What Does the Future of Industrial Edge Computing Look Like?
17 Jun, 2020
The future of industrial computing is the edge. This is easy to note today as statistics point to approximately 75 billion connected devices across the world by 2025. The ability to provide low latency processing and speed up computing processes is driving this change, and the impact of edge computing will add trillions of dollars to the world’s economies. While the future of computing has been attributed to the edge, the time to ask what might lie in the future of industrial edge computing is now.
This article will discuss:
Predictions for industrial edge computing
Interrelated technologies expected to enhance the use of industrial edge computing
How industrial enterprises will benefit from the optimal use of edge computing
Predicting the future of industrial edge computing
In manufacturing circles, industrial edge computing is expected to push cloud computing into the back seat once challenges with implementation and collecting data are solved. In a future where 90% of the legacy equipment currently in use will have been replaced, implementation challenges and data collection processes will become streamlined. Thus, greenfield facilities are expected to drive the integration of edge computing because the pieces of equipment replacing legacy machines are expected to be edge devices.
When every item of original equipment, industrial system, and asset on the shop floor are edge devices, achieving the lights-out factory currently being talked about becomes possible. The heightened processing speed that edge computing brings to the table will simplify process automation. This will make manufacturing facilities safer than those currently existing. Aside from shop floor safety, edge computing will also simplify the job of operators through visualization technologies such as human-machine interface devices and smart tablets.
Advancements in industrial edge computing hardware will also ensure that the millions of data sets produced within a facility are captured and put to use in diverse ways. Data capture will no longer be limited to the data deemed important to shop floor operations but include all data produced from interrelated processes. The ability to capture data from informal communications, the use of manual tools in assembly lines, shop floor traffic, etc. will provide a more complete, 360-degree view into every facility. Industrial edge computing will turn manufacturing facilities and other industrial spaces into ecosystems where the system is an entity on its own and which removes the focus on the performance of an individual machine or assembly line.
Industrial edge computing will also make manufacturers and software developers money. Intel’s Vice President of Next Generation and Standards, Asha Keddy reports that we are currently producing too much data but that the process of managing large data sets and receiving actionable intelligence from them will become more streamlined and more profitable. This creates an avenue for hardware and software developers to explore and provide custom solutions for industrial use. Here, it is expected that open-source DevOps communities will drive the development of agile applications while hardware manufacturers build more durable hardware to house these applications. This will lead to a win-win situation for DevOps teams, hardware manufacturers, and industrial enterprises using the solutions they develop.
The rise of industrial edge computing is also expected to face cybersecurity challenges regardless of how far removed edge devices are from the cloud and other data centers. These security challenges will require next-generation threat detection and security intelligence solutions that automate the process of mitigating risks. These solutions must also be capable of protecting edge networks and enabling data restoration activities for situations where successful breaches occur.
Interrelated technologies and the future of industrial edge computing
The growth in the application of industrial edge computing is not going to happen in a vacuum. It’s expected that diverse technologies will optimize the capacity of edge computing and make it applicable to other industries outside manufacturing.
The field of robotics is expected to leverage industrial edge computing to deliver industrial automation at a device-and-system level. This means with edge computing, smaller robots will increasingly be used to handle tasks such as material handling and order picking. Larger systems such as manufacturing equipment and assembly lines will be able to make decisions without relying on input from technicians.
High-speed processing and communication across connected devices rely on networks to transfer data. Here, growth in 5G technology and other networking technologies will enhance the processing capabilities of industrial edge computing initiatives. The speed 5G offers will also provide the freedom developers need to create industrial software for edge computing applications. The shift to 5G will also enhance the use of IIoT devices in industrial settings; 5G and edge computing have the potential to change the application of IIoT in ways that are difficult to predict. In this scenario, only time will show the use cases for IIoT on shop floors.
Another interrelated process that merges with industrial edge computing is the integration of artificial intelligence within industrial settings. In this case, AI can be applied in diverse ways to secure edge computing infrastructure and enable automated processes. Examples such as the use of AI and machine learning to proactively detect threats, respond to them, and enable machines to purchase their own spare parts highlight use cases for AI and edge computing.
Current applications of edge computing rely on a mix-match of different technology solutions to capture data and process it. Thus, standardization is expected to play a huge role in future applications of industrial edge computing. Organizations such as the OPC Foundation and Oracle’s fog computing tenets are already playing roles in standardizing the application of edge computing. Success in this endeavor will simplify the processes of planning and implementing industrial edge solutions in specific situations. Standardization will also create a universal industrial edge computing framework that can be built on without confusion from one region to another.
Hacking challenges in implementation coupled with growth in interrelated technologies will speed up the smart manufacturing or lights-out process that is expected to define Industrie 4.0.
The future of industrial edge computing is one of the freedom to explore the options that cloud computing, lean manufacturing, and other industrial concepts could not provide. The integration of other technological solutions will also play important roles in defining the future of industrial edge computing and its applications. Thus, a definite prediction of the future of the industrial edge is impossible, making the ride all the more exciting for everyone invested in industrial processes.