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Amplify the Internet of Things in Smart and Connected Cities with Fog

When it comes to the Internet of Things (IoT), cities have enormous potential. A city needs to manage many different processes and priorities ranging from trash collection to traffic management, for hundreds of thousands to millions of people distributed over a large area. Many of these processes can be enhanced through the use of IoT.

During the past several years we have seen more and more technology solutions being deployed to help cities optimize these processes and provide additional value to its citizens. Smart parking is perhaps one of the best known and perhaps the most visible for city inhabitants.

Typically an IoT solution stack for these processes is build on several layers: (1) sensors to measure, (2) for each type of sensor there is typically a compute infrastructure at the edge of the network near the sensors, to perform simple aggregation, protocol/access technology conversion and local processing/analytics, (3) connectivity (wireless, backbone) to transfer data to the cloud, (4) cloud for deeper analytics, business processes and long term data access.

No two cities however are the same and each city has its own unique challenges. Backbone network infrastructures are managed in different ways, and local views on privacy and security can differ substantially. Light poles form a natural infrastructure to connect sensors with the edge of the network as it provides power and physical security. However cities upgrade their physical infrastructures with different time tables, and upgrades take time (and money), which leads to different alternative IoT infrastructure deployments at the network edge. Each city is organized differently which means budgets are managed differently. The latter can be especially challenging if new services touch multiple departments.

But cities also face common IoT challenges. Different types of sensors typically come with their own edge hardware and service management software. If a city deploys multiple sensor platforms this leads to so-called box proliferation and service management siloes (what some people call the vertical approach to IoT). This is not only undesirable from an aesthetics point of view, but makes it harder (more costly) to manage the whole city IoT infrastructure.

Challenges edge services

Challenges edge services

More sensors also means an increased security risk. Certain sensors have little processing power (to save money and battery life) which can make them targets for security attacks. While network security can filter out a lot of attacks there is still an increased risk of infecting the whole city infrastructure, specifically on an application level through data obfuscation. Sensor platforms do offer a certain level of security, but it is not always the primary focus within the solution and dealing with multiple platforms leads to multiple different security solutions.

The above challenges make it harder to scale up IoT in cities. Therefore a paradigm shift is needed towards a hyper distributed architecture of smart nodes: The heterogeneous edge hardware and software platforms should be replaced by a platform on which the virtualized services of the providers can be deployed. This so-called fog platform has hardened security as well as common libraries, features and hardware that can be used by the service providers to deploy their virtualized edge services. The fog platform also provides uniform edge service life-cycle management, policy based data and service access, as well as multi tenancy, reducing the cost for a city to manage such an infrastructure.

Fog: a platform to reduce cost, increase security and amplify IoT

Fog: a platform to reduce cost, increase security and amplify IoT

The fog platform is a win-win for the city and its edge service providers. Service  providers can focus on their core competence of sensors, data aggregation/processing and business logic while leveraging standard security and processing features from the fog platform as well as the possibility to easier share and combine data (sometimes referred to as the horizontal approach to IoT) between different services.

For the city, the fog platform will make it easier to manage and deploy new edge services, without adding new boxes on the network edge for each new service, thereby reducing the capital and operational cost for managing the city IoT infrastructure.

The value of the fog platform for a city is not only the direct operational and capital cost savings as well as hardened security,  but equally important is the shorter deployment cycle of new edge services, and easier data sharing between the traditional service siloes. With such an approach the city can become a large distributed test-bed to incubate new innovative ideas on data fusion and processing and develop new services that contribute to the overall quality of life for its citizens.

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Fog Analytics: Turning Data into Real-Time Insight and Action

The world is awash in data, and 90 percent of it was created in the last two years.1 In fact, every day we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data2 and that number is growing exponentially. The explosive growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) promises to add to this data glut, with 40 percent of all data coming from sensors by 2020.3 Today, a jet engine may generate 1 terabyte of data in a single flight,4 and a major global retailer collects 2.5 petabytes of customer day each hour.5 Yet 99.5 percent of all this data is never used or analyzed.6

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Developing a new angle on an established relationship

Over the past few years, Cisco and Intel’s collaboration has extended into the realm of Internet of Things, allowing the strength of each organization to bring the industry as a whole, forward. In the Internet of Things, devices need applications, analytics, network connectivity, security, storage, and computing power.  The partnership of Cisco and Intel offers comprehensive solutions working alongside several ecosystem partners.

Recently, during Cisco Live in San Diego, CA, we jointly showcased innovative IoT solutions and highlighted our collaboration on NFV:

  • A smart city demonstration, featuring Legos and Fog Computing, was on display in the Intel booth showing how easy it is for cities to implement IoT solutionsLego Smart City
  • Carlos Morales presented a captivating “Pre-Zen-tation” on Fog Computing, elaborating on how companies can extend the cloud to the edge
  • A highlight during the show was partaking in a #CiscoChat with Brad Haczynski, Intel’s Global Account Director, Sales and Marketing Group, encompassed around making IoT and IoE tangible with the power of collaboration. brad and jaishree

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Fog Can Help Shape the Future of IoT

Whenever I hear about a serious train accident, mugging or shootout on the streets of a city, my thoughts often turn to Fog Computing.  The same is true when I too am stuck idling in a traffic jam or at home and there’s a power outage during a winter storm or a summer heat wave.

fog

Why do I think about Fog Computing?  Well, my job at Cisco is to not only identify the latest disruptive Internet of Things (IoT) technologies, but also to validate where they might be applied to improve overall quality of life..  Whether it’s drones, artificial intelligence or robotics, my passion is to accelerate the art of the possible.

 

Lego Smart City shows what is possible

Consider Fog Computing.  Fog extends cloud computing to the edge of the network.  This provides a virtualized platform for compute, storage and network services between devices and data storage centers in the cloud.  Because of its low latency, location awareness, real-time interactions and wide geo distribution, Fog Computing can sense and respond to situations in the real physical world almost instantly.

The speed and power of Fog to connect people, data, processes and things opens up a new world of practical solutions.  For example, Fog Computing, when combined with sensors and wireless networks, can immediately alert the train operator as soon as there is trouble on the tracks, such as a slow-walking pedestrian or a stalled vehicle.   With Fog, energy loads can be automatically re-balanced or re-routed to alternative sources during spikes in demand or low availability.

In a Smart+Connected Community, acoustic sensors deployed around streets that are connected to Fog Computing infrastructure can identify gunshots, perpetrators, victims, accidents, or even cries for help with high accuracy while also alerting appropriate authorities.

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Fog Computing: Bringing Cloud Capabilities Down to Earth

When we think of “cloud” we think of a vast collection of compute, network, and storage capabilities that resides somewhere high above us—a massive repository of functionality that can be accessed from anywhere and any device with enough bandwidth to handle the data flow.

With practically unlimited power and scalability, cloud technology has been a key enabler of the Internet. But the Internet of Things (IoT) demands something more. IoT is a broad collection of sensors, cameras, smartphones, computers, and machines—all connected to and communicating with applications, websites, social media, and other devices. To maximize value, much of the data generated by these “things” must be processed and analyzed in real time. For example, sensors and cameras in and around a large retail store may continuously collect data about customer volume and traffic flow. The store can derive some value from all this data by sending it back to the cloud to analyze long-term trends. But the value is multiplied if the system can process the data locally, in real time, and then act on it immediately by sending more cashiers to the check-out line just before a surge in customer traffic.

This sort of real-time, high-bandwidth application requires a new distributed cloud model that brings cloud networking, compute, and storage capabilities down to earth—to the very edge of the network. My friend Flavio Bonomi has worked tirelessly with both academia and other industry partners to advance the concept of fog, inspired by the way the San Francisco fog extends the cloud to the ground. Fog computing creates a platform—what we call a fog node—that provides a layer of compute, storage, and networking services between end devices “on the ground” and cloud computing data centers. Fog is not a separate architecture; it merely extends the existing cloud architecture to the edge of the network—as close to the source of the data as possible—to enable real-time data processing and analytics. Read More »

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