The effectiveness of edge computing in industrial settings is such that many believe it will surpass the use of cloud computing within a decade. These deductions or predictions are due to the increased versatility that edge computing devices bring to data processing. Edge computing devices can be designed to function in almost any situation and provide computing resources that optimize industrial endeavors.
This article will discuss:
What edge computing devices are and their applications
The importance of edge computing devices to edge computing
The market for edge computing devices and how it supports the adoption of edge computing
Edge computing devices – just what are they?
When it comes to definition, many exist for edge computing devices because there are diverse ways of explaining what these devices do. You could think of an edge device as an entry point into an enterprise’s core networks or any piece of hardware that controls data flow between two networks. This definition highlights the most important functions of edge computing devices – which serve as conduits for data processing – and their ability to stride through external data centers when the need arises.
Edge computing devices are designed to fulfill specific roles and are equipped with the applications they need to accomplish specified tasks. One example is the use of sensors to monitor machine temperature. In this scenario, a sensor which can fit in the palm of your hands, collects temperature data from the machine and transfers that data to a data center or to an IoT platform.
Edge devices are used by enterprises in different capacities. Their uses in industrial processes are well known, but their applications extend outside the manufacturing and service provision. An example of this is the use of edge computing devices in rescue initiatives. Here, a rescue robot serves as the edge computing device, and it can be tasked with moving autonomously and collecting visual data in hard-to-reach areas. The collected data can then be transferred to a larger visual screen to help with decision making.
Types of edge computing devices
Edge devices come in different shapes, sizes, and capacities. A router which connects public networks to the internet is an example of an edge computing device. In other situations, a firewall can serve as an edge device; in this case the firewall determines what accesses a network and therefore serves as the entry point into that network.
Specialized edge computing devices also exist, which is the category the Internet of Things (IoT), Industrial IoT, robots, and smart devices fall into. These edge devices are capable of achieving a broad range of functions. Larger machines or equipment can also serve as edge computing devices. An autonomous vehicle which provides entry to a cloud platform through digital twin technology or a network is also an example of an edge device.
The role of edge computing devices
Edge computing devices are the hardware that drives the application of edge computing across diverse industries. They are used to accomplish different tasks depending on the software applications or features they're provisioned with.
In the manufacturing industry, edge devices play the important role of bringing low latency processing to the shop floor. This makes it feasible to optimize production through data-driven policies. An example is the use of edge computing to collect machine data from legacy equipment. In this case, edge devices are attached to the equipment and captured data can be transferred and used for overall equipment efficiency (OEE) calculations.
OEE calculations enable the ability to integrate a data-driven plant performance optimization business model within brownfield facilities. The accuracy edge computing devices bring to collecting data ensures the OEE calculation is more accurate than when manual data collection processes are used.
Edge computing also simplifies data analytics within manufacturing shop floors. In instances where a shop floor contains hundreds of machines and IoT devices, edge devices collect, process, and store data through a decentralized system. This ensures processing occurs in real-time without having to always access the cloud or external data centers.
The decentralized nature of edge computing also means security is local to each edge device. Thus, this serves as a shield against cyberattacks. In situations where successful breaches occur, the information located within the breached edge network is affected but not transferred to other networks within an enterprise's ecosystem.
In service-based industries such as the finance and e-commerce sector, edge computing devices also have roles to play. In this case, a smart phone, laptop, or tablet becomes the edge computing device. With these devices, employees can be deployed to remote regions and deliver personalized services to the population. An example is the use of tablets to capture the account details of individuals and create banking profiles for them without having to visit a bank. The captured data can then be transferred to the bank's enterprise network when required.
Although the above example applies to regions where internet connections are unreliable, other examples for urban regions exists. One such example is the use of edge computing devices to enforce GDPR regulations. Unlike cloud computing, edge computing devices will store customer information solely on the device, and devices can be configured to delete the collected data within a certain period of time. This makes edge computing devices excellent self-service tools for the banking and finance sector, healthcare, and the e-commerce industry.
In healthcare, edge computing devices are being deployed on wearable devices and implantable medical devices to assists patients. In most of these situations, the device is capable of handling biomedical signal processing schemes to help devices take specific actions. The integration of edge devices in healthcare also enhances the delivery of personalized medical solutions to patients.
Manufacturers within the biomedical industry and service providers who own warehouses can also leverage edge computing devices to enhance shop floor operations. Attaching edge devices to material handling tools or within specific sections helps with understanding shop floor traffic, inventory management, and productivity. The captured data can then be used to simplify warehousing and speed up order processing activities.
Edge computing is powered by the devices and software applications used in collecting and processing data. According to Gartner, by 2025, 75% of generated data will be processed outside centralized data centers or the cloud. This highlights the importance of edge computing and the ability of edge computing devices to revolutionize how we work.