IIoT × Edge Computing: How to overcome cloud weaknesses
What is edge computing that companies in industrial sectors are focusing on?
The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) refers to the Internet of Things (IoT) in industrial sectors such as manufacturing, logistics, oil, gas, and transportation, and requires large-capacity and advanced data processing. With the spread of 5G, Digital Transformation (DX) is accelerating and networks have extended to every corner of factories and other worksites. As a result, it is becoming a challenge to handle all data processing only in the cloud, and "edge computing" is attracting attention.
Edge computing is a system where in addition to centralized processing in the cloud, information processing terminals are also installed in "places (edges) near" to where data is generated and used, and the information processing in those places is autonomously distributed. This article provides an overview of edge computing, and looks at its merits and market trends.
Background of the birth of edge computing
To begin with, the concept of edge computing came about against the background of the rapid spread of the cloud. While using the cloud for various information processing, it became increasingly apparent that the communication environment easily affects the processing of some content and cloud performance is insufficient. A system that processes the necessary information on the edge side was created to compensate for that shortcoming. The spread of IIoT is also closely related to edge computing. Computers have mainly been used in office environments thus far, but IIoT enables automatic acquisition and utilization of data at various worksites such as factories, creating the need to rotate the information utilization cycle in locations closer to the worksite.
What are the merits of edge computing?
The cloud issues and main elements improved by edge computing include "real-time performance," "cost," and "data security."
Edge computing merit (1): Real-time performance
Regarding real-time performance, communication delays occur with the cloud in some infrastructure environments, and this can be fatal for information processing in places such as manufacturing sites where real-time performance and synchronization are important. This creates an advantage for processing at the edge instead of the cloud that relies on communications.
Edge computing merit (2): Cost
Regarding cost, the method of collecting and sorting all information in the cloud consumes time in collecting and accumulating useless data, and this useless data also incurs communication and storage costs. However, sorting data and eliminating unnecessary data on the edge side enables a reduction of time loss and costs.
Edge computing merit (3): Data security
Regarding data security, network risks are increasing as smart factories become more advanced through the use of IIoT, and most companies, especially in the manufacturing industry, are concerned about leakage of confidential data. In these cases, appropriate data processing functions can be provided on the edge side, and data converted to a form acceptable for outside release can be aggregated in the cloud, etc.
Edge computing contributes to efficient execution of corporate operations
The realization of edge computing requires "dedicated applications for data processing and analysis, etc.," "dedicated hardware (relatively compact devices and normal servers, etc.)," and "a dedicated platform for integrated management of applications and hardware distributed in many locations," etc.
Edge computing also exhibits high versatility outside the IIoT field, such as contributing to IoT during the coronavirus pandemic, for example. In the healthcare field, telemedicine programs, diagnostic systems using patient data, and other applications that enable medical workers to respond quickly and efficiently to patients utilize this technology. Edge computing technology is also leading to improved end-user network performance even in rapidly proliferating remote work from home.
Companies entering the edge computing market and market scale
Leading telecommunications companies both in Japan and overseas are entering the market one after the other in view of the potential of edge computing. As a recent topic that gathered attention, a global coffee chain giant and an IT giant joined forces in 2019 to install edge computer products in IoT-enabled coffee makers in stores in the U.S. The stores collect more than 10 types of data each time an espresso is made, such as the type of beans used, the temperature, and the water quality. This enables identification of problems with coffee makers and the sending of new recipes for coffee directly to all compatible equipment.
According to market research firm Global Information, the global edge computing market is predicted to grow from $3.6 billion in 2020 to $15.7 billion in 2025, for an annual average growth rate of 34.1%. Edge computing is considered essential as data circulation increases explosively due to the evolution of IoT with the spread of 5G, and especially as data volumes increase due to IIoT. Going forward, edge computing technology is expected to become the core of information processing.
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