By 2050, it is estimated that 70% of city dwellers will live in smart cities. Already many cities qualify as at least having begun this process by introducing one or more integrative options such as smart traffic lights, buildings, transport or waste collection to their city’s infrastructure.
The most important thing when handing over the keys of the city to automated and digitized processes is that there not be a breakdown. Most smart traffic lights and buildings operate via the cloud, meaning if the cloud connection and any backups fail all ‘smart’ things in the city could stop working. This could have devastating effects in transportation, waste management, and more.
City planners can combat the problems of cloud-hosted smart city technology with edge computing and mobile tablet tech. Instead of depending on cloud hosting via a fallible network connection – which even with multiple “failsafes” can still be made vulnerable – intelligence can be shifted to ‘the edge’: a set of smaller clouds that collaborate locally and can be accessed with mobile devices as needed.
Such a setup helps minimize the risk of an entire smart grid going down, and allow workers access anywhere, at any time, to insular systems that have the intelligence embedded in the technology instead of separated from it by virtual space and time.
If smart city applications have a user interface and a ‘layer of logic’ on a tablet, the device can be used to communicate with microservices whether they are stored in the cloud, on the edge, or in a combination of both places. Edge computing and the cloud backing each other up provides a layer of protection that brings intelligence closer in an emergency instead of taking it further away.
An example of smart technology that uses edge computing would be city vehicles that are being tracked by a fleet management application. Smart tires can send data to the management app, delivering data on tread wear, air pressure, vehicle speed and handling, and more. Instead of sending data directly to the fleet management application, data is initially gathered through the edge – a small computer on board each vehicle, that wirelessly obtains data from the tire sensors and delivers it.
If the fleet application goes down, or the truck drives through a tunnel or a dead zone and the connection is interrupted, the on-board computer or telematics box can still continue gathering and saving data, and be remotely accessed or tapped into later by a worker with a rugged tablet.
API testing, human-centric testing, and code-centric testing can be combined with network simulation to enable multiple scenarios for troubleshooting and analysis purposes. IoT enabled test automation and a shift from the cloud to edge computing powered by mobile devices could be the future of smart cities in 2020 and beyond.