Breaking Down Edge Computing (and why IoT needs it)

Edge computing will be a critical component of future IoT systems. To understand why, let’s break down what edge computing really means and the benefits it offers.

What is edge computing, anyway?

Edge computing involves keeping the computational data analysis in or close to an IoT device instead of moving the data up to the cloud for analysis. In other words, the data produced by the IoT gets processed on the edge of the network, closer to where it’s created instead of sending it farther away to data centers, or to the cloud. Many IoT devices are now being equipped to either manage data analysis, or to transfer the data to a local device with network connectivity that can compute, store and analyze the data on site.

When can it be used?

Edge computing can be used if:

  • the internet connection is intermittent or unreliable
  • the cost of transferring vast amounts of data to the cloud is prohibitive
  • latency concerns are critical, or immediacy of analysis is necessary
  • compliance and/or cybersecurity issues are paramount energy efficiency is required

So why does IoT need it?

One of the key benefits is the ability to reduce latency – speeding up the time that it takes data to get to its destination. For example, in self-driving cars, collision avoidance can be a split second response. If the sensor in the car is equipped with edge computing capability, data is not required to be sent to the cloud and back to the car. Saving milliseconds can be vital.

Furthermore, not all data generated by IoT devices is needed, so processing data at the edge of the network allows only relevant data to be sent back to the cloud.

Edge computing also has security benefits. Hosting in the cloud may create issues of data ownership, consent and the right-to-be-forgotten with the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). By using edge computing, organizations can limit their exposure by storing and processing data locally and only transferring necessary data to the cloud. This aids compliance and reduces the exposure to cybersecurity threats.