With technology continuing to advance, it’s critical to stay informed about what’s on the horizon so you can start thinking about whether the emerging options are a strategic fit for your business. And, while you may just be in the midst of adopting more cloud-based technology to run your daily operations, you may want to press pause while you consider the recent appearance of what is called edge computing.
This article provides an overview of edge technology and how it differs from cloud-based applications, as well as how it may impact your small business in the near future.
Defining Edge Computing
Edge computing consists of a micro data center mesh network that is used to process or store data on a local level. From there, the data can be moved to a cloud storage or central data center.
In many respects, edge computing works against the principles used in cloud computing. In cloud computing, data is collected from the connected devices and then sent to a remote server where that data is processed. However, in edge computing, processing takes place at the connected devices for practically real-time data analysis. This speeds communication between connected devices, which often can be a mission-critical situation such as when a self-driving car has to make a split-second decision.
Much of what edge computing may assist with involves the millions of devices that consumers and businesses are starting to leverage to create a more connected world. With those millions of connected devices comes the need for greater computing power that can move information at a much faster rate, migrating from the “Internet of Things” to the “Intelligence of Things.” And, when connected devices aren’t able to perform as well as expected, edge computing can provide the necessary performance boost.
Beyond autonomous vehicles, edge computing applications include everything from industrial and commercial devices to consumer-driven usage and smart buildings. Also, as part of mobile edge computing, this technology may play a critical role in the launch and build-out of the 5G cellular networks for mobile and connected devices.
The Smart Grid and Edge Computing
A prime example of how edge computing is changing businesses directly and indirectly is its impact on smart grid infrastructure. In creating an infrastructure that will better manage power generation and consumption, more smart grids are turning to cloud technology to integrate IoT capability. However, with the cloud’s bandwidth limitations, smart grids may experience performance limitations. That’s when edge computing can provide the additional computational power and remove the latency issue by replacing it with real-time data decision making.
In a direct way for companies in the power generation industry, edge computing can deliver greater efficiency and insights, while small business owners can gain a better understanding of their energy consumption. In both cases, edge computing delivers a larger amount of data in real time about energy that can speed decision making and increase the potential to lower utility costs for both utility companies and users.
The Emergence of the Edge in 2019
Gartner has ranked edge computing as one of the top 10 strategic technologies for 2019. The research firm cited that this technology would grow in use throughout the year and beyond to address requirements related to embedded sensors, AI functionality, machine learning, and storage.
With the ability to tap into data at the source as it enters the devices, edge computing can change how networks are deployed and offer revenue streams from the new type of value chain created for all types of industries. However, the changing value chain also brings some unique challenges that must be addressed before edge computing becomes accessible for small businesses. The main challenge for deployment into small businesses is the amount of bandwidth required.
Also, the upstream traffic that comes from the data must employ more analytics in order to reduce the volume down for greater efficiency. To bring it altogether for small business productivity, fog computing, which connects the cloud and edge technology into one network, is set to grow in 2019 and beyond.
Edge Computing and Your Small Business
Although it may not be the ideal time to adopt edge computing in your small business due to cost, complexity, and ongoing technology evolution, being aware of the possibilities is critical to future technology investment decisions you’ll make. And, in the meantime, you may be able to leverage edge computing benefits indirectly through larger companies like utility providers, IoT device makers, and smart city developers. By knowing what edge computing is, you’ll be able to more quickly take advantage of a platform that offers it rather than debate if it’s something necessary to your business.