What’s the IoT Edge and What’s Out There?
The Internet of Things (IoT) has achieved celebrity status today. As with many swift rises to stardom, the IoT has its ambiguities, semantic challenges, and even a little folklore. But a common understanding is forming as end-users deploy real world IoT solutions in many industries. Let me address one key part of the IoT, called the “Edge”:
The IoT edge is a place where the “things” are (the “T” in the IoT), and where the action is. Things can be smart devices, thermostats, pumps, valves, turbines, automobiles, robotic arms, the weather, plants, animals, people, buildings, tractors, planes, trains, and automobiles. These things contain pent up data, inherently within them, that can be unleashed, analyzed, and provide valuable insights. For example, if you consider yourself a thing, you have valuable information within your body. That is, you have a level of body heat (temperature), blood flow (pressure, velocity), eye and skin coloring (light), and a beating heart (sound). This temperature, pressure, light, and sound data provide keen insight into your health status. Metaphorically, similar data is embedded in other industrial and consumer things, providing valuable insights as well.
In the context of an end-to-end IoT solution, a simple characterization of the edge is that it’s not the data center—nor is the edge the cloud (a cloud is just a data center that nobody is supposed to know where it is). Hence the edge can be a power plant, manufacturing floor, wind farm, a crop field, a home, an office building, the land, sea, or air. In addition to things, the edge is home to sensors and equipment which acquire and digitize data from the things, so it can be processed. Control systems which control the things and edge IT (such as network gear), computing systems, and storage, are also on the edge. With all these capabilities at the edge, it is rapidly becoming the Intelligent Edge.
At the edge, things and their associated intelligence continue to grow dramatically. The number of IoT connections increases from 6 billion in 2015 to a projected 27 billion by 2025, and the IoT will generate over 2 zettabytes of data. If you like Big Data, you’ll love the IoT. This deluge of information can dramatically change the way businesses interact with their customers, systems share information, and machines respond to environmental data. And, the notion of perpetual connectivity promises to make enterprises and people more informed, efficient, and proactive, from equipment and facilities maintenance to delivering customer-centric products and services.
Source: Business Insider, 2015
According to Business Insider, the manufacturing, utilities, energy, and transportation industries will be among the first to adopt edge computing technologies expressly designed for the IoT, followed by smart cities, agriculture, healthcare, and retail. These sectors rely on immediate insight to maximize efficiencies, productivity, safety, and revenue across the board. For example, in Industrial IoT (IIoT) applications such as power production, smart traffic lights, or manufacturing, edge OT and IT systems capture streaming data that can be used to prevent a system from failing, reroute traffic, optimize production, and even prevent product defects. The ability to quickly analyze and act on rising volumes of high-velocity data must now become many companies’ core competency.
As the edge gets more crowded, it must get smarter and smarter. This will drive IT departments to invest in new high-performance computing solutions that are designed expressly for the edge --- with temperature, humidity, shock and vibration hardening. Computing at the edge affords the benefits of faster response time, higher reliability, lowers bandwidth use and costs, and avoids cloud- lock-in. Converged edge systems must be able to quickly capture, process, analyze, and act on IoT data. This integration of data capture and control systems, integrated in the same box as high performance enterprise class computing, is a new trend in IoT solutions. This collapsing of many functions into a single chassis affords benefits similar to a smart phone, which converges the functions of a camera, music player, cellphone, GPS, etc., all into one device. This convergence provides less space, less power, and ease of deployment, which are all relevant to edge solutions.
To aid in developing this competency, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) has created a new product category, designed to enable customers to command the edge, and maximize its insight and productivity. These first of a kind converged systems for the intelligent edge integrate data capture, control, enterprise class compute, storage, and systems management. Additional benefits of the HPE Edgeline Converged Edge Systems include:
- Same programming, management, and SW stack model at the edge as in the data center
- Increased security by keeping data at edge versus sending to distant clouds
- Reduced cables, energy, and space
- One part number to buy and manage
The HPE Edgeline Converged Edge Systems, coupled with our growing IoT Ecosystem of partners are just the beginning of what my team and I can do for IoT deployments. We invite you to experience one of our global IoT Innovation Labs and create and test end-to-end solutions – either walk in or VPN in. I also invite you to follow me on Twitter at @TomBradicichPhD, where I share firsthand insights as I interact with customers and partners.