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Edge Computing Devices

(Whitewater Rafting - Jeff M. Wang)



- Overview

The effectiveness of edge computing in industrial settings is such that many believe it will surpass the use of cloud computing within a decade. These deductions or predictions are due to the increased versatility that edge computing devices bring to data processing. Edge computing devices can be designed to function in almost any situation and provide computing resources that optimize industrial endeavors. 

Edge computing is powered by the devices and software applications used in collecting and processing data. According to Gartner, by 2025, 75% of generated data will be processed outside centralized data centers or the cloud. This highlights the importance of edge computing and the ability of edge computing devices to revolutionize how we work.


- What are Edge Computing Devices?

When it comes to definition, many exist for edge computing devices because there are diverse ways of explaining what these devices do. You could think of an edge device as an entry point into an enterprise’s core networks or any piece of hardware that controls data flow between two networks. This definition highlights the most important functions of edge computing devices – which serve as conduits for data processing – and their ability to stride through external data centers when the need arises. 

Edge computing devices are designed to fulfill specific roles and are equipped with the applications they need to accomplish specified tasks. One example is the use of sensors to monitor machine temperature. In this scenario, a sensor which can fit in the palm of your hands, collects temperature data from the machine and transfers that data to a data center or to an IoT platform. 

Edge devices are used by enterprises in different capacities. Their uses in industrial processes are well known, but their applications extend outside the manufacturing and service provision. An example of this is the use of edge computing devices in rescue initiatives. Here, a rescue robot serves as the edge computing device, and it can be tasked with moving autonomously and collecting visual data in hard-to-reach areas. The collected data can then be transferred to a larger visual screen to help with decision making.


- Types of Edge Computing Devices

Edge devices come in different shapes, sizes, and capacities. A router which connects public networks to the Internet is an example of an edge computing device. In other situations, a firewall can serve as an edge device; in this case the firewall determines what accesses a network and therefore serves as the entry point into that network. 

Specialized edge computing devices also exist, which is the category the Internet of Things (IoT), Industrial IoT, robots, and smart devices fall into. These edge devices are capable of achieving a broad range of functions. Larger machines or equipment can also serve as edge computing devices. An autonomous vehicle which provides entry to a cloud platform through digital twin technology or a network is also an example of an edge device.


- The Role of Edge Computing Devices

Edge computing is powered by devices and software applications that collect and process data. According to Gartner, by 2025, 75% of generated data will be processed outside of centralized data centers or the cloud. This highlights the importance of edge computing and the ability of edge computing devices to revolutionize the way we work.

Edge computing equipment is the hardware that drives the application of edge computing in various industries. They are used to accomplish different tasks depending on the software application or function provided for them. 


- Manufacturing Industries

In manufacturing, edge devices play an important role in bringing low-latency processing to the shop floor. This makes it possible to optimize production through data-driven policies. One example is the use of edge computing to collect machine data from legacy equipment. In this case, the edge device is connected to the device and the captured data can be transferred and used in overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) calculations. 

OEE computing enables the integration of data-driven business models for plant performance optimization in brownfield facilities. The accuracy that edge computing devices bring to collected data ensures that OEE calculations are more accurate than using manual data collection processes. 

Edge computing also simplifies data analysis on the manufacturing floor. In the case of workshops containing hundreds of machines and IoT devices, edge devices collect, process and store data through decentralized systems. This ensures real-time processing without always having to access the cloud or external data centers. 

The decentralized nature of edge computing also means that security is local to each edge device. Hence, this acts as a shield against cyber attacks. In the event of a successful breach, information located within the network at the edge of the breach is affected but not transmitted to other networks within the enterprise ecosystem. 


- Service-oriented Industries

In service-oriented industries such as finance and e-commerce, edge computing devices can also play a role. In this case, a smartphone, laptop or tablet becomes an edge computing device. With these devices, employees can be deployed to remote locations and provide personalized service to people. An example would be using a tablet to take personal account details and create a bank profile for them without visiting a bank. The captured data can then be transmitted to the bank's corporate network when required. 

While the above examples are for areas with unreliable Internet connections, other examples exist for urban areas. One such example is the use of edge computing devices to enforce GDPR regulations. Unlike cloud computing, edge computing devices store customer information individually on the device, and devices can be configured to delete collected data within a specific period of time. This makes edge computing devices excellent self-service tools for the banking and financial sector, healthcare and e-commerce industries. 


 - Healthcare Industries

In healthcare, edge computing devices are being deployed on wearables and implanted medical devices to assist patients. In most cases, the device is capable of processing biomedical signal processing schemes to help the device take specific actions. The integration of edge devices in healthcare also enhances the ability to deliver personalized medical solutions to patients. 

Manufacturers in the biomedical industry and service providers with warehouses can also leverage edge computing devices to enhance shop floor operations. Connecting edge devices to material handling tools or specific parts can help understand shop floor flow, inventory management and productivity. The captured data can then be used to simplify warehousing and speed up order processing activities.

 [More to come ...]






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