Technology moves so fast that we sometimes have trouble keeping up with the vast amount of data we accumulate globally. Is cloud computing, the latest and greatest way to store data? Not so much anymore, thanks to the amount of bandwidth needed to keep up with our incessant data transfers. Cloud computing works by storing data off the device, then retrieving the data when needed using an Internet connection. The problem is that the available bandwidth is limited—and we’re starting to push to the edges of these limits. By 2022, it’s estimated that the average home will have 50 Internet connected devices, while in 2013, 10 was the norm. As IoT becomes more widespread, the demand for bandwidth will increase dramatically, resulting in poor, inconsistent connections. The solution? Edge computing to complement the cloud.
What is Edge Computing?
The premise of edge or “fog” computing is harnessing the power of local devices to ease the pressure on the cloud. It is a decentralized system of cloud computing that stores data closer to where it’s used, reducing the need for bandwidth. We have more data than we could ever hope to analyze, and a major challenge of big data has been storing this data conveniently for future use. Edge computing can help us access the data we need quickly, with less latency, and without using as much of our precious bandwidth as cloud computing. As more devices come online, we’re going to be contending with even more data collection and analysis, requiring an alternative to the centralized data recall system.
The Business Benefits of Edge Computing
Data security and convenience are both pressing concerns for the modern business. There are risks to storing data anywhere, but cloud systems are more difficult to control for businesses, since they’re either located at remote data centers, or through a centralized system. Edge computing will soon be an attractive data storage solution for businesses for a number of reasons.
Edge computing has the ability to provide almost real-time data analysis, and it’s much quicker to retrieve the data needed on an everyday basis. This system would also be less expensive, helping businesses divert their resources into other projects, including data analysis, rather than storage and recall. If one device should fail, other devices are more likely to continue working. Industrial PCs, gateway networking devices, and micro data centers will be some of the fog computing options that have the power to handle massive amounts of data.
The Future Growth of Edge Computing
TechCrunch cites an IDC study, estimating that by 2020, 10% of global data will be produced by edge devices. In 2016, only an estimated 984 million IoT devices were connected to an edge device by an enterprise or government organization, but this number is expected to climb to 5.635 billion by 2020.
The benefits of edge computing will be especially important in the healthcare industry, where telehealth services are becoming more popular, and time-sensitive need for data recall are the norm. As healthcare organizations shift to electronic health records, fog computing will offer more reliability and speed. Other industries that rely on real-time information like manufacturing, utilities, energy, and transportation will benefit the most from edge computing, and are the most likely to be early adopters of the technology. These are crucial services that need to focus on reliability and quick recall of data in time-sensitive situations.
Already, renewable energy company Envision has achieved 15% more productivity from wind turbines by using fog computing systems, which have allowed them to process operating data more efficiently. Semi-autonomous cars have also benefitted from edge computing, as fast recall of data allows the cars to make smart choices about driving patterns to avoid dangerous actions like running off the road if the driver isn’t paying attention.
Large companies like Cisco, Dell, and Intel are putting resources into making fog computing a viable option for data processing–Cisco has already purchased two companies specializing in IoT solutions. Fog computing also has its own support network, the OpenFog Consortium, which is intended to help drive organizations to adopt fog computing and offer resources to support that.
Fog computing doesn’t replace the cloud, it enhances it. But as we accrue more and more data, pushing computing to the edge is the next big solution to meeting the demands of businesses and individuals.