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The Era of Edgeless Computing - Part 6

Welcome to the sixth of a series of articles to introduce some of the most cutting edge thinking about new computing and network architectures, bringing new forms of machine intelligence to where both digital and biological events occur.


Tale of two cities

By Peter van Manen, EVP Research & Development of Living PlanIT

The digital and physical worlds are converging. It is the best of times, it is the worst of times. The data that expresses what is happening in the built environment contains invaluable insight, but this data is approximate, incomplete and oftentimes late, giving only an imperfect view of what is happening.

Imagine a day when a virtual building, neighborhood or whole city can truly mimic the behavior of the real thing, continually validated by real-time sensing and insights from other virtual models. Interventions intended to improve efficiency, availability and well-being are tried and assessed before they are implemented, leading to better outcomes with fewer risks of unforeseen side-effects. That day is not so far away.

I spent many years working in Formula One, a fast-paced environment in which optimizing the performance and reliability of cars is the key to sustained success. For over a decade the racing teams and engine makers have been combining the virtual and real worlds to do just that. The approach can be simply stated as follows:

The tricky bit, as usual, was in the detail. A high fidelity model of the car was needed to predict the tenth of second lap time advantages that typically separate a winning and losing car: always focusing attention on the critical elements that have greatest impact, such as tires, aerodynamics, suspension, powertrain and driver cues. It was important to employ the right sensing and data logging to validate and improve the simulations: the key to keeping the virtual and real cars true to each other as they develop over time. And crucially, the drivers, race engineers and management had to believe in the approach, a trust that evolved over time through experience and results. Tools only get better and more useful when they are used.

A neighborhood in a city has far greater complexity than a Formula One car. There are many more moving parts, with often poorly defined or understood connections. This extra complexity is balanced somewhat by more relaxed timeframes in which things happen during the day. Life on the street is often (although not always) measured in minutes rather than tenths of seconds. But the prize for doing things better is greater. It can have a direct impact on the day-to-day lives of people.

We developed the PlanIT Urban Operating System™ (UOS) to help make sense of these neighborhoods, and networks of neighborhoods. The UOS is a real-time data platform that gathers time-series and other data from around the city and turns these into interventions that help make things run better. The time-series data describes the movement of people, traffic, energy, water and waste. Other data includes descriptions of the built environment that help frame the data, including how the buildings, streets, pipes and wires are laid out and interact. This “other data” generally changes little (or at least slowly) over time, but crucially establishes the boundaries in which flows take place.

Many new buildings are designed by CAD (Computer Aided Design) and described in detail by the Building Information Models (BIM) that are created. Information about older buildings and infrastructure can be found in drawings, surveys and historical records. Geographical data comes from satellites and maps. The reliability and granularity of the data can vary greatly, but this imperfect picture of the neighborhood still provides valuable framing for the dynamic data exposed by the UOS. By the way, we faced the exact same problem in Formula One many years ago. Some parts of the car were very well defined and others were, quite frankly, a bit of a mystery. But the early, far less complete, models of the car still provided valuable context for the real-time data that we were collecting, and for the simulations that we were conducting. Over time, the car models improved and our understanding and predictions got progressively better.

We are not so far away from our tale of two cities. We can express the static presence of the city with data relating to the structure and control of buildings and associated infrastructure, and we have geospatial data about the city as a whole. We can track the weather, water levels and other natural phenomena to determine how the changing environment affects the city. We can monitor the flow of people and things in and around the city using data from cameras, smart devices, sensors and control systems.

The people who fund the building of cities, the developers, insurers and investors, are presented with some great new opportunities for reducing development and operating costs, discovering new revenue opportunities and enhancing and preserving the value of assets. These opportunities include:

This last point is particularly exciting. Over time we will see a more granular model of complete neighborhoods and districts start to emerge leading to faster and more reliable decision-making, both for long-term land use planning and day-to-day operations. The real and virtual worlds working together, turning data into action.

“It is a far, far better thing I do, than I have ever done” – Charles Dickens

See more of this series of articles here...
Part 1 – Turtles all the way down
Part 2 – Living in real-time
Part 3 – Back to the future
Part 4 – Elephant in the room
Part 5 – Needle in a haystack
Part 6 – Tale of two cities
Part 7 – Need to know
Part 8 – Gut feeling
Part 9 – Welcoming strangers
Download the full series as a PDF


About Living PlanIT

Living PlanIT is a technology company that created the world’s first Urban Operating System (UOS) which, in combination with the products it supports, unlocks the full potential of data to make cities better, safer and more vibrant places to live.

Living PlanIT has built an extensive partner network around the concept of a shared, unified approach to smart urban technology architecture in which machine intelligence moves ever closer to originating sources of data and control. We call this architecture PlanIT Edgeless Computing™ and it is implemented throughout the PlanIT Urban Operating System™, providing a framework for resilient and secure computer and systems architecture for digital and biological sensing, control, analytics, machine learning, applications and visualization techniques.

Most recently, Living PlanIT has received the 2015 Global Smart Infrastructure Platform Visionary Innovation Leadership Award from Frost & Sullivan. Living PlanIT contributes to the Clinton Global Initiative on Smart Cities and Infrastructure, is a member of the UK Government's Smart City Ministerial Forum and board member of the Cities Standards Institute. The company has received numerous awards including “Best Investment in High Tech in Europe” from the World Investment Conference, “Technology Pioneer Award” from the World Economic Forum, “Business Internalization Award” from UK Government Trade & Investment, “Growth Excellence and Leadership Award for Smart City Projects” from Frost & Sullivan and both “Best Company for Innovation in Urban Development Technologies” and “CEO of the Year” from IAIR in 2015.

www.living-planit.com or follow us on Twitter @Living_PlanIT