Aug 24 2023

How Multi-Access Edge Computing Will Impact the Future of Smart Cities

This networking approach can serve citizens artificial intelligence, vehicle-to-everything and other advanced applications.

Cities around the world are increasingly investing in smart city technology to deliver economic, social and environmental benefits for their constituents. As the adoption of this technology grows, so too must the underlying technology infrastructure and applications. Today’s smart city investments must be future proofed to support ongoing innovation and to continue to deliver ROI on scarce public IT resources over time.

As these requirements come into sharper focus, more government IT leaders are turning to multi-access edge computing. Also known as MEC, this solution is an edge computing approach for running artificial intelligence (AI) workloads, content delivery networks, cloud gaming, augmented reality and virtual reality, vehicle-to-everything, and other advanced applications that require higher bandwidth connectivity and lower latency.

MEC typically is hosted in the same physical edge hardware as the radio access network of the 5G private and public network, hence applications running on MEC have real-time access to RAN information and location services. Smart city innovators are quickly discovering the unmatched power of MEC to drive complex new use cases for highly resilient and sustainable smart city initiatives.

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Enhancing the Power and Speed of Edge Computing

Global smart city technology investments are on track to hit roughly $6 trillion by 2030 as state and local government leaders take on public safety, traffic congestion and environmental issues while trying to reduce costs and promote local economic competitiveness. The key to satisfying these requirements lies in combining multiple advanced technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), AI and machine learning (ML) with the benefits of edge computing.

Edge computing is a growing industry that brings computing, storage and connectivity capabilities closer to the user. This process leads to lower latency, higher bandwidth and better security. Edge computing also positions software applications and data sets at locations where it makes more sense from a business, regulatory or performance standpoint.

All these benefits are magnified, and latency is further slashed when connectivity is upgraded to lightning-fast 5G networks that are increasingly available in urban areas. Ultimately, as IoT sensors, dynamic AI/ML applications and other advanced tooling are set up to run on these advanced edge computing architectures, the combined capabilities turn into something greater than the sum of their parts: multi-access edge computing.

DISCOVER: Local agencies can improve citizen services with edge computing.

MEC Drives Transformative Capabilities

A MEC deployment can power a smart city with all the flexibility, computing, sandboxing and multitasking capabilities one would expect from the cloud, but it is happening on the edge. Think of MEC as an industry cloud at the edge capable of doing more things, and more things at once, through a foundation of virtualized, cloud-native and 5G-ready applications and infrastructure.

Urban applications for MEC range from automated maritime vessel berthing and airport baggage handling to real-time situational awareness around public safety, road infrastructure and railway patterns. MEC also can boost operational efficiency at local sports stadiums and improve parking and safety on university campuses. The most advanced MEC architectures combine data from multiple systems for predictive and prescriptive analytics, rendering a more complete and proactive picture of safety, sustainability and other smart city priorities.

For example, a MEC deployment can more quickly and securely combine Department of Transportation data with police and ambulance response logs to analyze how certain traffic patterns may relate to increased vehicle or pedestrian accident rates. The resulting insights can spur proactive steps, such as changing traffic or signaling patterns, to reduce the risk of accidents and save lives. Indeed, multiple studies suggest that such MEC-driven programs are already reducing the proportion of motor vehicle accidents caused by human error.

Sajid Khan
Reducing traffic fatalities is just one example of how a MEC-driven smart city program can serve constituents."

Sajid Khan General manager of Smart Cities and Transportation Strategy, Intel.

Future-Proofing Smart City Investments with MEC

Reducing traffic fatalities is just one example of how a MEC-driven smart city program can serve constituents. Whether the area is transportation, disease prediction, tracking water quality or other priorities, MEC is connecting more systems and capabilities together for a holistic and actionable view of smart city goals concerning healthcare, public safety, the environment and more.

In many ways, a modern MEC deployment represents the next generation of the edge itself: doing more things, and more things at once at the source, through multipurpose and multifunction computing services to end-user devices across any access network.

The hyperconvergence of end-user workloads around media analytics, media rendering, data ingestion, and other various network and security functions makes MEC the ideal approach for many smart city applications. These include advanced applications for intelligent traffic management, records management, threat protection on public digital infrastructure and a range of other smart city use cases.

LEARN MORE: Smart cities depend on edge computing, but securing it remains a challenge.

Throughout, MEC helps state and local governments future-proof the investment through more cost-effective and sustainable operations. For example, bringing video content closer to the edge can reduce video buffering and slash web page download time, cutting the total cost of ownership and improving service capabilities. MEC also reduces provisioning costs and technical debt by optimizing workloads across a balanced platform configuration. MEC also helps cities reduce total cost of ownership through its processing capabilities.

In addition, MEC breaks down application silos by leveraging open standards and software-defined paradigms to enhance interoperability and simplify deployment. It helps cities and counties avoid vendor lock-in and enables them to save by working with multiple vendors. Regulatory compliance is also enhanced via connected, distributed repositories that deliver a single source of truth for more comprehensive, accurate and streamlined reporting.

Multi-access edge computing is transforming and future-proofing smart city investments with edge capabilities that deliver the massive computing power, fast bandwidth and low latency for edge applications while bringing all the best features of centralized cloud to the edge. This is leading to advanced smart city use cases to improve basic services, enhance public safety and increase sustainability on behalf of taxpayers and constituents.

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