Businesses see the value in their data, but need ways to turn their raw information into actions that accelerate growth. In our everything-connected world, we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data a day. It’s a massive amount of information to make sense of, and the servers and desktops that power a traditional business don’t typically have the processing power to turn vast swaths of data into a clear direction. Meanwhile, the cloud solutions popular for large-scale data analysis aren’t always quick enough for all applications, and there’s a lot of potential gain in productivity. That’s where edge computing comes in.
The Rise of Edge Computing
For data analytics, many businesses rely on the powerful computational strength of cloud-based systems architected to process big data. Often, many scattered devices collect, store, and transfer the data to a central location. With edge computing, the same devices used to gather the data can do a portion of the heavy lifting – think of it as a way to decentralize data processing and take some of the work to the outer edges of the network. For most, data holds crucial intelligence that can power great decision-making, but any delay in turning data into action can result in lost opportunity, or as we’ll see, fatal consequences. When you combine data gathering with AI, machine learning, and edge computing, you get a powerful way to not just make decisions, but to predict the future.
Edge Computing in Industry
There are hundreds of potential uses for edge computing, but here are a few interesting examples of how edge computing can work.
With their array of sensors gathering information about their surroundings, autonomous vehicles can produce as much as 40TB of data for just 8 hours of driving! In order for an autonomous vehicle to understand its environment and make decisions based on what it sees (e.g. brake now to avoid a cyclist who came out of nowhere), it’s got to process that information immediately. To do this, it’s impractical to transfer the information to the cloud for processing. The vehicle must do it using on-board computers. Any delayed reaction could result in a fatal outcome for the cyclist, but edge computing ensures that the vehicle can react instantly.
Drone-based inspections are becoming common, and edge computing might have a role in improving the process. For example, an insurance adjuster can fly a drone to gather hundreds of images with the goal of finding hail damage or other damage as part of a roof claim. Instead of the adjuster painstakingly sorting through images, he or she might rely on an AI solution to help identify issues automatically. In order for the AI to process it, the drone will need to transfer the data to a central location (often a cloud-based data analytics platform). It can take a long time to upload hundreds of images to a cloud-based system, particularly over cellular networks. With edge computing, data could be processed right on the drone that gathers it. By the time it lands, the adjuster could know what issues are afflicting the roof, which materials it’s made of, and what the labor costs are to fix it. This means the adjuster can write a check to settle the claim right on-site.
How Edge Computing Impacts IT for Business
While the cloud isn’t going away, many smaller, more compact devices will play a role in processing the data they create or collect. This might be useful for an eCommerce company with a warehouse that needs a way to gather and process inventory information on the spot. Trucking companies can use this technology to create, store, and analyze fleet maintenance information and ultimately predict issues before they happen. The healthcare industry could use sensors attached to a patient to gather advanced bio-metric information and serve up instant, hyper-specific healthcare recommendations. The applications are as varied as they are incredible.
We’re still developing new uses for edge computing and today it has the most impact in industrial applications. While the average business might not benefit from the advances in edge computing now, it’s worthwhile to keep an eye on this technology as it spreads as it will soon provide huge benefits to any forward-thinking business.