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12 Oct 2020

What is Edge Computing?


The next wave of change in technology will involve more data crunching taking place closer to home, with the Internet of Things (IoT), 5G and innovations such as AI and self-driving cars. This move to process data closer to where it’s created or used is called Edge computing, and it’s going to become much more common.

Over the last few years, we have seen cloud computing become the norm. A dwindling number of organisations run their email from an internal server, and most of us have become used to storing our data on cloud platforms such as OneDrive or Dropbox. Similarly, organisations are eschewing internal physical servers, choosing to use cloud-based servers instead that increase resilience and access while reducing cost.

Storing data remotely in the cloud brings a lot of advantages, but also causes problems.  Bandwidth costs can become very high, and the remote processing of data can be slow and costly. This is where Edge Computing comes in.

The idea is that the storage and processing of data is done nearer the devices that need it, rather than using a cloud facility located a long way away. While this may reduce costs on bandwidth and cloud capacity, the major advantage it that it allows applications and devices to run more quickly. For example, a self-driving electric vehicle will need to be able to process information as quickly as possible to make sure it works effectively.

It's the Internet of Things (IoT) that’s expected to really drive this change. 5G and IoT is causing an exponential growth in the amount of data that’s being transmitted to and from the cloud. Examples of these types of devices include internet-enabled video cameras, factory robotics, smartphones, electricity meters and even modern kitchen appliances.

One concern with the rise of Edge Computing is privacy. Data that might have been stored in a secure cloud location could be held on local devices. It’s important that any sensitive or personal data is encrypted effectively, and access is secured.

Another issue is that running a critical service on a remote device brings a risk of failure – the cloud is built to withstand hardware problems that individual devices cannot.

There are also concerns that this will put more power into the hands of the handful of companies that control much of the global tech infrastructure. Rather than us taking control over the software we choose to install locally, much more of it will be pushed on us.

It's going to be interesting to see how things start to pan out as the Internet of Things takes off.


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