In parts one and two, we used Michael Crichton’s 1973 sci-fi movie, Westworld, to illustrate the concepts of edge and fog computing and how they may be the key to smarter cities. In our third and final blog, we’ll break with the old west theme a bit and look to the future of transportation. From autonomous vehicles and the Boring Company, getting from point A to B is changing forever. Like the heroes of the old west, traditional transportation is riding into the sunset, its purpose complete.

The truth is, we need edge and fog computing in transportation. Last year, over 1.3 million people around the world died in car accidents. Up to fifty million were permanently injured or disabled (Association for Safe International Road Travel). And our own National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration estimates traffic accidents cost the US economy $230 billion annually. Add to that the frustration and fuel spent in traffic jams, and it becomes clear that our current transportation methodology, primarily adopted in the 1950s, needs help.

How edge and fog computing improves safety

Edge and fog computing has great applicability to Vehicle to Infrastructure and Vehicle to Vehicle (V2x) communications, the future of road-based transportation. Using edge and fog processing modules, you can collect and integrate data from multiple sensor types. This use is already powering connected intersections and roadways around the world at a limited level, primarily being used to change signage and traffic signals. But could soon empower:

  • Responsive signage, signaling, and alerts to interact directly with vehicles and smartphones to reduce incidents that slow traffic
  • More accurate and responsive fleet management like targeted plowing and debris removal from roadways
  • Public safety vehicles that diagnose or guide emergency response.

Edge and fog computing will also enable augmented reality (AR), letting physicians guide EMS personnel as they perform procedures or guide vehicle-bound robotic instruments. AR, powered at the edge, could keep fire and rescue personnel safer, via sensor technologies that locate victims in burning structures. Or connect to a larger sensor network to see, in real-time, where toxic clouds are drifting around them.

How edge and fog computing increases resilience

Edge and fog computing can also reduce costs since it has a lot of natural efficiencies. It allows a more sustainable approach which can increase government’s resilience in times of disaster. And has less impacts on the environment, due to its small footprint and low energy usage.

Consider a large terror attack or natural disaster that rips through a single, centrally located facility. By dispersing your data processing over a larger area there is less likelihood of your government services going completely offline. Plus, it can even speed government’s response as automated decision-making at the edge kicks in. And it can increase resilience through something as simple as a waste container, by customizing routes to empty full or unsanitary locations first, saving time and fuel.

Resilience is also a question of time. A quick look at http://www.azurespeed.com/ reveals that, on a typical day, delays in data transmission from the cloud range from 44ms to over 100ms. When time is of the essence, like traffic signal controls which need 16ms, it could have a negative impact. So using the cloud or your agency’s own data center, may not be the best approach. This is where edge and fog really shines by placing computing, storage, and application processing street side, to speed response.

How edge and fog computing can help at home

On the home front, edge and fog computing can benefit you around the house or office as well. What if your personal vehicle (and those operated by public safety or other services) were tied directly into your home or office and its smart/safe building sensors? Your vehicle could make the decision to alter interior and exterior lighting, HVAC, and alarms, based on real-time environmental conditions, as you arrive. And in reverse, shut those functions down as you leave. Your car could even warn you of danger as you approach your property (gas leaks or criminals in the shadows) so that you can stay safe in your vehicle until help arrives.

As we’ve seen over this three part series, the vision of a sci-fi writer often becomes our reality. From Star Trek’s communicators that inspired our smartphones, to Westworld’s decision-making androids re-imagined as the IoT, human creativity will eventually have its day in the sun. And thanks to the passion of people like those at Cisco, we can rest assured that it’s not the setting sun of the old west, but the rising sun of a new hope.

Read Parts 1 through 3


To learn more about improving the quality of life for your citizens through edge and fog computing, check out:

Cisco Edge Fog Fabric at http://cs.co/EdgeandFogFabric

Cisco Kinetic Edge & Fog Processing Module (EFM) at http://cs.co/KineticDatasheet

Check out the Center for Digital Government’s recent survey on the IoT at http://cs.co/IoTStateandLocalReport


Marcus Moffett

Vice President of Solutions Engineering & Architectures