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Edge computing has become an important trend for the Internet of Things (IoT). Gartner Group identifies edge computing as one of its top Tech Trends for 2019. Companies implementing IoT solutions are seeing real benefits of processing data on the edge, closer to the “things”, before it is sent to the cloud. Confirming this trend, a recent Micron/Forrester survey found in the next 3 years 53 percent of respondents expect to be analyzing complex data sets at the edge. This is why some have made the bold prediction that “the edge will eat the cloud.”
Edge computing is gaining attention since it addresses some of the key issues of implementing industrial IoT use cases.
Processing large amounts of sensor data at the edge reduces network bandwidth costs and cloud data storage costs. Edge computing allows for the analysis and filtering of data closer to the sensors so only the relevant data is sent to the cloud.
Many industrial IoT use cases require sub-second response times for safety-critical and precision operations. For instance, if a human is too close to a piece of industrial equipment it needs to stop working immediately. In this case, the decision to stop working can’t wait for a return trip with an IoT cloud platform. Moving the processing to the edge, close to the sensors, allows for sub-second response times.
Autonomous cars are another use case the requires sub-second response time that is possible due to edge computing.
Security and privacy requirements for industrial IoT use cases are also driving the need for edge computing. Factories and critical infrastructure are using edge devices to shield critical industrial processes and equipment from a direct network connection. Similarly, the data generated by these machines is often viewed as private and confidential is edge computing is able to keep sensitive information within a factory.
Finally, edge computing also allows for autonomous operations. Many industrial operations cannot simply stop if there is a network connection issue. Edge computing allows equipment and factories to continue operating regardless of the network availability.
Many of the IoT Platform vendors are also creating their own edge offerings. Companies like Litmus Automation, Clearblade, Bosch IoT Suite, Software AG Cumulocity, and others offer edge solutions that connect with their IoT platform. The focus for many of these companies is to be able to run data analysis and machine learning models on edge hardware.