The “cloud” has enabled more people and companies to process and store large amounts of data without the expense of purchasing the necessary hardware. By signing up and paying a fee for a cloud service, the data and computing is held and processed and hosted by someone else such as “icloud” or “googledrive”.
However, there is a new trend that is working in reverse by bringing computing power extremely local and decentralising the system. This is known as“Edge Computing”. Edge computing has become more of a necessity of technology as the “Internet of Things” is expanding. As more devices and even household items are able to connect to the internet and collect and transfer data, cloud computing is being pushed to the limit and many data centres are not able to guarantee the quick response rates in data processing that is required for the use of these items.
In this new system devices are given the ability to record data created locally and are able to compute and process that data to give real-time decision-making powers. These devices are known as “Edge devices” and actually refer to any type of equipment such as workplace machinery, cars, robots or even household objects, that have this edge computing power embedded into the device. These devices all have their own initial function they were created for but can be enhanced by adopting edge computing technology.
A practical application of this is in self-driving vehicles. In order to navigate the road safely these autonomous cars have many sensors to detect the movement of traffic and the environment around them. It is important in order to drive safely that the car records and processes the data collected by the sensors and makes a reliable and fast response so the vehicle can respond to the surroundings appropriately. This computing may not always be possible if the vehicle were to rely on getting internet connection, but edge computing allows all the data processing and decision making to occur onsite and in real-time.
Another application of Edge computing is for work-place machinery to pick up when the machine or the quality of the outputs the machine is producing is declining in quality. This means that any failure or malfunctions can be picked up upon before they occur.
The main benefits of Edge Computing are:
Speed — a reduction in latency caused by an increased network performance since data is processed locally or in nearby edge centres and not in the cloud
Scalability — harnessing edge can expand companies data collection and analytical abilities and by harnessing both internet of things, edge computing and edge data centres it is often cheaper as well.
Reliability — Edge devices can still process data and continue to provide useful information without internet connection meaning connection issues are less problematic. They also lower data traffic and reduce the dependency on the outside source, the cloud, leading to more reliable and efficient operations.
Edge computing will not replace cloud computing, as the cloud will still be necessary for the computation of very large data sets and to take advantage of machine learning and AI. With edge computing providing local and real-time data processing and decision making and the cloud storing and completing computational expensive analytics their potential is reached when both sources are combined.