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Social Sensing

Sensing based on people that are providing data, both directly and indirectly through their devices, smartphones to start with, may become a become a back up solution in case of natural disasters affecting the operation of infrastructures. The fog network created by devices at the edges may take over and provide data to rescuers. In the image the hurricane Irma at peak intensity near the U.S. Virgin Islands on September 6, 2017. Photo credit: NOAA

I gave a tutorial on Smart Cities in conjunction with ISC2 in Wuxi, China, and a good portion of it focussed on leveraging the potential of citizens. A Smart Cities can rely on smart citizens more and more using technology as a bridge.

Nowadays more and more people have a smartphone, and today’s smartphones are packaging many sensors that can double up into data providers to the city benefit. More than that, they can also create local networks, in what is known as “fog Networking” becoming network nodes. We already see everyday application on a small scale when we tether our laptop to our smartphone to access the network, when we drop a photo from our digital camera (stand alone of in the smartphone) into our laptop, when we watch a movie received on the smartphone to our televisions. These are all examples, although minimal, of creation of a local network independent of the big Operators infrastructures.

The coming of 5G will further push fog networking, leveraging the potential of the network edges. At the SocialSens 2017 conference on in Pittsburgh, a paper by Ramachandran ad others from the Georgia Institute of Technology ,  The Fog Makes Sense: Enabling Social Sensing Services With Limited Internet Connectivity , proposed to use smartphones to create an emergency network in cases where the network is disrupted, like it happened with the recent Irma hurricane. Disruptions are likely to occur where most devastation took place and where there is most need for rescue. As I said, 5G will provide a seamless way to create these networks at the edges (meshed networks, private networks…).

In perspective, I see plenty of these networks becoming reality also in normal situation, flanking the main -Operators driven- networks. One of the possibility is to use these edge networks as carriers of locally sensed data, specifically those gathered by smartphones. More than that. We can easily imagine that these data can be processed locally, may be in a distributed way, by the smartphones themselves, and converted into metadata that can be passed over to some service centre.

Part of these data may also provide information on social aspects, including relations and mood. There is plenty of value that can be derived by observing smartphones data, and doing so locally, and in a distributed way, may help in managing privacy issues.

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. He’s currently Head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital, co-chair of the Symbiotic Autonomous Systems Initiative of IEEE-FDC. Until Aprile 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the Industry Advisory Board within the Future Directions Committee. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento.
He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.
He writes a daily blog,  http://sites.ieee.org/futuredirections/category/blog/, with commentary on innovation in various technology and market areas.

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