Sunday 7th June 2020

Edge computing offers opportunities in transport

Published on April 18th, 2019

Rabih Arzouni, chief technology officer for Transport, Fujitsu EMEIA, says that the rise in connected devices will change our lives, but to process all the data they’ll generate, we need to rethink how we configure and use resources in the cloud.

This is where edge computing comes in. It’s an innovative approach to network architecture that helps organisations operate beyond the limitations of traditional cloud-based networks. It does this by allowing much of the data being collected to be processed far closer to its source. This means less traffic needs to be directed to the cloud, which, in turn, helps to reduce overall traffic loads.

Although cloud computing will continue to play an important role in modern network architecture, the exciting possibilities offered by edge computing architecture will increase the opportunities for the transport industry to drive more connected, coordinated and intelligent solutions across cities.

Better network performance

Within the sector, the most important benefit of edge computing will be its ability to increase network performance, by reducing latency. For one thing, IoT edge computing devices process data locally or in nearby data centres. This means the information collected doesn’t need to travel nearly as far as it would in the usual cloud architecture; offering a more secure, scalable, versatile and reliable service for current and future transport and mobile services.

This will be especially important as intelligent and connected devices continue to become more prominent within our towns and cities.

Enabling smart cities with edge and 5G  

Intelligent transport systems are becoming a vast, connected network of smart infrastructure that provides the circulatory system for many up and coming smart cities. As part of this, two of the most promising technologies that will be looked upon to fully bring the smart city vision to life are edge computing and 5G wireless networks.

When coupled with 5G wireless communications networks, edge computing technologies and devices could significantly reduce data sharing and latency by providing much more capable communication networks. Smart city infrastructure will likely come to heavily rely upon 5G networks to connect its various components. The private and public organisations within the sector should expect to see more and more 5G technologies and edge computing devices beginning to flood the market.

One example of this is through route planning and optimisation. Taking intelligent routing to another level, this doesn’t just include considering the status of traffic and weather on a proposed route, but many other factors. For example, we could see routes suggested that take into account the additional air or noise pollution caused by growing traffic volumes and the detrimental effect it has on a local neighbourhood. It could also consider other social factors, such as the risks of large amounts of traffic using back streets as short cuts, or cars driving past schools at times of day when there are very likely to be children on the streets.

When it comes to transport and mobility, another benefit of combining 5G and edge computing is automation, which will undoubtedly play a fundamental role in the development and emergence of enhanced and improved intelligent transportation systems.

Rabih Arzouni

As the Fourth Industrial Revolution drives us into an age of actionable transportation data, automation technologies will be key to unlocking the value of all of this data. For example, to operate both safely and efficiently, automated vehicular prioritisation systems, traffic management, and even autonomous vehicles and driverless cars will come to depend upon a sea of vehicular data.

Both edge computing and 5G wireless networks will be required to make this feasible when we begin to see the first iterations of driverless vehicles hit the market.

Where is the transport sector with edge?

Among the industry sectors that are rapidly adopting edge computing technology, public transportation is one that can truly benefit from operational efficiencies, costs savings, safety and security. Although we’re already seeing the adoption of edge computing solutions in some areas of the sector – such as in logistics – we should expect to see the uptake of edge computing technologies to increase dramatically over the next few years, with a particular focus on urban transport, rail and aviation.

However, it’s important to remember that edge computing is still a heterogeneous concept. It ranges from simple sensors and embedded edge devices to familiar edge computing devices – such as mobile phones – and highly sophisticated edge devices, such as autonomous vehicles. Different types of edge devices used in different scenarios can have very different life spans, ranging from one year to 40 years.

These factors combined with the rapid push by vendors to drive more functionality into edge devices, create a complex and ongoing management and integration challenge. The sector will have to overcome these challenges, and more, to achieve the benefits that edge computing is predicting to deliver.

There is still more to do, but what makes the transport sector an exciting one is that there is always room to innovate.

The author of this blog is Rabih Arzouni, chief technology officer for Transport, Fujitsu EMEIA

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