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Smart Government: No Longer an Oxymoron?

In order to meet the needs and expectations of a technology-empowered populace, government must be smarter and function in a modern and data-driven way.

It’s true—government is getting smarter. 

Internet of Things (IoT) “smart” devices are proliferating across numerous government functions today, impacting everything from smart city initiatives and innovation in public transportation to defense, emergency services, disaster response, and geological surveying. McKinsey projects that by 2020, government adoption of IoT will outgrow that of the private sector. 

As IoT decentralizes public sector computing infrastructures, far more data processing will need to be done where devices and users are locatedat the network edge. Traditional cloud and centralized computing will not be able to accommodate such dramatically increased bandwidth and low latency demands. 

Edge computing enables immediate data processing, avoiding the round-trip to a centralized data center. When agencies can perform analytics and gain insights at the edge without the latency and bandwidth issues associated with routing data through a centralized data center, it can mean the difference between a successful delivery of service to constituents and a waste of taxpayer money. 

Edge use in the public sector today

As we’ve previously discussed, municipalities across the nation are rolling out smart-city initiatives. Smart cities rely on numerous interconnected networks of remote IoT sensors and devices that constantly collect, process, and analyze massive amounts of data. This data includes information on traffic levels, road conditions and safety hazards, water and electricity utilization, equipment maintenance and malfunctions, and more.

Smart cities depend on ultra-low latency, two-way connectivity between sensors and devices. The slightest delay in connectivity can result in serious consequences, whether it’s sudden gridlock on the streets, power outages, or even accidental injury or death due to undetected safety hazards. That’s why edge computing is instrumental in smart city development; the bandwidth, latency, and processing demands of smart cities will simply be too much for the traditional cloud to handle. 

The US military now uses edge computing to process vast amounts of data from drones. In many military scenarios, real-time data is vital, and could mean the difference between life and death. Military drones currently use edge computing for 3D mapping and surveying, live video analytics, search and rescue operations, target tracking, and big data collection.

Marines and Special Forces are also leveraging edge computing for improved command and control. Soldiers can greatly enhance situational awareness with edge-powered geospatial and 3D-rendering apps. For example, soldiers in the field may need to quickly adapt mission priorities based on elements outside their control. A monitoring mission may turn into a reconnaissance mission based on changing factors on the ground. Edge computing enables them to quickly and seamlessly reconfigure and recalibrate devices to perform new analyses on-site, without being operationally tethered to a centralized network. 

When natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, or other catastrophes occur, it is imperative that detection, response, and communication be as seamless and coordinated as possible. In these situations, it is possible that the internet could go down in the affected areas. Edge computing allows responders to gather and share information during natural disasters without relying on the internet. 

For example, search and rescue personnel could determine where people are located in a flooded area by using an edge-powered geo-distributed network to continuously ping enabled phones, sensors, and other devices. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) currently uses Dell edge computing solutions in its disaster response vehicles to this end, enabling FEMA staff to utilize a satellite-based portable network to collect visual data from drones before initiating rescue operations. 

Major benefits the edge brings to government 

Edge computing will bring major benefits and advantages to public sector institutions at every level. Some of the most notable benefits include:

Bridging the gap between legacy and modern government IT

Government agencies are known for having legacy systems; about 75% of the government’s IT budget is spent on supporting legacy systems—some of which date back to the 1970s. Rather than requiring government agencies to replace their entrenched legacy systems—a long, complicated, and expensive endeavor—edge computing can bridge the gap between legacy and modern government IT solutions. This is because edge technology enables legacy systems to interact with modern IoT devices and the cloud. Government agencies can therefore have the best of both worlds: they can continue to use the systems they already rely on, but also reap the benefits of a more modern IT infrastructure. 

Increasing data security 

Edge computing improves data security because sensitive data is kept on a specific device. When data is processed at the source, it doesn’t have to be transmitted over any telecommunications networks, which are inherently vulnerable. By giving agencies more control over the movement of sensitive data, the edge protects both government operations and the privacy of their constituents.

Lowers costs

Cost savings represent one of the biggest reasons government agencies are adding edge computing to their IT infrastructure plans. By processing data on-site in real time, agencies save considerable space on cloud servers and thus avoid paying for unneeded cloud platform capabilities. Indeed, a combination of edge and cloud systems can cost about a third of full reliance on the cloud. For example, by running predictive logistics software on the Dell Pivotal Cloud Foundry platform, the Air Force saves almost $1 million a week in tanker refueling costs. 

Powering at the edge to bring power to the people

In order to meet the needs and expectations of a technology-empowered populace, government needs to function in a modern, data-driven way. When it comes to providing services in a timely, efficient, and cost-effective manner, edge computing is essential, not optional. Traditional cloud and legacy networks can’t adequately respond to and serve a population empowered with 5G connectivity, artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled technology, and an ever-growing number of IoT devices. Just as public services had to digitize and become accessible via the internet and email, many of these services will now have to move to the edge. 

As edge computing becomes a necessity for government entities, so will connection to local, interconnected data centers. Netrality’s interconnected colocation facilities – located in close proximity to end users – enable smooth delivery of critical services at key edge locations in Philadelphia, Houston, St. Louis, and Kansas City and Chicago. Contact us for more information.