Smart cities are founded using technology and data analysis to enhance city services and improve the quality of life for residents and businesses.
With the Federal Governments $20 million investment in 5G-based enterprise innovation projects, Australia is on the verge of a smart city revolution.
As the scope and complexity of city services grow, local governments are adopting edge solutions to keep pace with the large volumes of data being produced. As more smart systems are implemented, we head towards a future where data is collected at every device touchpoint. The popularity of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and IoT technologies will ensure that this level of data growth will only increase.
Enhancing Government services with 5G at the edge
There is potential for enhancement across all services government provides, and the benefits of 5G become more apparent in these scenarios.
Smart cities require data to be collected from devices and sensors, helping identify trends and insight into what services need improvement. Traditionally, this information is sent to data centres with infrastructure not designed to handle the volumes of data being generated. However, with the decentralised nature of edge computing, the risk of network congestion and degraded performance is reduced, as it lends itself to more distributed application deployments.
One of the prime drivers in the move to smarter cities has been the ongoing developments in 5G; which offers the high-speed, ultra low-latency networking needed to create applications and services with near real-time service insights.
Operational efficiencies with near real-time insights
Smart service operations rely on near real-time data to function, which combine with the network edge to bring advanced analytics to more distributed locations. An example of this is security cameras for traffic management which leverage machine learning with live video streams. Power and utilities are also areas where large amounts of data are processed from sensors and devices; currently back-hauling usage patterns to data centres, which can benefit from edge locations for collection and processing.
Applications and infrastructure have typically been complex to manage operationally, despite well-understood centralised data centre deployments. Edge computing is a catalyst for a more DevOps approach for operations, given its decentralised and distributed nature for applications. Over time this will provide operational and efficiency benefits to government for in-house processes for application delivery and data processing.
While faster processing is a benefit, it can also be critical in some scenarios for government services. Security, law enforcement, healthcare, and emergency services depend on immediate information and insights in their decision making; making edge solutions invaluable where situations become a matter of life-or-death.
Addressing security of applications citywide
The inherent application and infrastructure sprawl of edge networks can lead to them being more vulnerable to new threats, making them prime targets for malicious actors. This is because of the additional risk for the computing being outside of traditional secured environments and the increasing number of integrations with external services over public infrastructure.
Security for smart cities can become difficult quickly. The interconnected-ness of services, ubiquity of locations and multitude of devices all can contribute to the complexity if not managed in a deployment’s infancy. Integrating security earlier into development cycles with a more DevSecOps type approach will be imperative. The ability to mitigate risk in software and designs earlier also reduces the costs compared to doing it post-launch.
With reports showing tremendous projected growth in all Australian cities and as 5G networks expand, now is the time for governments to undertake edge-based solutions. Governments need to stimulate innovation and leverage real-time data to support increasingly new population demands, and in turn, develop desirable cities and towns for decades to come.
Australia is ready for its smarter cities, and the predictive analysis and real-time insights mined from 5G and edge computing will be necessary towards this transformation.