The Internet of Things in smart city development

The year 2008 was a milestone. For the first time in the history of the world, 50 percent of the global population lived in cities

BS Teh, Senior Vice President, Global Sales, Seagate Technology

The year 2008 was a milestone. For the first time in the history of the world, 50 percent of the global population lived in cities. And this is just the beginning. According to the Population Reference Bureau (PRB), 70 percent of the world's population will live in cities by 2050, with most of that growth occurring in less developed countries.

Increasingly, governments around the world are quickly catching up to this trend of global urbanization. In India and in various parts of Asia, the adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT) to serve as the foundation in smart city development has already begun. With the interconnectedness and interdependencies of cities and systems, this advancement will be crucial in developing services integral to enhancing teaching, healthcare, manufacturing, security and virtually every other aspect of our lives.

A robust cloud architecture and “hot data”

Smart cities rely on the integrated use of Big Data, IoT and other technologies as the basis for creating actionable insights for better decision-making. From smart meters to smart homes, the value that IoT brings lies in the quality of the information it captures and the utility of the service that it offers. Context and intelligence begins and ends with the quality, integrity and availability of data through appliances in the environment around us.

While there are many aspects of data that need to be managed, such as its confidentiality and security, understanding the key challenges for high-performance scalable data management is vital to building the backbone of a smart city. A city lives and thrives on our ability to access, interact with and process data when required, no matter the time of the day – right now, or far into the future.

At the heart of the matter is this: Without a robust cloud architecture able to harness the next regime of performance, measured in 100+ petaflops, governments will not be able to achieve advancements on the horizon-multi-scalar applications, machine learning, and more-all crucial to smart city development.

Inextricably, the data layer-the intelligence layer of smart cities-is a database of information that has to be stored and organized systematically, so that all departments of a city can interface with it reliably, each time and every time. It's a challenge of massive data growth and getting data to the right tier.

Adapting to massive IoT data generation

Instead of focusing on a specific point technology, the focus should be on developing data storage technologies that adhere to tiered storage hierarchy combined with processor tiering to address and resolve input and output (I/O) related problems in the most efficient ways possible.

Networked surveillance offers a good illustration of why this form of robust cloud architecture matters. In smart nation development, the IoT relies to a great degree not just on various types of sensors; networked surveillance cameras are crucial to the collection and processing of visual information.

The notion of connected – or smart - living is highly dependent on leveraging the Internet-of-Things (IoT); how it taps into cloud-based applications and analytics platforms and manages sensors and devices in a secure manner. This process is often positioned as an end-to-end solution covering utility management, technology-enabled learning, elder care, tele-health and much more with numerous benefits.

In India mobile-enabled smart meters are being used to prevent the theft of electricity. The meters leverage analytics tools to monitor for unusual activities such as meter bypassing, or the tapping of live wires by giving utility providers real-time visibility. Built-in connectivity within the meters also circumvents the need for meter reading staff which in turn eliminates issues such as bribery.

Technology enhanced learning has saved South Korean parents between USD 8,000 (~INR532,000/-) and USD 12,000 (~INR800,000/-) per child on private tuition. With greater mobile device penetration amongst Koreans aged 12 to 29, smart learning platforms have been rolled out across the country to promote mobile learning. The result is an astronomical 80% cost reduction in tuition costs for students and parents.

Countries like Singapore which are faced with a rapidly ageing population leverage the smart living platform to help with care for the elderly. Caregivers can check to see if an elderly person has fallen or whether it is a false alarm through a wearable device. The solution also relies on communication with cameras in home to verify falls and offers the potential for collecting data that might be insightful to doctors, and even for better home and building design in the future.

Another example of why storage tiering combined with processor tiering is vital for a robust cloud architecture lies in the area of self-driving vehicles. Companies like Uber, Google and Tesla have been running tests on the feasibility of public rollout of the service since 2015.

Today, human backup drivers serve as co-pilots in these autonomous vehicles should things go wrong. These self-driving cars rely heavily on audio-visual systems to collect information from ever-changing road conditions in real-time and feed that data to the infrastructure, and ultimately, make their own decisions about driving passengers to their destinations.

Between what the system observes and the time it takes to make a decision to halt, turn left or right, any number of things can go wrong. Sun spots could disrupt the network, for instance. With the right processing and storage tier, data can be pre-process before the point of data consolidation, so that the system could send all of the captured data at quarter second intervals, for example. Never mind what this can do for safer roads-imagine what it can do for statistical modelling, machine learning or predictive analytics.

The constant technological developments and improvements that the IoT and smart cities offer are set to change the way we live, play, and work in society. Today, seven of the 10 largest cities in the world are in Asia with most of them counting on IoT and smart city technologies to deal with urban challenges that were never experienced by previous generations. Backed by a proper strategy and a robust cloud architecture at its center, governments in Asia are poised to dictate and become the leading examples of smart city success for the rest of the world.

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