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Deploying Decentralised Success to Power Smart Cities
May 20, 2020 Blog


Authored by: Stu Garrow, SVP & General manager APAC, Talend

Although cities currently only occupy 2 percent of the planet, urban centres are home to half of the world’s population. Additionally, these urban populations consume 75 percent of the total energy produced, while generating 80 percent of global CO2 emissions. As more and more people become city dwellers, their impact on transportation, housing, health, work, and city safety need to be considered.

The rapid pace of urbanisation is requiring those responsible for city planning and coordination to approach design and maintenance with the future in mind. If these areas are neglected, it could mean an overall lower quality of life for the majority of citizens, especially when paired with other growing issues including floods and air pollution. Malaysia ranked 41st of 142 countries in terms of CO2 emissions per dollar of the country’s GDP in 2018 according to International Energy Agency (IEA) data. However, the country has been working to improve energy efficiency indicators, such as greenhouse gas emissions and renewable energy-installed capacity, through its 11th Malaysia Plan that will end this year.

The good news is that technology and, more importantly, data are presenting city leaders with an opportunity to support the development of smart cities by addressing the environmental impact and availability of human services and resources.


Bringing a Smart City to Life with Edge Computing

The goal of smart cities is to optimise transportation, energy distribution and services provided to residents by installing sensors in areas to collect data, such as parking lots, public transportation stations, rubbish trucks, and the urban lighting system, to assist city leaders in decision-making. The sheer volume of data generated by these systems will provide vast amounts of information about Malaysians’ behaviours, habits, and needs.

In fact, at the heart of all smart cities are digital technologies that offer immense potential for development. In recent years, edge computing and its enablement of Internet of Things (IoT) use cases has generated buzz within this space. Unlike the centralised vision that preceded it, edge computing presents a new, decentralised way to seize the opportunities and tackle the hazards of urban development. Edge computing allows large amounts of complex data to be processed and analysed instantaneously on the devices themselves, which means that data no longer needs to be processed and analysed at large data centres.

A great example of how smart cities can harness edge computing is in traffic management. Connected car start-ups, such as wejo, are utilising edge computing to offer critical information to relevant stakeholders who are looking for real-time analysis of automotive data. This means better predictions and accuracy of routes, which helps to reduce congestion by rerouting traffic. This rich data supply can also be used to help urban planners design roads based on traffic movement.

As cities become more intelligent, e-mobility will continue to evolve. Edge computing will play a critical role in making e-mobility services possible within smart cities. In 2019, the government announced plans to implement a smart traffic light system in Kuching to improve traffic management and the transportation system. In February of this year, the government announced further plans for a new smart city project in Johor.

The growing volumes of data that will be generated by devices creates a problem because data centre infrastructures are not equipped to handle this volume. As these connected devices and services grow, congestion may become an issue across the network. Malaysia can mitigate this issue by hosting edge computing nodes closer to the points where data is generated, which should be incorporated into urban planning designs to remove barriers to the fulfilment of visions like autonomous driving.


Building a Successful Smart City Data Strategy

According to a 2019 ranking by the IMD World Competitiveness Center, Kuala Lumpur is ranked 70th smartest out of 102 cities in the world, highlighting the need to adopt more advanced structures and technologies. Cities like Kuala Lumpur will be looking for ways to include edge computing in the infrastructure of cities to improve overall management. To accomplish this, city leaders must commit to a big data strategy to become sustainably smart, as generating data itself is not sufficient.

Accurate, trusted data must be accessible for planners and organisations, and the digital platforms deployed need to collect data – at scale – with a single point of trust. These platforms must also support integration, sharing, discovery and governance so that planners and city designers can track and trace data as they build a scalable and secure architecture in the cloud. In this way, edge systems can perform the initial processing and analysis of data, with further data analysis taking place at data centres or the cloud.

Utilising this data effectively can not only lead to a better understanding of how cities work and how residents behave, but also remove barriers to creating new services.

Data is set to become one of the most valuable commodities. If a smart city is designed effectively, a large bank of applicable data will be generated. However, it will only be beneficial to city planners if there is data integrity.

Faced with the potentially problematic consequences of urbanisation, cities across the region need to consider smart solutions to negate the environmental impact of human activity and manage resources effectively for the population. Ensuring a strong data strategy for city planning and taking full advantage of the edge are effective ways to mitigate the negative effects of urbanisation. Data integrity, speed, and trust are the foundation for developing the smart cities of the future.