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‘Smart’ Devices Actually Dumb Without The Edge

Gartner predicted there would be 20-billion Internet-connected things by 2020. These “things” are not general-purpose devices, such as smartphones and PCs, but dedicated-function objects, such as vending machines, jet engines, connected cars and a myriad of other examples.

Every second, 127 new IoT devices are connected to the web from doorbells to remotes to sensors on the factory floor. That’s more than a trend, it’s a fundamental change for every industry.

However, there is still not much difference between ‘dumb’ devices, such as sensors or thermometers, which can only complete simple tasks – and ‘smart’ devices which can store data and run analysis. The real value lies in connecting the devices and technologies and developing a system to utilize the data. Without this, you have a bunch of expensive technology that’s really not delivering any value.

Traditionally, enterprises have turned to taking the data from these Internet-connected devices and passing it to the cloud for processing. However, many companies that are using IoT, AI and machine learning have come to realize that it is impractical to move all the raw data generated to the cloud for analysis.

For example, moving very large amounts of data across the Internet and storing it in the cloud can be expensive. Think of a machine learning model for predictive maintenance that will consume raw data at sub-second sampling, sometimes as high as 1000 Hz. What enterprises need in the cloud is not raw vibration data but business-relevant data, which is the predictions of the model that is several orders of magnitude smaller.

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Companies need to move compute power from the cloud back to the edge, as close to the source of the data as possible. “At the edge” in the simplest terms means outside of the traditional data center. Shifting data on-premise should eliminate the need for expensive server maintenance and should allow businesses to scale infinitely without a complex installation process. The key benefits edge computing brings to companies are bandwidth, cost, autonomy, security, compliance, and reduced latency.

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Additionally, system safety or even business continuity may demand local processing of data to avoid possible network outages. The edge is essential for reliability, especially in industries such as oil & gas where machines are operating in remote locations and issues can be a matter of life or death. There will be network outages – storms blow down power lines, workers sever cables while digging, the list goes on. With reliable edge computing, you may still face disruption in business, but it will not be because the network was unavailable.

It’s clear that smart devices will never live up to their full potential until they are able to be properly connected and empowered by an edge solution. By leveraging the edge, organizations can finally realize true ROI from their smart and Internet-enabled technology investments.

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