Data Smartens up in a Fog

Data Smartens up in a Fog

March 31, 2016

Those who are part of the data management game can juggle terms like Hadoop, NoSQL, and RDBMS freely. However, for those who are not in the game, this lingo will likely carry the same meaning as a proclamation of goodwill by Martians.

Luckily, not everything is so desperately confusing and there is at least one area of specialized IT jargon that can be comprehended by most humans, especially by those who possess a little bit of knowledge of natural science. Somehow water, in its different physical states, has seeped into the IT lingo referring to data computing and storage. Let’s use a little bit of imagination on see how data computing transforms by following the water cycle.

Data Lake is probably the largest body of water in this set and by definition is the data depository and processing engine of the largest scale. Water from the lake evaporates to turn into a Cloud. Clouds effectively carry all the data, which become readily available to the data owner at the request via the Internet connection. Using cloud computing is very convenient; it reduces your cost of storage and maintenance and you can connect to your data anywhere, as long as an internet connection is available. Clouds, however have a tendency to travel; therefore data users cannot be 100% confident where the clouds are and how their data are actually being managed in these floating objects.

Data Smartens up in a Fog

When the weather conditions change near the surface and the temperature drops the cloud turns into fog, which does not travel much but instead remains at a certain level above the ground. You can stand in the fog, walk in the fog and get your clothes dampened by the fog. Basically, you are directly affected by it. In Fog computing, data is processed without being sent to remote locations, but instead remains on the local network level. Fog computing allows to connect multiple users and automation devices via the Internet of Things (IoT) or Internet of Everything (IoE). Effectively, fog computing is a localized system which includes you with your smart devices and many other heterogeneous devices.

Then it gets colder. Dew forms when the surface cools by radiating heat. Dew appears on any surface, such as plants, grass and roofs which are not warmed by conducting heat from below. You can literally walk on dew, collect it, and even drink it. Logically, Dew computing brings data even closer to its users. Under this technology, data is copied to the local system, such as computers, for faster processing. The Cloud-Dew architecture can be extremely useful, especially in cases of internet connection failure. When the connection is back on, the data gets synched with the remote servers. Such approach can make many applications (e.g., websites) semi-functional when off-line. While the Cloud-Dew combination works best for internet-based applications and systems, Fog mainly operates automated and mobile devices. This brings us to another concept commonly understood by general public of so-called “smart devices”.

Smartening up started with meters and mobile devices, then it moved to power grids and systems. Recently humankind has been toying with the concept of smart cities. Each city is a web of multiple systems and networks that sustain the existence of its residents. Energy and water utilities, waste management, emergency response, security, law enforcement, health care, transportation and many others subsystems work in parallel with each other. Smart City is a sustainable and efficient operation of various urban systems achieved by integrating multiple information and communication technologies. An example of smart system in a smart city is traffic control when smart sensors report on traffic flow and road conditions, alerting people about congested roads and alternate routes that can be taken. It is alleged by most in the technology sector that one of the best ways to realize this vision is through Fog computing via IoT or IoE.

First of all, nothing of this is possible without data. A city generates tons of data. To smarten it up via the integrated intertwined network is a major undertaking. In a smart city, data are collected via a network of sensors and devices measuring and monitoring traffic, power consumption, security conditions, etc. Collecting such enormous volumes of data is a gigantic task on its own. How to do it most efficiently? Optimizing collection schedules is one aspect of this undertaking. Our in-depth article Big Schedule for Big Data addresses this issue. After the data collection is figured out, all relevant information is gathered, channeled to data centers and interconnected devices, analyzed, streamed further to other outlets, and becomes part of predictive analysis. While it sounds to most to us as some sort of a futuristic picture, a lot of work has already been done to make it a reality.

Municipalities and businesses around the world collaborate in a drive to create smarter places to live in. Europe leads the pack with Amsterdam, Barcelona, and Stockholm being the flagship localities for smart city concept implementation. In US, the leaders are New York, Chicago and Santa Cruz. Big Kahunas— global leading businesses— have been competing for first mover advantage. Intel, GE, Siemens, Accenture, Hitachi, Mitsubishi, and Schneider Electric, to name a few, have been engaged with municipalities in finding the best fitting solutions. On March 17, 2106, Cisco announced an investment of a half billion dollars to turn Berlin into a smarter place over the next three years with the focus on healthcare and security. IBM went all the way in with a promise of a Smarter Planet. Really, why not?

Governments are getting in the game. South Korea, India and Brazil have been funding the R&D efforts. On September 14, 2015, the US Administration announced a “Smart Cities” Initiative with investment of over $160 million in federal research. It is not exactly Cisco’s level of commitment, but still, a beginning.

No matter how many states of water we have to go through in search of the best data computation and storage solution. Our future is the place where information technology becomes the principal infrastructure and the basis for providing essential services. Our future is the place where smart data management solutions become the cornerstone of our success, the place where the infrastructure smartening up actually makes us smarter.



Fog Computing. International Journal of Computer Applications (0975–8887). National Conference on Advancements in Alternate Energy Resources for Rural Applications (AERA-2015).

Reader's Discussion

  1. Avatar
    Anna Warchol

    I like to use a term “data pond”. Data lake lies to close to data leak…

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