In a way, the exponential growth of machine-to-machine communications with connected sensors, or what is called the Internet of Things (IoT), has become an example of too much of a good thing.
IoT facilitating communication among connected machines, devices and sensors, creates data at levels never seen before, in volumes that are growing at such a rate that organizations and government agencies will have massive problems analyzing and using in an optimal way. At the same time, rapid IoT data growth is introducing new security and data volume issues that current cloud security and storage systems will have difficulty handling.
By the time the rapidly growing streams of data get to the cloud-based analytic systems and then circle back to the devices with instructions based on the analysis of the larger data ecosystem, the opportunity for instant analysis and appropriate action is greatly reduced.
Fortunately, a concept called Edge Computing can make sense of, and put to use, the wealth of data taken from IoT.
Edge computing solves that problem by effectively putting processing power a good deal closer to where the action is happening. Because of this, it can offer game-changing opportunities for organizations looking to leverage the advantages of IoT without many common constraints and drawbacks.
Edge Computing Defined
Edge computing is a type of information technology system in which data is processed as close to the original source as possible, incorporating a horizontal architecture that distributes the resources and services of computing, storage, networking and communications closer to the actual data sources. Rather than merely sending data elsewhere, any device with computing, storage and network connectivity can be attached to programmable automation controllers, which handle processing, communication and other tasks.
The result is not limited merely to faster processing and analysis of important data. Edge computing can also address bandwidth capacity and other communications challenges, particularly with the rapidly increasing amount of data that is produced and the increased demands of artificial intelligence and other systems to enable two-way instant intelligence and action.
The Advantages and Applications of Edge Computing
The potential of edge computing is both powerful and broad across any number of possible applications. Here are a few ways in which Edge Computing can change the data world as we know it:
- Manufacturing — In these settings, edge devices, including machines and sensors, can capture streaming data used to predict and prevent a part from failing. They can also reroute traffic or modify production for maximum productivity and head off product defects quickly and efficiently. As a result, you can increase speed while reducing costs and boosting revenue.
- Drones — These devices need to essentially “phone home” to take any action on data that’s collected. Edge computing allows drones themselves to analyze collected data and take appropriate steps in lieu of said data. For example, a drone examining a remote forest fire, a collapsed building or hundreds of acres of farmland can pinpoint a problem itself and take action instantly. Simultaneously, drones can pinpoint nearby human personnel and provide those people with valuable information, enabling faster and more effective response times.
- Remote Offices — Essentially, applying Edge Computing to this situation would include replicating cloud services on a local level. By installing intermediary micro data centers or high-performance servers at such remote locations, employees and others working away from a centralized location or headquarters can have the ability to act on valuable information in a fraction of the time needed to first send the data to cloud storage.
Given its decentralized nature, Edge Computing can also prove difficult in the world of cybersecurity. But since computing and control occur near the original source of the data, it would be easier to identify any unusual or suspicious activity and take action long before a security breach occurs. Additionally, since Edge Computing allows for communication, networking and other tasks without extensive routing, a higher level of containment is possible, providing fewer opportunities for cyber attacks.
It’s also important to bear in mind that Edge Computing is not unduly limiting. While Edge Computing offers remarkable opportunities, we’re certainly not going to stop using cloud services as we have come to know them. Rather, it’s a complementary relationship in which both parties boost the other’s value. Particularly voluminous or less time-sensitive data and information can be transferred to the cloud for comprehensive analytics or simply long-term storage.
Edge Computing acknowledges the scope of IoT, while addressing many of the challenges and drawbacks such a comprehensive network presents. The next step is for you and your organization to become more anticipatory in discovering what Edge Computing can and will do to transform your industry. How can you capitalize on this technology and become the disruptor? What Hard Trends are you noticing in your industry that point to problems needing pre-solving with the use of Edge Computing?
Help your organization take this game-changing opportunity and make it your own.