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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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Improving Military Operations with Smart and Connected Bases

As more people, process, devices and data become linked together through the Internet of Everything (IoE), the benefits from those connections become more widespread. While IoE is often discussed in terms of the future, it is already helping employees more effectively perform their jobs, turning cities into energy- and cost-saving urban centers and redefining how state and federal government agencies serve their constituents.

Both personally and professionally, connecting the unconnected is changing daily life. This is no different in the defense and intelligence community, where IoE technologies are improving military operations at home and around the world. In fact, one of the best examples of IoE’s influence can be seen through the creation of smart and connected bases.

Bases are the hub of everyday life for millions of military servicemen and women around the world. They function like small cities, with everything from residences, hospitals, office buildings, police stations and more. Bases are vital to the everyday operations of our military and require significant investment to maintain their infrastructure and functionality. IoE connected technologies are helping daily processes and life on a base run more efficiently. Smart and connected bases save money, reduce wasted time and free up personnel to perform more mission-critical tasks.

For example, RFID sensor systems can support security at base entrances. These sensors can read an RFID tag on approaching cars to identify active duty service members. The guard on duty will receive an automatic signal notifying him or her that those vehicles are approved for automated entry, allowing service members to be admitted onto the base at an automatic gate kiosk. This reduces required manpower at the gate, decreases wait times during rush hour and allows security forces to focus on unidentified and unregistered vehicles that may pose a threat or require entry assistance.

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On-Demand Video Can Transform the Way our Police Departments Train

While we most often think of the Internet of Everything (IoE) as transforming public safety forces out in the field, change can actually begin before an officer is even leaves the station. Classroom training for officers is crucial, enabling them to stay safe and perform at the highest level out in the field. Current events highlight just how important good training is, ensuring officers know how to act in all situations and act as good example of public safety in their communities. The problem is that police officers work on shift schedules, which makes it extremely difficult to get everyone in the same room at the same time for training.

How do police departments guarantee their officers are trained at the highest level despite this scheduling issue? Video training. Police departments and training officers can use video to produce high-quality educational training tools that can be viewed online at an officer’s convenience. On-demand video recording tools like Cisco’s WebEx are straightforward and easy to use, and allow educational materials to be accessed anywhere via the cloud. These on-demand video presentations help make sure everyone is receiving the same level of training, improving the way public safety agencies operate before anyone even steps foot in the field.

Here are four more benefits that stem from on-demand videos for classroom training:

1. Reduce the need for trainers to be physically present at all classroom trainings

It’s still extremely important for police departments to conduct live training exercises. But by replacing classroom sessions with video training, training officers’ time is freed up to focus more on live training exercises. This makes certain officers are still receiving the training they need while helping departments operate more efficiently.

2. Eliminate the burden of shift scheduling to accommodate training

Juggling day and night shifts with training schedules is a hassle. Agency leaders have to analyze staffing, pull people off regular shifts, fill those spots with other agents and often have to pay overtime to do so. It also involves paying trainers to be onsite for multiple days. Video training allows officers to stay on their regularly-scheduled shifts, preventing the confusion and difficulty of shifting schedules and allowing officers to access training videos at a time that is convenient for them.

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The Evolution of Networking Software

As a long time networking veteran, I’ve watched our industry change and respond to a wide variety of disruptive changes. I remember PictureTel ISDN videoconferenchqdefaultes on the IBM PC. Then came  IP video conferencing in the early ’90s.  Things picked up 1991, when Microsoft launched Windows Media Player 1.0.

Though Windows Media Player and Microsoft Multimedia Extensions arrived without much fanfare, they ushered in the ability to record and playback audio, and display high-performance graphics on the desktop PC — a feature, prior to that time, reserved for high-end graphics workstations such as the Commodore AMIGA.

But these capabilities were the foundation that led to video streaming in 1995. And, as we know, the future of the Internet, and the network, would never be the same.  (Obligatory Rick-roll omitted)

Today, I watch younger generations (such as my own children) take for granted the networks that are all around them. Social media as we know it was (and is) clearly fueled by our endless appetite to create and share content with the whole world.  Unlike the Internet of the 1990’s, today, you can do it all from the palm of your hand. Read More »

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