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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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Parking Gets IoE Smart

Ooh! That gal’s pulling out…Wait, Wait! If I can just get over 2 lanes…Ahhh, quit yer honking! NO WAY!!! That hotshot in the red convertible just stole my spot! Now I have to go around the block again…!

You know you’ve been through this and you’ve probably also been behind someone trying to get across 2 lanes to capture a spot and causing mayhem. It’s estimated that 30% of all traffic congestion in urban areas is caused by drivers circling and struggling to find a parking spot. With cities growing at an estimated 10,000 people per hour, the situation isn’t going to get any better unless we make some changes.

Solving the parking madness

Cities–perhaps yours–can now implement a new Internet of Everything solution — Cisco Smart+Connected City Parking — to help alleviate many of their parking (and resulting traffic) headaches. The solution not only serves spot-seeking drivers, but can also support traffic enforcement officers to locate violations more easily, generate more revenue from citations, and reduce vandalism and other safety issues via video surveillance. Finally, the solution provides date to city operations centers to improve planning and development decisions. Read More »

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Experience the IoT Smart+Connected City Solutions at CLUS!

Smart and Connected City IoT CiscoLiveCities worldwide are competing with each other to gain prominence, draw investment, and attract new highly productive citizens.  How do they create and sustain an economic environment that will foster long-term prosperity, safety and security, environmental well-being and cultural vitality?  These are the key challenges city leaders face today.  

How can Smart+Connected City Infrastructure Management and Internet of Things solutions that Cisco provides help cities achieve these outcomes?

Chances are you’ve searched for a parking space recently or been stuck in traffic.  It’s estimated that 30% of traffic in city centers is caused by drivers searching for parking spaces.  Connected cities are addressing that.  Perhaps you’ve had spotty wifi connectivity on public transportation?  Connected cities are addressing that too. Have you wished your streets were safe and pothole-free? You guessed it.  Connected cities are already working on these issues, too. Read More »

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5 reasons Operations Technology Pros shouldn’t miss Cisco Live San Francisco (May 18-22)!

Reasons IoT Folks Should Attend CLUSIf you’re an Operations Technology (OT) pro, then the buzz about the Internet of Everything (IoE) should have you pretty excited–because it will likely impact your work. You won’t want to miss a chance to find out more about it at Cisco Live San Francisco May 18 – 22.

Cisco has been hard at work building solutions to address your OT challenges. Cisco Live San Francisco is the place to find out the details…

Here are five (5) reasons not to miss this pivotal event:

#1. A Targeted OT Learning Track: We’ve put together a special program to bring OT and IT issues together and make it crystal clear how the Internet of Everything (IoE)–the convergence of machines, sensors, processes, people and data–is going to make your job a lot more interesting. Read More »

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Intelligent Communities Global Blog Series, How to Be the Most Intelligent Community in the World?

One of the questions I was asked about the awards given by the Intelligent Community Forum is what does it take to become an intelligent community.  I’ll try to summarize what I’ve learned from participating in the ICF as a keynoter, juror and (before Cisco) a leader of a Top 7 community.

Among the few hundred communities that apply in this contest, it is clear the first step is make sure the community has sufficient broadband.  Almost all of the things that intelligent communities can do for and with their residents depend upon that connectivity in one way or the other.

Second, high-speed connectivity is not enough to stand out in this global competition.  The next question is what a community does with the technology.  Is it transforming:

  • The way that residents interact with their government?
  • How residents — from pre-kindergarteners to seniors — are educated?
  • How well the physical aspects of the community are managed?
  • How residents are kept healthy and safe?
  • The local economy and the income opportunities for residents?

… Just to name some of the evidence that ICF is looking for.

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Intelligent Communities Forum Co-Founder Louis Zacharilla preparing to announce the 2013 winner. Read More »

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