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5G & Distributed Computing Tackle Critical Challenges for Cities

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City governments and transportation leaders are charged with delivering high-quality services that improve citizens’ lives. In the pandemic impacted “new normal,” their efforts are critical to ensure citizen safety, mobility, and resilience. In response to these pressures, city leaders are seeking smart technology investments to overcome infrastructure challenges effectively and efficiently. Legacy architectures inhibit improvements with limited compute performance, high deployment and upgrade costs, and low compatibility with future-proof infrastructure. Modernizing cities with connected infrastructure and distributed computing is essential for real-time, high-performance artificial intelligence and autonomous solutions.

5G can act as a release valve to unleash innovation that improves urban life and drives Smart City use cases to their full potential. By extending the power of cloud compute throughout the network and the edge with 5G and distributed computing, data processing is possible virtually anywhere. This unleashes the potential of connected, compute-intensive applications that leverage AI and massive amounts of Internet of Things (IoT) data to unlock previously unimaginable solutions. With 5G as the backbone, there is vast market opportunity for technology innovators and companies across industries to help cities transform and thrive. Projections show the Smart Cities & Transportation market will double in size to reach $572.4 billion in 2025.1

I have unpacked three primary challenges that 5G helps cities address: 1) safer transportation and faster urban mobility, 2) resilience to future crises and sustainability, and 3) economic stability and growth.

5G Delivers Ultra-Low Latency to Enhance City Mobility and Safety
The stark reality is our transportation systems are struggling to keep up with the pace of a global, connected world. Cities could potentially experience up to $1 trillion in economic loss due to traffic congestion.2 We need modern solutions that streamline mobility and make roads safer to improve quality of life. 5G can provide less than 1 millisecond latency and 99.9999% uptime to support the critical nature of transportation and safety applications.3 This level of connectivity enables better, faster decision-making to power reliable, real-time intelligent transportation systems.

Today, innovative cities across the globe are using intelligent traffic management to reduce congestion. On Arizona’s Bell Road Highway, GRIDSMART’s camera system, using an Intel Market Ready Solution, reduced delays by 20% on weekdays and 43% on weekends.4 In Hanoi, Vietnam, Siemens Mobility deployed a cloud-based AI traffic management solution at a major intersection, increasing average throughput by 15%.5 Siemens Traffic Eye is part of Intel’s IoT Solutions Alliance scale program. With 5G, use cases like city-wide smart traffic routing and optimization at scale become possible, leveraging massive amounts of granular commuting and real-time location data to efficiently streamline routes and direct vehicles toward optimal parking.

Over the long-term, 5G-powered systems could detect emergencies and deploy first responders quickly to precise locations. In transit, first responders could view and transmit compute-intensive medical imaging or pertinent public records to better provide immediate care. Network slicing could help prioritize bandwidth for these mission-critical use cases, providing essential applications with the connectivity required.

5G Connects IoT Systems to Increase Resilience, Safety, and Sustainability
As city leaders “reopen” communities, the main priority is ensuring citizen safety and building resilience for future crises. From public health, safety, and transportation services, to communications networks and waste management, cities are looking at AI and autonomous solutions to ensure safer and more sustainable environments.

Environmental consciousness is a critical component to sustainability. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, cities were consuming two-thirds of the world’s energy and generating 70% of greenhouse gas emissions.6 As communities re-open, city leaders may use this opportunity to employ advanced technologies like environmental sensors to improve air, water, green space, recycling, and waste management to better align with international, national, and regional goals.

In the near term, cities will be able to reduce energy consumption with connected buildings that automate systems such as heaters, coolers, and ventilators. While IoT sensors and devices are already in place today, they are part of a large ecosystem in which only a fraction of the data generated is used. 5G could tie this massive ecosystem of sensors and devices together through ubiquitous connectivity and increase AI inferencing by extending processing and computing to the edge.

5G Unleashes the Power of Data to Transform Cities and Drive Economic Growth
As we rebound from the crisis, it is critical that citizens and businesses find economic stability and growth. City leaders are faced with this immediate challenge while also facing long-term pressures of urbanization on the horizon. By 2050, 68% of the global population will live in cities.7 Cities need to address how to support their exploding populations and create economic stability for tomorrow. The advancement of connectivity with 5G can open up new business opportunities and help improve the utilization of city data.

5G is 100 times faster and delivers 1000 times more capacity than 4G.8 This speed and capacity enables cities to process the massive amount of citizen and smart city-generated data—16.5 zettabytes in 20201—to enhance public services. For example, public transportation such as rail-bound mass transit can be improved not only by tailoring schedules using detailed commuter data but also by enhancing other services. 5G can also allow train passengers to experience seamless multimedia in real time and get more out of their commute.

Advancements in 5G also unlock the potential to create more economic value with new business models and services that rely on real-time, compute-intensive applications. Imagine a city where vehicles can communicate with everything using real-time telemetry and edge computing. This communication could be monetized in many ways with hyper-local contextual information delivery. Nearby restaurants could promote available reservations based on user-defined preferences. Low fuel levels could autonomously lead vehicles to nearby fuel or charging stations. The possibilities are endless to enhance both business opportunities and urban lifestyle in Smart Cities.

5G Powers Smart Cities. Intel Powers 5G.
5G and distributed computing promise new possibilities for city and transportation leaders to use technology like AI, IoT, and edge computing to overcome increasing challenges. There is a wide chasm to cross for these solutions to be fully realized—and for our cities to transform into true Smart Cities. At Intel, we’re dedicated to seeing this future through.

We are a leader in helping communications service providers transform and cloudify networks for 5G, enabling those networks to become more agile, flexible, and scalable. With our common data scale foundation, we empower our customers to create value from data, wherever it may be, by moving cloud computing capabilities out to edge environments.

We deliver a breadth of technologies for applications developers to accelerate city innovation. For example, our Converged Edge Reference Architecture (CERA) is designed to rapidly deploy wireless networks and support multiple workloads on a single cloud-native platform. This solution enables IoT applications like real-time traffic analysis and vehicle-to-everything communication (V2X). V2X allows vehicles to talk to each other, to infrastructure like traffic lights, and to other factors that may affect transportation.

We also offer Wireless Network-Ready Intelligent Traffic Management, which consolidates visual intelligence and wireless workloads at traffic intersections. This technology is hosted on an Open Network Edge Services Software (OpenNESS) edge node, containing the necessary software stacks to host a 5G radio access network (RAN). At Intel, we continuously work to create and enhance 5G and other technologies that will bring the next wave of powerful Smart City applications to life.

If you’d like to learn more, you can explore the IoT solutions we provide for Smart Cities and read up on Intel’s role in 5G.

1. Harbor Research
2. Extrapolation of INRIX numbers
3. Cisco, VNI Forecast and Methodology, 2016-2021
4. GRIDSMART, “Case Study: Bell Road Highway, AZ,” 2020
5. Siemens Mobility, “Intelligent Traffic Systems in Asia Pacific,” 2019
6. The World Bank, “Urban Development Overview,” October 2018
7. United Nations World Urbanization Prospects: The 2018 Revision
8. GSMA, “The 5G Guide: A Reference for Operators,” April 2019
About the Author
Sameer Sharma is the Global GM (Smart Cities & Transportation) for IOT Solutions at Intel and a thought leader in IOT/AI ecosystem, having driven multiple strategic initiatives to scale over the past 20+ years. Sameer leads a global team that incubates and scales new growth categories and business models for Intel. His team also focuses on establishing leadership across the industry playing a pivotal role in deploying solutions for the development of smart cities around the world—an important effort in furthering the goal of sustainability. These solutions include Intelligent Transportation, AI/Video, Air Quality Monitoring and Smart Lighting. With far-reaching impact, each of these solutions is providing local governments a plethora of data to enhance the daily quality of life for citizens while simultaneously promoting responsible practices to protect the environment. As a leading authority on Cities and AI, Sameer is a frequent keynote speaker at top global events and has been featured in publications such as Economist, Forbes, WSJ and New York Times. His high-energy talks cover pragmatic examples of impact and reflect his passion and belief that technology can and must be a force for good in our society. Sameer has an MBA from The Wharton School at UPenn, and a Masters in Computer Engineering from Rutgers University. He holds 11 patents in the areas of IOT and Mobile. He can be reached through LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/sameersharma/) or Twitter (@sameer_iot)