Because of its stability and scalability, I think the AWS Cloud is well suited to deploy the infrastructures behind many smart city projects.
KJ Liu Head of Smart City Integrated Solutions

Founded in 1989, Askey Computer Corporation is owned by ASUS, one of the world’s manufacturers of computer hardware and consumer electronics. Askey specializes in the manufacturing and development of state-of-the-art IT and network communication products. The company is headquartered in Taipei, Taiwan, and has offices in Silicon Valley.

In 2016, 54.5 percent of the world’s population lived in cities. By 2030, that figure will have reached 60 percent, according to the United Nations. The rise—which is set to continue beyond 2030—presents city authorities with many challenges. How do they ensure growth is sustainable? How do they make sure the rate of expansion doesn’t clog transportation systems? And how do they keep urban dwellers safe in the event of a disaster?

All these challenges are of pressing concern to Taipei, the capital city of Taiwan. Taipei has a population of 7.4 million and will continue to expand over the coming decades. The city authority has launched several projects to make sure Taipei remains livable, sustainable, easy to navigate, and secure.

One of these projects involves Taipei’s main railway transportation hub, Taipei Main Station. The station currently serves more than 30,000 travelers a day, with the number rising in line with the city’s expansion. To meet this increase, city authority contracted with Askey Computer Corporation to enable the growing number of users to pass through the station easily and safely. Askey looked to design a smart solution where travelers could gather news updates on trains and buses, and get help moving around the building through a downloadable smartphone app. The solution would be able to locate each user and tailor information based on that person’s position. The technology would also integrate with digital displays around the station and with the local CCTV system, so the Taipei authority could transmit messages and collect video footage that might be useful in the event of a disaster.

With many services to support, Askey needed a high-performance IT infrastructure to undergird the solution. What’s more, the infrastructure needed to flexibly adapt to the rise and fall in the number of travelers during the day. KJ Liu, head of Smart City Integrated Solutions at Askey, says, “We knew we could get the performance and flexibility that we needed from a cloud-based infrastructure. We looked for a cloud-service provider that has a great reputation and offers management services so we could focus our resources on development, and not simply IT administration.”

Askey considered Microsoft, Google, and Amazon Web Services (AWS) as possible candidates. Comments Liu, “AWS offered us a greater number of managed services, which would enable us to reduce our management costs. We also felt that AWS was a more mature cloud platform. For something as important as the Taipei Main Station project, we couldn’t take any chances about reliability.”

Askey IT engineers designed the solution’s infrastructure, which would consume services on the AWS Cloud. They use Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instances to support the solution’s applications and services. Askey relies on AWS Elastic Beanstalk to automatically scale the applications and services up and down depending on the number of travelers passing through the station. In addition, the solution uses Amazon API Gateway to securely handle traffic between the infrastructure on the AWS Cloud and the app on travelers’ smartphones.

As part of the infrastructure design, Askey IT engineers also included Amazon Kinesis to aggregate data from 5,000 beacons located around the station that support location-based services. The solution takes advantage of AWS Lambda to process the data captured in Amazon Kinesis. It stores all processed data in Amazon DynamoDB and unprocessed data in Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3).

By using AWS, the burgeoning number of travelers in Taipei Main Station will find it easier to obtain travel information and navigate the building using the cloud-based mobile app. In addition, travelers who want to park their automobiles at the station will receive updates on the availability of parking spaces before they arrive.

In the event of a disaster, the city authority can notify app users in the station and coordinate the activities of emergency services. They will also be able to capture valuable data on station usage. This will give planners information on how people are moving around the Taipei area, which, in turn, can provide insights for future public transportation schemes.

The benefits of the solution for the authority are clear. The AWS Cloud delivers the performance and scalability that Askey requires. Liu says, “The AWS infrastructure is proving to be highly reliable. Because of its stability and scalability, I think the AWS Cloud is well suited to deploy the infrastructures behind many smart city projects.”

Also, AWS managed services help Askey keep its costs down. “We need just one IT administrator to oversee our AWS infrastructure,” says Liu. “If it were an on-premises infrastructure, we would need possibly 15. So we are saving about 93 percent.”

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