What is Edge Computing?
Edge computing is a computing structure that moves computing power and storage to the edge of a network, close to the source of data generation and the people who use the data to make data driven decisions. Moving compute power closer to the source of data generation has several benefits that we will discuss in much detail below.
Some of the advantages of edge computing are that it enables applications that require real-time data analysis and decision making thanks to the reduced latency that edge computing provides. Additionally, edge computing has the added benefit of increasing the amount of available bandwidth since less data has to move to the cloud for processing and analysis.
That said, although edge computing has several benefits, it is not a replacement for the cloud. The cloud still provides tremendous value thanks to its ever-increasing compute power and data storage capabilities. Having said that, edge computing complements the cloud very nicely.
What are the Benefits of Edge Computing?
Edge computing offers several benefits and advantages, including alleviating the stress placed on data centers due to the ever-increasing number of IoT devices, low-latency real-time data processing and analysis, and reduction in the internet bandwidth required for some applications. We will discuss each of these benefits in more detail below.
Summary of the Benefits of Edge Computing:
- Coping with the explosion of IoT
- Reduction in Latency
- Reduction in bandwidth usage
- Saving Money on Energy Costs
- Greater Reliability
- Enhanced Security
Continue reading below to understand each of the benefits and advantages of edge computing in more detail.
#1 Benefit - IoT and Edge Computing
IoT (Internet of Things) devices are increasing in number, with over a million devices coming online every day. As the number of devices increases, so does the volume of data that’s generated by such devices. This is where edge computers come into play. Edge computers can be used to alleviate the stress placed on the cloud and data centers by processing and analyzing the data locally so that only essential data is sent to the cloud for post-processing and remote monitoring.
#2 Benefit - Reduction in Latency
The second major advantage that edge computing brings to the table is that it enables real-time applications by reducing the amount of latency associated with processing and analyzing data. Latency is the time it takes a device to send data to the cloud, have the data processed and analyzed, and send back to the device of origin.
While the cloud is great for performing tasks, such as editing a document online and having your changes saved so that you can share the document with your colleagues, things are different when running an application that requires real-time analysis and decision making.
Take, for example, autonomous vehicles. If an autonomous vehicle is driving on the highway at a speed of 65 mph, it’s covering almost 90 feet of road per second, and if the vehicle has to wait a few seconds to transmit sensor data to the cloud for processing and analysis and wait to receive a reply, the vehicle could have already collided with another vehicle or obstacle. This is where edge computing comes in to play, edge computing can process data in real-time, often processing and analyzing data and making a decision in as little as a single millisecond vs. the few seconds that it would take the cloud to process the data and send it back to the vehicle.
#3 Benefit - Reduction in Bandwidth
The third benefit of using edge computers is the significant savings in internet bandwidth because edge computing devices are capable of processing and analyzing the data, only transmitting important and post-processed data to the cloud. This is different from the traditional model, where all of the raw data is sent to the cloud for processing and analysis.
Take, for example, a surveillance system. In the past, surveillance systems uploaded all of the footage to the cloud for processing and analysis. With edge computing, an edge computer would process and analyze the surveillance footage data, only uploading specific footage that sets off a trigger to the cloud. For example, if the edge PC detects suspicious activity, it can only upload the portion of the video with said activity to the cloud, instead of uploading the entire video fees. This significantly reduces the amount of bandwidth that’s used by surveillance systems. Additionally, in the event that internet connectivity is not available, edge computers can continue to function, uploading critical data once internet connectivity is available.
#4 Benefit - Saving Money on Energy
The fourth benefit of edge computers is that they can save you a ton of money in the form of reduced internet bandwidth and energy costs. Mini edge computers are often equipped with low-powered SoC (system-on-chip) processors that perform great while using little power. Although the cost savings from a single edge computer is negligible, if you’re deploying hundreds or thousands of these devices, you can save a significant amount of money on energy costs.
Additionally, since you’re using less internet bandwidth, if you’re on a metered data plan where you pay for the bandwidth that you use, you will see significant savings by deploying an edge computer since less data must be sent to the cloud.
#5 Benefit - Greater Reliability
The fourth advantage of edge computers is that they can be configured as rugged edge computers, which are ruggedized edge computing systems that are able to withstand deployment in volatile environments. Rugged edge computers are made using industrial-grade hardware, which has been tested and validated to ensure reliable 24 hours a day, 7 days a week operation. Additionally, rugged edge computers have been designed and built with ruggedness in mind. Their fanless design allows them to be deployed in environments that are frequently exposed to shocks, vibration, dust, dirt, debris, water, and extreme temperatures.
#6 Benefit - Enhanced Security
The fifth benefit of deploying edge computers is that they provide enhanced security. This is so because data has to move less distance since it’s processed locally, providing fewer opportunities for hackers to intercept the data as it travels through networks. That said, this does mean that edge computers are impenetrable, but it does mean that there is a lower possibility that data can be intercepted as it moves through the internet to the cloud.
Manufacturers of edge computing hardware have incorporated security into the design of edge computing devices, safeguarding the data on the devices. Safety measures include equipping edge computers with a crypto-processor known as TPM 2.0 that provides hardware-based security, making it difficult for a person to meddle with the system by deploying malicious software to tamper with the security functions of the TPM.
#7 Benefit - Fully Intelligent Automation
Edge computing is powerful enough to run AI algorithms that can be used to optimize and fine tune a company’s operations, saving energy and improving the quality of products. Edge computers gather a ton of information from the various sensors and cameras typically found in production facilities, the information can be used to enable a feedback control system, which enable producers of goods to fine tun their production by using output information to improve the process and create better products.
For example, if a manufacturer is producing widgets, the manufacturer can place sensors that monitor the stiffness of the widget that are produced. If the system finds that some widgets are soft, the system can use this information to make corrections to the production process to improve the quality of the widgets it outputs.
Simply stated, fully intelligent automation combines AI (artificial intelligence), machine learning (ML), and process automation to improve production processes, allowing machines to think on their own, learn from the data being gathered, and adapt on the process to produce the best possible product.
Examples of Edge Computing
Here are some examples of industries that are powered by edge computers:
1. Interactive Kiosk Machines
Edge computers are at the heart of many self-service interactive kiosk machines. Edge computers are able to power kiosk machines because they are equipped with HDMI, DP, USB, and COM ports that allow the edge computer to connect to touch screen displays, sensors, cameras, printers, credit card readers, and bill scanners that are often used in kiosk machines. Edge computers transform the shopping experience of end users, providing an interactive experience by helping end users find the products and service they’re looking for. Kiosk machines are typically packed with the latest IoT devices that include things, such as touchscreens, smart sensors, and cameras. Edge computers are able to power kiosk machines reliably 24/7.
2. Autonomous Vehicles
Autonomous vehicles benefit tremendously from edge computers because they enable real-time data analysis and decision making, which is something required to safely guide autonomous vehicles, such as self-driving cars, smart factory carts, and autonomous platooning trucks. Edge computers are able to process the data fed to them by the various sensors and cameras on the autonomous vehicle, allowing the edge computer to guide the vehicle to avoid colliding with other vehicles, obstacles, or persons.
3. Security and Surveillance Systems
Edge computer systems are essential for security and surveillance systems as they reduce the reliance of such systems on the cloud. Instead of having to send raw data feeds to the cloud for processing and analysis, edge computing systems process and analyze the data locally, only sending data that meets certain criteria to the cloud for post-processing and analysis. This reduces the reliance of security and surveillance on the cloud, and enables them to operate in remote and volatile environments where reliable internet connectivity is not always available.
Additionally, edge computing systems reduce the internet bandwidth used by such systems since only essential data is sent to the cloud for post processing and remote monitoring. This is different from the traditional model where the entire video feed was uploaded to the cloud for processing, analysis, and monitoring.
Additionally, rugged edge computers can be deployed in the same location of the security and surveillance system thanks to their rugged design and build quality, which allows them to survive the most challenging environments. Rugged edge computers can be deployed in environments that are subjected to frequent shocks, vibration, dust, debris, water, and extreme temperatures. These are environments that regular desktop PCs cannot survive in because they’re not ruggedized as are rugged edge computing systems.
4. Remote Monitoring of Assets in the Oil and Gas Industry
Thanks to their rugged design, edge computers can be deployed in oil fields where the temperature often exceeds 50⁰C thanks to their fanless, rugged design. Edge computers are vital to the operation of oil and the gas industry because they are used to monitor the hundreds or thousands of assets that are deployed in the fields to ensure smooth reliable operation. Additionally, oil and gas fields are often in remote areas, adding to the importance of having edge computers that have rich connectivity options, allowing the edge devices to communicate to other devices and to the internet to offload vital information and allow for the remote monitoring of assets. In the event that internet connectivity is not available edge computers can offload data to the cloud when internet connectivity is available thanks to SIM slots that can be used for redundant cellular connectivity when wireless or wired internet is not available.
5. Predictive Maintenance
Edge computers gather data from vast amounts of IoT devices and manufacturing equipment. Edge computers can analyze the data that’s gathered on the factory floor, permitting factories to plan and predict the maintenance that needs to be performed on heavy duty factor machinery. Additionally, edge computers can be utilized for predictive maintenance in the transportation industry, which utilizes edge computers to gather data on things, such rail carts, buses, ferries, and boats.
Predictive maintenance allows companies to plan maintenance ahead of time, reducing downtime required to perform unplanned maintenance and repairs. This is so because the data gathered from IoT devices can be used to predict when a failure is about to occur and when machines require maintenance. Furthermore, since most of the analysis is done locally on edge computers, you will save a significant amount of money since a lot of the raw data that was once sent to the cloud for processing and analysis, can now be processed and analyzed locally, with only vital information being sent to the cloud.
Premio Edge Computing Case Studies
Case Study #1 - IoT Gateways Connect LiDAR Based Smart Surveillance System
The Customer used Premio's RCO-1010 Series of Rugged edge computers to function as IoT gateways to manage a network of LiDAR based smart surveillance system for a major home improvement retailer in the United States. Edge computers were used to process and analyze the LiDAR sensors footage in order to track customers for safety and loss prevention purposes.
Case Study #2 - IoT Gateways Power Intelligent Transportation System
The Customer utilized Premio's RCO-1010 of rugged edge computers for installation in transportation vehicles to provide travelers and commuters with real-time updates as to the status of transportation vehicles. The entire package allowed travelers and commuters to better plan their commutes, as well as enabled the transportation company to perform predictive maintenance on its transportation vehicles.
The bottom line is that edge computers offer plenty of benefits and advantages to the organizations deploying them. Additionally, we have provided some of the most common use cases for edge computers. The conclusion that we’ve come to is that edge computers are increasing in popularity thanks to processing power and storage that they provide thanks to technological advancements in CPUs and storage devices, which have become more affordable and powerful.