Computer/Embedded Technology

Future-proofing an organisation using edge computing

28 September 2022 Computer/Embedded Technology

Adopting edge computing is the next important step in future-proofing your infrastructure. By moving data processing towards the ‘edge’, you bring real-time decision-making to where it is needed. This supports whatever capabilities will be critical tomorrow, from internet of things (IoT) technologies to artificial intelligence (AI)-powered applications.

Edge computing will be bigger than cloud computing

After working at the heart of edge computing for several years, tracking the evolution of the technology and developing ways for industry to harness its potential, it is apparent that edge computing is the new growth area.

A change in how organisations are approaching data has been identified and questions like how many versions of data to keep, and how to store and manage the data are being pondered. This also ties in with increasing concerns about the amount of energy used by data centres from a cost and sustainability point of view. Organisations are finding it makes sense to move processing close to where the data is being created and used.

These are the top eight future-proofing benefits of adopting edge computing:

Ensuring business-critical applications are always available

Hosting business-critical applications in the cloud is a high-risk strategy because connectivity is vulnerable to interruption, for example a network cable being severed by accident. An edge computing solution supports smoother operations without disruption, even in remote areas. Reliability increases because the solution is less exposed to external interruptions and so its risk of failure decreases.

This reliability, combined with the real-time processing that can support so many technologies that improve the end-user experience, can be transformative. Edge computing is an enabler for IoT technologies and AI-powered applications that unlock new, more efficient ways of operating that ultimately improves productivity.

Facilitating real-time decision-making

Bringing processing to the edge means data is not making a roundtrip to central data centres or clouds to be processed, so latency improves to the levels needed to support real-time analysis and decision-making.

This near-instant decision-making is critical to addressing the many emerging and future needs across industry, from optimising manufacturing processes and production scheduling, to running closed loop applications to optimise energy usage and reduce the carbon footprint.

Improving sustainability

Edge computing shifts the organisation towards more effective ways of operating that optimise energy use and reduce carbon emissions as the amount of data centre capacity needed is reduced.

In many cases, running some IT processing alongside operational technology (OT) processing at the edge drives efficiencies such as consolidating cooling requirements and combining maintenance visits.

Reducing data and operational costs

Data is the lifeblood of global organisations and the volumes involved are continually increasing. As data traffic grows, the costs of the bandwidth to support it are spiralling upwards, with no sign of stopping.

Continuing to send vast quantities of data to core data centres or clouds for analysis isn’t sustainable, and the costs of managing and storing this data are also growing. Edge computing breaks these patterns, so that only intelligent, processed data needs to make the journey to the core.

Meeting data sovereignty regulations

Data sovereignty legislation is already rigorous, and this will continue impacting on organisations’ ability to extract value from data. Edge computing is a flexible way to stay compliant, keeping data storage and processing in-country rather than sending it out of country into a main data centre or public cloud.

Supporting innovative applications

In discussion with edge computing partners, the biggest use cases that edge computing is currently meeting involve private 5G networks and remote ways of bringing expertise into operating environments with augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).

It makes sense that, after seeing the possibilities during the recent pandemic, organisations don’t want to go back to flying experts out to locations for training or maintenance, for example. Instead, smart glasses and AR apps are being used to guide maintenance remotely and using VR for training. Edge computing is critical to delivering the ultra-low latency these applications need.

Supporting the needs of remote locations

Sometimes edge is the only option. For much of the natural resources sector, cloud connectivity is either non-existent, highly limited and/or very expensive. For remote mining sites and oil fields, edge processing is often the only choice for hosting apps to reduce expensive unplanned downtime and supporting local engineers with VR training for health and safety.

A recent case in point involves a company keen to improve the energy efficiency of their bulk ore carriers and LNG tankers. In both instances, cloud connectivity is very expensive as the only option is via satellite, so edge processing on the vessel to run applications to optimise the use of marine diesel is the only viable option.

Supporting faster deployment of updates and in-life change requests

Edge computing delivers local processing power with central control, and this can transform the arduous process of updating local information.

An example would be in the control of digital signage in retail. Controlled centrally, it enables consistency over the customer experience and makes it possible to change all store displays at the touch of a button. Plus, centralised, remote configuration ensures consistency by reducing the chance of missing software patches.

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