We need edge computing to power the smart cities of tomorrow

Edge computing will be a backbone technology for tomorrow's smart cities.
4 June 2020

Smart cities will be home to six billion by 2025. Source: Unsplash

  • The edge computing market is poised to hit US$9 billion by 2024, based on a report by MarketsandMarkets.
  • Edge computing is emerging as a solution to smart city challenges

Smart cities are on the rise with some cities such as Barcelona, Stockholm, and Singapore famed for adopting these futuristic concepts. In addition to new projects such as Toyota’s Woven City, which serves as a testbed to explore and develop next-gen urban mobility solutions.

Even though each smart city is unique and ferries a string of innovative approaches, they all share a common theme — the gathering, analyzing, and storing streams of data. 

With six billion people predicted to live in smart cities by 2045, significant computing capacity is vital. 

To this point, cloud-based technologies have been the solutions and basis of smart city infrastructure. As smart cities require data storage and analytic systems, cloud-inspired software has been the go-to tech, but there are discussions on edge computing as a better choice. 

The edge in smart cities

While cloud computing promises scalability and security for data systems, edge computing’s prime feature comprises closer proximity between data storage and processing.

This wouldn’t be a matter of cloud vs edge computing, rather how edge computing may score a few extra points in enhancing the data management and processing of smart cities. 

Edge computing differs from more traditional and centralized systems since it processes and analyzes mass data instantaneously on the collection devices themselves rather than transporting troves of data to centralized systems. 

In simple terms, all computing processes are happening on the device itself. This function is set to tackle some challenges smart cities are set to face.

For instance, smart cities feed on a mass stream of data to operate, and as connected devices and services grow, there is a growing risk of network congestion, which possibly affects performance. Therefore, the decentralized system of computing and data processing can help delegate system tasks and streamline operations.

Edge computing will be significant for data-laden projects such as traffic management and the development of autonomous vehicles. The large processing of data with minimal disruption is key to consolidate next-gen urban mobility solutions, and edge computing is a natural solution.

Moreover, smart cities can utilize edge computing to generate real-time insights into traffic patterns through devices such as cameras, streetlights, and traffic lights to create intelligent rerouting services.

The arrival of edge computing does not spell the end for cloud-based solutions in smart city projects.

Instead, urban planners and technologists may find the combined use of both solutions for varying contexts to be ideal. Both technologies, if deployed appropriately, will address smart city challenges more ‘intelligently’ and pave the way for more innovative projects to take place.