Virginia Beach CIO Peter Wallace oversees deployment of Internet of Things sensors around his city.

Sep 30 2019

Edge Computing Empowers Smart City Solutions in Disparate Locations

Cities lacking 5G power or seeking to save on bandwidth turn to edge computing solutions to put data in action.

As the place where the transatlantic communications cables connect to the mainland United States, Virginia Beach, Va., has always been more plugged in than most municipalities.

For the past three years, it’s been named the top digital city in its population category. So, it’s not surprising that Virginia Beach is also using edge computing to improve the lives of its citizens.

Along with its coastal neighbors, the city has deployed dozens of Internet of Things sensors to collect data on water levels. These installations will strengthen collection of information about weather events and planning for one of the city council’s top priorities: managing stormwater, flooding and sea level rise, says CIO Peter Wallace.

"The StormSense Project is one of dozens of smart initiatives in the works for this city of nearly half a million people. By 2025, Virginia Beach aims to enhance personal mobility through the use of smartphone-dispatched paratransit services, relieve traffic congestion on Cisco,” Correll says. “Having that in place allowed us to design a next-generation network, including the fiber ring around the city and high-speed, low-latency networks in multiple remote sites.”

And now that the city is connected via a fiber ring, it’s upgrading its edge devices, Correll adds.

Up to 35%

The percentage by which smart city solutions should cut emergency response time

Source: McKinsey Global Institute, “Smart Cities: Digital Solutions for a More Livable Future,” June 2018

“It’s a matter of staying ahead of the curve with bandwidth and latency so you can get the data from where it’s being collected to where it needs to go,” he says.

Making a city smarter has become key for communities that compete for residents and business, Wallace says.

“Today, everything is digital and on demand,” he says. “You’re not going to attract the right businesses to your city or draw the workers they need to enable their digital transformations unless you’re ready for it yourself.”

MORE FROM STATETECH: Find out what makes Montgomery, Ala., a smart city leader. 

Cities Use Data and Tech to Improve Services 

Using data intelligently is key, says Michael Rodriguez, CIO for Memphis, Tenn. The city of 650,000 people is working on a wide range of data-driven initiatives — among them, apps that make trash pickup more efficient by sharing information across city fleets, cameras mounted on buses to identify the location of potholes, and AI-based video systems that identify unusual activity and alert security personnel.

The city is also working with the University of Memphis to develop virtual reality walk-throughs of buildings that will enable first responders to become familiar with their interiors.

“We want to eventually create a heads-up display that will allow them to see through the smoke,” Rodriguez says. “We’re creating better situational awareness for our first responders, which has the potential to save lives.”

Peter Wallace, CIO, Virginia Beach, Va.
You’re not going to attract the right businesses to your city or draw the workers they need to enable their digital transformations unless you’re ready for it yourself."

Peter Wallace CIO, Virginia Beach, Va.

The city has partnered with Extreme Networks to create a software-defined network fabric that can support the expansion of its IoT devices and help it achieve its goals.

“The further you go into smart city technology, the more your infrastructure needs to grow,” he says. “We recently created a task force to start planning where we need to go with our infrastructure. Fortunately, we already have a lot of fiber in the ground, so we’re starting to turn that on as well.”

VIDEO: Find out how San Diego is undertaking digital transformation.

Smart Cities Require Strong, Low-Latency Networks

Before deploying smart city solutions on a large scale, cities need a strong foundation of connectivity, notes Keshav Gupta, IoT lead for San Jose, Calif.

“As we build an ecosystem for everything from IoT solutions with edge analytics capabilities to autonomous vehicles, we need a connectivity platform that enables these low-latency networks,” he says.

That’s one reason why the metro area in the heart of Silicon Valley aspires to have one of the most advanced 5G networks in the country.

At publication time, about 800 small cells were either permitted or installed on city-owned utility poles, says J. Guevara, broadband manager for the city. All told, San Jose has engaged in public-private partnerships for 4,200 small cell installations from AT&T, Verizon and others.

Some of the revenue from those leasing arrangements will be used to provide access to the nearly 100,000 residents who lack a reliable internet connection or the skills to use one, Guevara says.

“Our big, audacious goal is to not only have one of the largest small cell deployments in the country, but also to take that revenue and reinvest it in the community,” he says. “We want to close the digital divide and ensure all San Jose residents can take part in the 21st- century city we’re creating.”

Photography by Mark Edward Atkinson

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