Eric Hui, Director of Business Development - IoT Ecosystems, Asia Pacific at Equinix
The world has faced a number of severe natural disasters this year. For typhoon-prone places like Asia, bad weather conditions can have a big impact on public safety and economic activities.
Whilst natural disasters cannot be avoided, many anticipate that interconnected smart cities will enable citizens to better protect themselves and empower governments to better safeguard private and public assets. Everyone desires a quick recovery.
Three steps to master natural disasters
Smart cities are built on the foundations of the Internet of Things (IoT). IoT sensors offer the ability to capture information, monitor situations and control devices. Insights are generated from massive streams of IoT real-time data. This facilitates effective planning, fact finding and decision-making. To fully realize the benefits of a smart city in times of natural disaster, there are three essential areas to focus on:
Step 1: Plan for resiliency
There are a multitude of sensors owned by different parties, such as transit service providers and weather observatories to monitor foot traffic and weather conditions. The missing piece is a neutral and centralized platform to collate all these data sets. By leveraging multiple data sources in real-time, cities can extract data insights to better prepare for natural disasters. Drivers can plan ahead for the fastest and safest route while taking real time input of road blockages due to fallen trees.
The same applies to real-time flight information sharing and emergency services advisories. Interconnection offers many benefits in this area, helping to extract situational intelligence and build disaster mitigation solutions that are far-reaching and impactful.
Step 2: Protect for redundancy
For facilities like airports, which are the backbone for key economic activities such as tourism, logistics and business travel, extended ‘down time’ can have serious ramifications. While there is a fixed time to rebuild certain infrastructures, a planned redundancy with an agile interconnected model can help reinforce high availability connectivity.
For example, a single long route is unfortunately also a single point of failure. Thousands of kilometers of fiber cable make them highly susceptible to damage by storms and result in high levels of latency when exchanging data during natural disasters. Instead, optimizing private connectivity among distributed infrastructures in different locations can help sustain business communications and cloud infrastructure.
Equinix data centers host network PoPs for quite a number of ISPs and telcos. This means if any carrier fibers or links are affected, alternate reroute contingencies are in place to achieve redundancy and resiliency requirements.
Step 3: Promote data sharing and analysis for recovery
Data sharing and analysis are crucial for disaster recovery but currently there are challenges. Firstly, certain data collected by sensors around cities is considered private. Secondly, disaster recovery coordination is usually centralized, meaning that in many ways governments are often on their own when tasked with responding to severe weather events.
Although not all data is sharable, the exchange of ‘privacy-removed’ data would be valuable in supporting natural disaster recovery. An example will be recovery after the earthquake strikes in Indonesia. The government can quickly classify emergency levels of affected areas based on the data collected from IoT sensors and interconnect various public data platforms. They can then smartly prioritize, deliver necessities and send rescuing teams to the most impacted areas.
Now and beyond
Interconnection fundamentally helps a city better prepare for, manage, and recover from a natural disaster. By integrating IoT-based monitoring, private connectivity and distributed infrastructures, governments and businesses can protect people and minimize economic losses during natural disasters. The insights generated also offer smart cities greater ability to enhance city planning and development, as well as the safety of all its citizens.