Edge Computing for Bringing Smart Services to Under-served Urban Communities
Lead PI:
Umakishore Ramachandran

Today we are entirely dependent on centralized infrastructures (aka Cloud) for pretty much all our everyday activities such as online education, neighborhood apps, access to driving directions, and restaurant suggestions in a neighborhood. This reliance on the Cloud has serious implications. Most importantly it is one of the primary causes for the increasing digital divide between the affluent and under-served communities. The thesis of this proposal is that such reliance on a centralized infrastructure is the bane of under-served communities blocking them from reaping the benefits of information services that are available at the fingertips of residents in affluent communities. Ubiquitous availability of low-cost software services that are tailored to the needs of the community and pertinent to the local conditions without reliance on the Cloud are key factors in enhancing the capabilities of such communities. The key hypothesis to be validated through the planning grant is the power of edge computing to address the digital divide and future-proof these under-served urban communities. The findings from the planning grant will help reveal feasible technological interventions for future-proofing under-served urban communities from the digital divide. There is promise that the results of this research could be replicated elsewhere leading to a positive impact on the lives of under-served communities nation-wide, if the hypotheses of the larger research vision is validated by the data collection being done through this planning grant.

Using the Westside communities of Atlanta as an exemplar for under-served urban neighborhoods, the planning grant wishes to carry out the following pilots along the technology dimension: (a) edge-compute based video-conferencing solutions for the residents of the community (e.g., for meetings of the stakeholders, tutoring help for students, etc.) ; (b) edge-compute based smart prefetching of content pertinent to the needs of the residents (e.g., entertainment, videos and presentations pertaining to school work, etc.) ; and (c) ad hoc connectivity solutions to bring WiFi hotspots to different neighborhoods. Along the societal dimension, the project will recruit participants (about 30) representing different demographic groups (such as community leaders, teachers, students, mentors, and local residents) for using the technology pilots. The data collection from the user group will consist of: (a) general understanding of the pressing needs of the community; (b) specific requirements of the focus groups for identifying the types of content to be prefetched and/or cached in the edge nodes; and (c) user experience on the technology pilots.

Umakishore Ramachandran
I am on the faculty of the School of Computer Science, Georgia Institute of Technology since 1986. Currently, I lead a planning grant under the S&CC program entitled, "Edge Computing for Bringing Smart Services to Underserved Urban Communities."
Performance Period: 10/01/2021 - 09/30/2024
Institution: Georgia Tech Research Corporation
Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Award Number: 2125354