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New Missions at the Government Edge: Channeling Citizen Services with Local Precision

Edge computing can be leveraged by governments in new ways, extending additional citizen services based on location, with localized applications and personalized targeting
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On government networks, edge locations now produce huge amounts of data. The amount of information collected and stored, nearly block by block, has skyrocketed, thanks to sensors, video cameras and multiple other connected resources.

Data is often at its most valuable when it is extracted, analyzed and acted upon in a timely manner, especially if recommended actions can be delivered in near real-time. In recent years government edge computing has been focused on things like traffic flow, availability of parking spaces and city security. But with today’s growing number of 5G cell towers and other network points of presence, edge computing can be leveraged by governments in new ways, extending additional citizen services based on location, with localized applications and personalized targeting.

This is where edge computing, with its localized applications and analytical capabilities, can start offering specialized types of information targeted at average consumers.

For example, Citizens will soon be able to use augmented reality (via their phones, headsets or tablets) to see what is available to them block by block in a city. This can be as basic as finding a parking spot, but it eventually will lead to more advanced solutions, such as seeing the local history of that block, learning what government services are available and knowing where things like police stations, fire hydrants, potholes and other current information.

And government maintenance workers can have an augmented reality view of pipes beneath a street or other maintenance issues, including block-by-block trouble tickets.

User Profiles Can Help Set Customized Information Views

Some citizens will likely cite privacy concerns and may not want to participate in government-provided edge services. But for those who do, specialized applications, using data analytics and artificial intelligence, can customize the data views that are served to specific end-user profiles.  Based on citizen-selected interests, citizens can receive highly localized data feeds with a recommend a mix of both commercial and governmental information, spanning the range from weather and traffic alerts, to recommended restaurants (complete with recent health inspection reports), to the location of where the last postal service pick-up is in the neighborhood.

Localized details also can include things like health services and the locations of available cardiac defibrillators.

While government edge services can offer highly customized citizen experiences, this type of geolocation-targeted citizen personalization is not without controversy. For example, it also can be tied to surveillance and facial recognition.

But on the flip side, edge computing can support powerful solutions such as digital twin capabilities. Imagine having a digital twin view of every government vehicle that may need maintenance. Street maps also could show real-time views of traffic flows and detours.

Edge computing and virtual replications can be leveraged together to extract new business values. Highly localized views of digital twins can start to predict future events based on locally available data. In the future, this also will help assist self-driving cars, routing local deliveries, and making predictions related to crowd movement and security control. In some cases datacenter-class processing capabilities may be needed at the edge, providing the processing power and advanced analytics that interaction-intensive applications often require. This can be particularly useful for edge-based Security as a Service.

Understanding the Government Network Edge

IDC defines edge as the technology-related actions performed outside of centralized datacenters. For government, the term especially refers to edge systems which serve as the intermediary between connected endpoints and the core IT environment.

Modern government edge systems are distributed, software defined, and flexible. Government is in a unique position to offer edge-based services across a set geographic area, with the potential for interactions by all citizens.

  • Various levels of computing power, storage, analytics and artificial intelligence can be installed and used at the government network edge.
  • Edge computing nodes can operate independently, or they can serve as part of a larger set of distributed systems.
  • Systems can include “heavy edge,” such as a remote office/branch office capabilities, or “light edge,” providing things like mobile access or block-level controls for government functions and citizen services.

Geographically enhanced government edge systems are just one of the trends influencing the future growth and capabilities of government computing. The growing availability of localized data, the expansion of network points of presence, and the proliferation of artificial intelligence and machine learning are just now tapping into the vast potential of localized processing and the personalized services that can be brought to the network edge, whether in a city, or on highways or national borders.

And, depending on the level of systems integration desired, additional actions can be triggered, from security alerts to personalized citizen notifications and services.

Different government agencies are now leveraging edge computing, analytics and AI to make real-time decisions that will have broad citizen impact. For the next several years this will continue to be a high-growth area for government spending. Edge computing will continue to grow in concert with the roll-out of 5G connectivity and new capabilities built into edge-based machine learning and AI solutions. Both can help speed governments’ ability to respond to rapidly emerging data trends. For an overview of edge computing for government, look at our document, Edge Computing, 5G, and AI: Government’s Exponential Perfect Storm.

To get started, government agencies should look at what data they already are collecting at remote locations. How fast is the collection growing? Can you improve efficiencies by processing data at the network edge instead of moving it to a central data center?

We expect data-driven edge initiatives will be a transformational effort for local and national governments in the coming years. Agencies that invest now can build a solid foundation for long-term edge processing options. This includes Transforming the citizen experience, anticipating needs and shepherding user experiences to where services can be found quickly, and also developed and rolled out quickly, essentially driving the evolution of new data-driven services. And keep in mind that locally distributed edge computing can create its own security and management issues. We take a closer look at this in this document, Government Cybersecurity Challenges at the Edge.

For more guidance on how government agencies can use edge computing to extract, analyze and make real-time decisions on data, trends influencing the future of government edge systems, and edge security, read the new eBook, “Extending Missions & Finding Business Value In Government Edge Computing”. Click the button below to download the eBook.

Shawn P. McCarthy

Research Director, IDC Government Insights