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Flexential 2021 Predictions: Smart Cities are at the Edge

vmblog 2021 prediction series 

Industry executives and experts share their predictions for 2021.  Read them in this 13th annual series exclusive.

Smart Cities are at the Edge

By Jason Carolan, Chief Innovation Officer, Flexential

I live in Colorado, a state where nearly every major city has at least five smart city initiatives either being executed or on the radar to be executed in 2021. It's no surprise that planners are turning to smart city initiatives as their cities deal with constant growth, congestion, safety issues, cost containment, and efficiency. While we've already seen an acceleration in edge computing and technology adoption this year, the budgets for smart city initiatives have taken a back seat due to COVID-19. Given the rapid growth of cities and the need for efficient and technology-driven solutions, many governments are partnering with private-sector technology companies to continue smart city efforts.

Many experts see 5G as a leading way to efficiently and quickly implement smart city initiatives. With Ericsson finding that 5G rollout speeds in 2020 were faster than expected, I tend to agree with this. I believe the edge also plays a pivotal role in creating and maintaining smart cities. Networks that utilize edge computing are more reliable, faster, and place less demand on network connectivity.

To reap the benefits of an IoT network, edge computing is a necessary investment for any smart city initiative. It regulates processing and network demands while also saving city planners money - a win/win!

Below are three trends I believe will accelerate in 2021 due to 5G at the edge.

1.  Safety 

A strange but true fact: the average American is caught on surveillance cameras an estimated 75 times a day. As you walk through any major United States city, cameras are perched all over the place, taking videos and photos. 5G towers, also called micro data centers, are perched around cities to enable the networks within the city.

While 5G towers are the norm, sensors powered by IoT and the edge have the ability to act independently while also offering privacy and security benefits. Each sensor can survive a network outage or inconsistent coverage. This should be especially enticing to planners as city-wide 5G communications are still so new.

In 2021, I think we'll see many city planners transition to IoT-powered sensors as 5G continues rollouts.

2.  Updated City Maps 

In 2021, I think city planners will utilize IoT and 5G at the edge to update city maps on a minute-by-minute basis. This will not only put a focus on block-by-block directions instead of entire neighborhoods but share an up to date look at what's going on in any part of a city. Imagine the decisions that can be improved by that! This helps keep traffic flowing especially during constant construction and change. It also allows drivers, cyclists, and others to avoid areas that may be dangerous or highly congested, in real-time.

Parking maps can use IoT data to show what lots are open and closed and how many spots are in each. This avoids the endless driving around looking for a spot that wastes energy and adds to congestion in the street. Public transit maps can be updated to show delays on buses or subways in real-time, allowing for more efficient transportation. For city planners, this information is invaluable and replaces guesswork with data-based decision making that optimizes the city for the future.

Rapid advances in edge computing and IoT will allow mapping solutions to be more reliable and aid in the decision making process in any smart city initiative. I believe this will only continue in 2021.

3.  Connected public transportation 

Reducing people's reliance on private cars in favor of public transportation is a primary goal of smart transportation. Many cities have begun smart transportation initiatives to optimize public transportation routes, reduce infrastructure costs, and alleviate congestion due to traffic.

Today, more than 47 cities around the world are piloting self-driving cars. Others are rolling out autonomous public transportation. In Singapore, a city at the forefront of smart city technology, commuters book self-driving shuttles on their smartphone, video sensors show demand changes dynamically, and use e-payment systems to calculate fares - all contactless. Programs like this make use of the connected vehicles to gather valuable data to route the shuttles to consumer hotspots and learn how drivers operate their cars and where they travel - data smart city planners can use to better plan their roads.

I believe this will continue into 2021. With smarter public transportation maps will come smarter ways to get where you're going.

We can all look forward to seeing safer, more connected smart cities in 2021 as 5G continues its rollout, at the intersection of IoT and the edge.


About the Author

Jason Carolan 

Jason leads a team focused on defining, assessing and providing direction on the changing technology landscape facing Flexential’s business and its customers. He and his team are responsible for developing insights on what’s next on the horizon to further position the company as a hybrid IT and data center leader. He joined the company in 2011 and has held various roles in product, operations and technical management.

Jason has more than 25 years of experience in leadership positions in product architecture, software engineering, technical sales and support across a variety of companies, including Sun Microsystems, where Jason was honored as a Distinguished Engineer, VMware and the Mayo Clinic.

Jason was the lead author of “Building N1 Grid Solutions,” one of the first books highlighting the combined use of virtualization and automation. He also has several patents in networking, data center resource management, virtualization and security.

He has a bachelor’s degree from Luther College and a master’s degree from Western Governor’s University.

Published Wednesday, January 06, 2021 7:38 AM by David Marshall
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