cause litter and sanitation problems.

Getting started

As examples like these show, smart cities can leverage Edge solutions that improve emergency preparedness, provide public safety personnel with greater situational awareness, facilitate the flow of traffic, encourage conservation and provide many other benefits that enhance the lives of city residents.

While the list of use cases for Edge solutions in the digital city could go on and on, it’s important to note that even the smartest cities wouldn’t take on all of this at once. Most municipalities start by trying to solve a specific issue, and then grow from there. While every city is unique, at Dell Technologies we have seen cities start with projects such as traffic management, video surveillance, smart lighting, flood safety, smart utilities and open data. The first project often serves as the foundation for future smart city projects.

If your municipality is looking to make greater use of Edge and IoT solutions, Dell Technologies would like to partner with you to find your solution. Across the globe, we leverage our strategically aligned businesses, global partner ecosystem, expert services and flexible financial offerings to provide end-to-end solutions that power digital transformation — from the Edge to the core to the cloud.

Today, we’re ready to do the same for you.

To learn more

For a deeper dive into the topics explored here, read the Dell Technologies white paper “Transforming Cities for the Future.” And for a broader look at secure, scalable Edge and IoT solutions, visit the Dell Technologies Edge and IoT site.

Kirsten Billhardt is the Marketing Director of Edge and IoT at Dell Technologies.

[1] Forrester Research, “IoT Deployment Is Driving Analytics To The Edge,”  January 2019.

[2] Intel, “Smart Cities Technologies Give Back 125 Hours to Citizens Every Year,” March 12, 2018.

[3] City of Fort Collins Utilities, “Advanced (Smart) Meters,” accessed January 23, 2020.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.