Smart cities and Tech Evolution - XV Fog

Fog computing and Fog Networks is the result of the clustering of devices and sharing of their storage and processing capability. Credit: PRISMTECH

So 5G will be steered by the edges of the network and these edges will be networks of themselves.  This is where “Fog” comes in.  

The idea that the Network was the Computer, pushed by Sun in the nineties has, in a way, become true with the Cloud.  The Cloud did not happen (nor was it designed) to make that prediction come true. The Cloud, by Amazon and Google, the two players that today are still leading the pack, happened because there was so much unused processing power and storage capacity that it made sense to find ways of sharing it and make money in the process. 

That clearly demonstrated the possibility to decrease the cost for enterprises (and easy life to private users) and many other players, mostly system integrators and tlecom operators started to set up and offer Clouds in various shape and hues. Because these were Clouds built up from scratch they did not (are not) operate at marginal cost so life is thougher for these latter players than for Amazon and Google. Nevertheless there is possibility to attract clients and make some revenues.

The Cloud(s) also created new biz models for selling services (pay per use, subscription…) and created the culture that you don’t really need to “own” the physical stuff for doing processing and keep your data (although you still need quite a bit of processing capability and, as statistics on storage capacity sold to the mass market indicates, you may still want to keep your data at home). On the other hand, you absolutely need good, ubiquitous connectivity.

Fog is just the natural next step. Once you have accepted that you can have your data stored somewhere else and you can run services using processing power “out there” and you realise that there is plenty of processing power and storage capacity in devices around you, plus a much better connectivity in your surrounding then you are going for the Fog. 

I will expect to see plenty of applications designed to support Fog, and I do expect Smart Cities planner to take the lead in this happening. 

     

  • A city can start by offering its capacity (processing and storage) at marginal cost, using the systems supporting the city services, once they are built as open architectures (we are planning to do this as part of an EIT Digital project in 2017 in Malaga, Rennes and Trento using as kernel the FIWare platform);
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  • A city can start coaching its citizens to share their ever bigger processing and storage resources to the benefit of the whole citizenship.

It won’t be easy and there are quite a few stumbling block on the way, most notably soving privacy issues and defining accountability but, at least to me, the trend is clear.

There are also technical issues to be addressed, like the one of massively distributed control. SDN (Software Defined Networking) is going to be an enabler (and the joint initiative of IEEE and EIT Digital can accelerate its impact). Neuromorphic computing, in the next decade, once it will land in smartphones and other “ambient” devices will be another possibile enabler.

Interestingly, these evolutions are in the direction of supporting the awareness infrastructure that I will be addressing later on.

Author - Roberto Saracco

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