Edge Computing: Moving Towards The Edge
Smart devices across the globe today can communicate and access an array of different media and platforms to enhance the computing experience. But with the ever-growing data needs and the increased processing requirement of each application, there is an increasing requirement for real-time storage and processing of data, to improve security and decrease latency and processing time.
What is the Edge?
But what exactly is The Edge? Or Edge Computing? For us to understand let's quickly recap the internet and the cloud. An analogy for the internet today: a number of smart devices connected together, exchanging data and communicating with each other. The data and apps which are being transferred or processed are not usually stored on the smart devices, like your phone or your tablet, but on remote servers which are really just powerful computers with huge storage capacities: this is known as 'The Cloud'.
The concept of cloud-based data sharing and processing is well embedded in our daily lives. Applications like DropBox or Google Drive store data on their servers which can be physically thousands of miles away. Accessing these applications or sending data processing requests is usually done without a noticeable delay, but as you increase the size of the data or the amount of processing required you may experience slow data exchange, delayed processing and increased latency. Add to this the inherent risk of data leakage through cloud-based computing and you might wish to consider a server which is a little more closed and secure than a globally accessible cloud server.
An Edge device allows some or all of the data to be offloaded from the cloud and be processed separately in a semi-dedicated system allowing latency and processing costs to be reduced. This results in a better user experience.
The Edge computing concept also allows for selective data processing. A large enterprise business, for example, produces a huge amount of data from numerous sensors and data sources within its network, but the terabytes of data don’t all need to be uploaded for processing on the cloud. The Edge network can store this data piecemeal, process what is critical at that moment, and the finished product can then be uploaded to the cloud for faster and more efficient exchange.
Like 'Thin Clients' on a cloud-based system, the Edge computing system has 'Fat Clients' which are capable of some data processing. These Fat Clients add to the "in vicinity" processing capability of an edge network.
Use of the cloud moved processing away from the device or sensor at the source of data collection. Edge computing slightly reverses this trend and brings some of the processing back to source.
Moving Towards The Edge
The Edge Computing concept is a derivative of the cloud, but is more efficient. Decentralized data storage and processing in a physically close vicinity allows for reduced latency, but it also improves security and reduces processing time.
Much of the Edge network is often on the edge of mobile network reach. Being able to process critical sensor data on a mobile device without cloud access means users can take action in the moment; it is not necessary to pick up a network signal or fully upload data to the cloud for processing.
These Edge environments tend to also be pretty inhospitable for consumer IT equipment. You need equipment which can survive extremes: temperature, drops, shocks, exposure to water and dust. It is also important to have a device with a long battery life, to be able to go multiple shifts without access to a power source.
The Panasonic TOUGHBOOK range of rugged devices have been the European leader for the last 17 years*.
*VDC research 2017