The role of fog platform-as-a-service in designing smart city vertical solutions


Mobile network traffic is increasing enormously. It is anticipated that the cellular, packet core and backhaul architectures will not be able to function effectively. Thus by implementing the networking and storage capabilities of fog at their network edge, mobile service providers can improve their capacity, reliability, security and performance as well as networks will able to generate great revenue opportunities. Moreover, fog computing also serves as a cloud `platform for designing smart city solutions.


Figure 1: An illustration of Fog-as-a-Service (FaaS).

“Fog as a service” (FaaS) is a great opportunity for service providers to build an array of fog nodes across its footprint. These fog nodes will act as fundamental computing units to many smart city vertical designs. These fog nodes will host the local networking, computation and storage capabilities. The nodes can be packaged for outdoor deployment, possibly on rooftops, in street corner cabinets or integrated with fibre nodes or cells. Software infrastructure of fog might include virtualisation, sophisticated security, orchestration and the application of programming interfaces so that different stakeholders will be able to generate a variety of applications, which will run with minimum disturbance.

After the deployment of fog network, the FaaS provider will lease the fog capabilities to end users, specifically for smart governance, mission critical services; smart transportation, broadband services for load balancing between Wi-Fi and the,cellular network, caching, smart building energy management solutions and smart homes. If each of these smart city verticals builds their own big data analytic server then the overall cost will shoot to an excessive level and the city would carry bundles of overlapping fog nodes. It is cost efficient to build a central big data analytic server using central FaaS network for various smart city verticals such as smart health, smart grid.

Fog computing provides an opportunity to deploy Internet of things (IoT) in smart cities as well as in other verticals like smart grids, smart transportation, manufacturing, energy, enterprise/retail, healthcare, agriculture, hospitality and consumer. Deployment of these uses in each of the above-mentioned verticals and can be made possible through using fog computing. The advantage of fog networks as compared to cloud-based applications is improved security, bandwidth efficiency, scalability on multiple dimensions, high service availabilities and low latency rate.

It wouldn’t be reasonable to pay high charges to wireless network in order to utilize large amounts of sensor data from remote geographic locations to the cloud server. To collect disaster management data streams from remote areas to the governing body, smart cities could deploy fog nodes at the remote places to perform data analysis and send only the results and exceptions to the cloud server for smart decision-making. Fog computing also performs efficiently in time-sensitive applications e.g. haptics system, a system in which the round trip delay between the user interface and the computational resource is just a few milliseconds. The force feedback is provided on a joystick and if not detected, the touch impression is lost. These time-sensitive applications include telemedicine, training and games specifically, and smart highway applications where even a difference of a few milliseconds can cause huge havoc.

There are multiple cities around the world that have implemented the concept of fog computing into practical use with the help of Cisco and other partners. Currently, they are providing the services of smart urban management which include smart traffic management, smart security, smart lighting and power management. The extensive network of fog nodes exhibits some potentials of FaaS such as virtualisation at the boundary and support of multiple tenants.

In summary fog computing will be a key feature in the deployment of IoT service infrastructures and FaaS will be a vital opportunity for service providers. Fog is considered to be a multi-billion dollar opportunity for network service revenue as having a fog network directly attached to the cellular network would result in creating vast revenue opportunities. But if the fog implementation is not as good as competing network fog capabilities then it can kill your network.

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