Edge computing is coming to just about everything near you
We ask a lot of the internet these days. Even during our leisure time, we want things now. Imagine you’re out shopping, but you’re watching a football game on your phone and trying to keep tabs on your fantasy team. You don’t want a 30-second delay on the live stream. The action is happening now, and you want to see it now. You also want to be able to track in real time how that touchdown you just saw affected your fantasy score. You want that app to refresh and reflect the changes instantly. For all that, you need edge computing. That’s just a tiny sliver of what we’ll rely on it for, but it illustrates how pervasive the demand for edge computing is.
What Edge Computing Does
Edge computing puts computation and storage closer to the device that’s using the internet at a given time rather than relying on the cloud or a distant data center. This cuts way down on latency — lag time — that can result in buffering and other slowdowns that are detrimental to remote work and teleconferencing. The advent of 5G will make edge computing even more prevalent as it facilitates higher download speeds, possibly up to 20 gigabytes per second, and allows more devices to connect to a particular network.
Consider how many tools we use regularly that rely on the internet. How many apps do you have on your phone? On your tablet? The internet of things is all around us at all times. Spend long hours at the office or go out of town on a business trip, and you can still check in your pets with a Canary camera or even dole out treats with a Furbo.
Analytics are a key part of every business, from predicting sales to ensuring hospitals are comfortable places to be. Smart thermostats regulate temperature remotely, saving energy and cost. Virtual and augmented reality help us construct buildings, learn new skills, and kick back at the end of the day. AI and cobots do a lot of the manual, labor-intensive tasks that free us up to focus on the big picture. Soon enough, self-driving cars will be all over the roads. We want them to be able to stop on a dime when they’re about to hit someone. We want the reaction time afforded by edge computing, which reduces the amount of data that needs to be processed and the amount of bandwidth needed for the split-second actions. This won’t just save money, it will save lives.
All that computing is going to require a lot of hardware. About $200 billion worth by 2025, McKinsey estimates. Edge computers have to be lightweight, have to be fast, and have to have a lot of storage. They have to be durable enough to go in the sky and out to sea where humans won’t be able to perform regular maintenance work.
Edge computing hardware will go on autonomous mining vehicles doing the heavy lifting in remote areas. It goes on drones relaying information back to remote networks. Those drones need to acquire and process information rapidly before they can communicate anything meaningful back to human monitors. It goes on offshore drilling rigs that need to be able to make decisions on their own without frequent human input.
Edge computing sensors can play a key role in healthcare, processing and relaying vital information quickly. “Edge computing in an ICU can be achieved by connecting a system’s sensors to small, local control systems that handle processing, and communication,” the authors of a study in the Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology wrote. “The result of edge computing can be rapid machine-to-machine communication or machine-to-human interaction. This paradigm takes localized processing farther away from the network right down to the sensor by pushing the computing processes even closer to the data sources.”
Thanks to local storage, the information edge computers can be accessed when a network is offline.
If Gartner is right in its prediction that edge computing will account for 75 percent of enterprise-generated data by 2025, up from about 10 percent currently, that means a lot more businesses will adopt it. With the explosion of the IoT, that seems likely.
“Organizations that have embarked on a digital business journey have realized that a more decentralized approach is required to address digital business infrastructure requirements,” Gartner senior research director Santhosh Rao said. “As the volume and velocity of data increases, so too does the inefficiency of streaming all this information to a cloud or data center for processing.”
While the edge won’t replace the cloud, it will augment it in significant ways. In the near future, get ready to see custom processor such as those Pensando Systems is developing, along with infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS) vendors, Forrester Research says.
Edge computing will make its way into farm fields, where drones monitor crop health. Hawk Aerial, a drone company, specializes in the wine industry. The company uses its multispectral cameras to gather images which are then stitched together using AI and provide vineyards with a report on vine vigor, which can affect the overall quality of the wine that is made. This information allows the winemakers to know in which areas the vines are weak, and which areas are having problems with fertilization, pests, or irrigation.
It will make its way into finance, where ATM kiosks will provide customized interactions based on your transaction history and even show VR simulations of that new home you’re saving for. It will make its way to digital billboards that will let you know that item you’re eyeing is on sale. And it’ll help you keep tabs on your fantasy team.