Soft landing for ME cities with ‘Smart’ ambitions

AWS cloud services enables authorities experiment with minimal risk

Tags: Amazon Web Services (aws.amazon.com/)Cloud computing
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Soft landing for ME cities with ‘Smart’ ambitions Smart city projects are an important and growing segment for AWS cloud services, said Ryland.
By  David Ndichu Published  March 11, 2018

Cloud will allow Middle East cities to experiment with smart city concepts with little risk.

Governments implementing smart city initiatives don't typically identify in advance how much data they will gather and may want to experiment with some of the models and proofs of concepts beforehand. Acquiring a lot of costly infrastructure from the very beginning to process data whose value is still unclear is ill-advised from an economic point of view, says Mark Ryland, director of solutions architecture, Amazon Web Services (AWS). 

Cloud then becomes ideal for these initiatives because of its ability to scale up and down almost at will. "That's the reason we see smart cities initiatives around the globe consistently being delivered on the cloud, both for storage and analytics," says Ryland.

Smart city projects are an important and growing segment for AWS cloud services. "At the end of the day, it's about data and data analytics. You can acquire all the data in the world but if you don't analyse it and take action, it's not going to be of any use," says Ryland.

AWS has created a dedicated IoT platform including a free operating system for smart city projects as well as SDKs designed to ensure secure communication between devices and the cloud.

And security is key, says Ryland. During the early days of IoT, devices were deployed with little regard to security. "Right from the start, we set a minimum bar that at the very least a basic encryption of the device messages is required. Today, we can push those security standards even down to microcontrollers," Ryland explains.

Customers have a bouquet of smart city services to choose from the AWS platform, each according to specific requirements, says Ryland. "We have customers that build their own IoT stacks but running on AWS infrastructure, all the way to customers that develop services entirely using our higher level services, and everything in between," says Ryland.

Regional cities have the advantage of learning from the experiences of those cities that have been there, done that.

Ryland cites AWS-run projects such as Kansas City in the US whose smart city gamut runs from city-wide Wi-Fi, smart lighting to traffic flows where they run all over their control and analytics in the cloud. The traffic management aspect allows Kansas City be run much more efficiently, such as dimming lights when there's no one on the road, to managing traffic flows based on vehicle density.

Traffic engineering is a common use case for AWS services, says Ryland. "We have a partner that run traffic management systems in more than a thousand cities where they use cloud technology. For such a partner, our cloud services mean they don't have to build IT infrastructure everywhere they operate. Their devices can call back to just a few locations but still get global coverage. Because we have deployments all over the world, our partners are guaranteed low latency wherever they operate in the world."

AWS added Middle East data centres to its global infrastructure network last year. 

Municipalities all over the world are discovering the benefits that drew businesses to the cloud in the first place. "People often start with cost (savings) but end with agility as the key value proposition. In the end, they will save a lot of money by doing things much more quickly, but they can also deliver services much faster and serve citizens much more efficiently," Ryland concludes.

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