The integration of the internet into everyday objects is a trend that has been growing rapidly in recent years. This digital interconnection is known as the Internet of Things or IoT. Thanks to these tools, potential benefits such as cost savings, process automation or improved productivity can be achieved.
As we saw in previous articles, Energy efficiency and sustainability: the use of AI, the use of these technologies is a reality and they are beginning to gain traction in many sectors. However, these IoT devices often have certain limitations due to their limited storage or processing power. So what can we do to get the most out of them? The solution to this problem has a name: "Edge Computing". Throughout this article we will delve into this term and its wide range of advantages.
Edge and IoT: how they work
The Internet of Things or smart devices are familiar topics that have been discussed on more than one occasion on our blog. In previous publications such as Café con IOT, an internal project related to the IoT world was presented in a didactic way. In this article, which we encourage you to read, smart plugs were connected to our coffee machines to monitor and analyse their consumption. These IoT devices can range from common household objects, such as light bulbs, to health care resources or urban surveillance in smart cities.
The vast majority of these devices generate huge amounts of data during the course of their operations. Consider sensors that monitor manufacturing equipment on a production floor. While a single device producing data can transmit it across a network quite easily, problems arise when the number of devices transmitting data at the same time increases. This is where edge computing comes into play.
It is a technological tool that brings these computing and data storage processes closer to the devices where they are collected, rather than relying on a central location that may be thousands of kilometres away. This allows users to get faster, more reliable services and a better user experience. For their part, businesses not only process information better, but also enable the application of machine learning and artificial intelligence technologies to help generate better products and services.
Edge and IoT: benefits and flexibility
As we have just seen, IoT devices generate a large amount of data that needs to be processed and analysed before it can be used. Edge computing serves as the nexus that brings computing needs closer to these devices. In recent years, there has been a rapid growth in the use of this technology. Today, edge computing is present in many sectors. The reasons for implementing this technology are as varied as the companies that use it.
Many practical cases of edge computing arise from the need to process data locally and immediately. Transmitting it to a centre for processing causes problems in the speed of information transmission and can generate high levels of latency. A clear example can be found in a manufacturing plant where the machinery is sensorised. Such sensors generate a constant stream of data that can be harnessed for failure prevention and operational improvements. Through edge computing technology, data processing and analysis is performed more quickly, allowing for almost immediate detection of anomalous behaviour in equipment.
Other case studies
Autonomous vehicles are another clear example of use, as they involve the immediate processing of a large amount of information in contexts where connectivity can be unstable. The information that autonomous vehicles receive from sensors is enormous. Through edge computing, these are processed on board the vehicle, reducing latency and making them safer.
Similarly, we can find applications in urban transport such as buses and trains. They can take advantage of technology integrated into their vehicles to find the most efficient routes. When implemented through an edge computing strategy, each vehicle runs the same standardised platform as the rest of the fleet, making services more reliable and ensuring uniform data protection.
In the field of virtual and augmented reality, the edge will also play an important role. These technologies have not yet become widespread, although it is interesting to immerse oneself in a virtual world with a pair of glasses. The main reason for this is that for the experience to be fully immersive, the glasses need to be connected by cable to a powerful computer. With edge computing, these functions can be delegated to data centres to improve the comfort of the glasses and thus make them more popular.
Even the most demanding applications could be implemented efficiently from the edge. The haptic internet promises the most remote presence-like experience, including the ability to touch objects and manipulate them remotely. This would give us the ability to experience and interpret remote realities using a combination of touch, sight and hearing, and would enable services as beneficial as remote surgery.
The future of connectivity
Technological advances have always been paradigm shifts in human history. The use of these tools promises to be one of the most revolutionary.
The use of these technologies can go beyond the classic application of market intelligence, which is more focused on industry, business and customers, to open up a large number of opportunities in other areas of private enterprise. As we have seen throughout this article, Iot and Edge Computing are closely connected, improving capabilities and competitiveness that translate into a better service and a more refined final product.
There are other interesting situations around this world that we would like to deal with in future articles: blockchain in IoT or the so-called "Fog Computing". But the most interesting case will be the one you have to solve. Do you dare to tell us about it?