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The proliferation of Edge and transformation of the IoT space

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In the realm of real-time updates and quick decision-making, latency in data response could be a bummer. As the pendulum of the present-day industrial era swung between Industry 4.0 and Industry 5.0, the significance of IoT devices has only soared. Also, these devices have become connecting dots of the digital transformation story weaving together governments, industries, and people in an ecosystem driven majorly by the internet and data. One of the emerging technology trends, Edge Data Centers, holds the key to reducing latency, enhancing performance, and leveling up the user experience. Through this article, we’ll take a deep dive to understand how Edge can induce a transformative impact in the IoT space.

‘Computing on the Edge’

It’s a known fact that the purpose of Edge Data Centers is to bridge the gap between the data source and the end user through edge caching. Edge caching is basically, using caching servers to store content closer to the users. This helps the data center to be a connection between multiple networks or as an internet exchange point for a requesting device which could be a phone, a laptop, or any other IoT device. More frequently, these caching components pose as micro data centers which are modular systems designed to cater to workloads occurring out of the central data center. Now these components can include fog computing or multi-access computing. 

To make it easy to gulp down the tech-heavy terms: Fog Computing, as defined by The OpenFog Consortium, is “a system-level horizontal architecture that distributes resources and services of computing, storage, control, and networking anywhere along the continuum from cloud to things.” While, Multi-Access Computing, a.k.a. Mobile Edge Computing, is computing at the edge of a network. Basically, a technology that allows the processing of large data volumes produced by edge devices closest to the source.

Both these technologies that refer to Edge Computing hold immense potential in transforming the IoT space. Also, they can play a crucial role in ameliorating multiple industries including healthcare, connected cars, road safety, smart cities, and more.

How can Edge transform the IoT space?

Applications of Edge are immense and the more IoT devices connect people to the internet, the more Edge will be in demand to provide users a seamless and lag-free experience. There are three types of IoT devices – Consumer IoT, Enterprise IoT, and Industrial IoT – and this entire spectrum was worth $250 billion in 2020, as suggested by Statista. Further, it’s projected to touch the $1500 billion mark in the year 2025. The sheer numbers bear testimony to the expanding realm of IoTs which will further create a demand for Edge. 

Arif Khan, CEO, Coredge, in an exclusive interview with Express Computer, says, “Edge is a logical progression from cloud…. use cases of Edge will drive its growth and make its adoption even more than what we saw in the case of cloud.”

Many IoT devices are deployed in critical areas across industries. These collect and process data to stimulate real-time action based on insights gathered. By geographically bridging the distance between the data center and the device, the Network Latency Reduces significantly. This is how Edge optimises the performance of IoT devices requiring real-time insights.

Moreover, it benefits IoT devices in Optimising Bandwidth Usage. How? IoT devices stream small packets of data to the data center to fetch insights which requires a certain bandwidth. However, looking at the volumes of these devices being added, almost every day, the cumulative bandwidth requirement will increase tremendously. Edge data center will play a filter that processes and segregates data from these devices. It will filter the data allowing only the required data to reach the central data center for long-term storage, hence optimising the bandwidth.

Edge will provide a massive boost to 5G adoption. Besides, Edge will pose to be a driving force for multiple industry use cases like telecommunication, by improving network speed and clarity due to its close proximity to the end user. Industries where real-time insights are of much value like Healthcare, Automobile, Smart Cities, Security Surveillance, Military and National Security, Disaster Resilience, and a plethora of areas that will benefit from Edge in the times to come.

Data security at Edge: An ongoing debate

The rising concern for Edge is Security. When numerous IoT devices are connected within an IoT ecosystem, it becomes easier for hackers to locate a loose end and launch an attack. In this case, Edge does stand apart with the benefits of being local, however, the fact remains that it is not as secure as a private cloud. There’s no one conclusion on ‘Edge is secure’ vs ‘Edge isn’t secure’ and it remains an ongoing industrial debate.

Sharing his take on Edge’s upsides in the BFSI sector, MS Ramanujam, IT Director, Equiniti India states, “BFSI can leverage Edge data centres to improve customer experience and security by taking computing closer to where the data originates. This will enable making all channels of interaction between the customer and the organisation smarter and user-friendly.”

While, on the contrary, Bimal Puri, Senior Vice President and CIO, SRF Technical Textiles, in an interaction with Express Computer, points out, “In any IT planning, security by design has to be a mandate. However, just deployment of Edge does not ensure better or less security. It depends on the offerings by the vendor and security framework of the organisation.” He also mentioned an incident of a cyber attack at a chemical plant wherein the hackers targeted Edge infrastructure.

Adding to Puri’s comment, Pertisth Mankotia, CIO, Sheela Foam Ltd. underlines that “Edge is more scary, as an organisation has to protect multiple end-points that are possibly located far from the core data center.”   

The wrap-up

Edge is not just an emerging trend but definitely a “logical progression from cloud” which will transform the IoT space. The technology has its use case across industries and in some most-needed arears of the government, public, and private sectors. The edge market is predicted to see a massive growth in the near future and that is not led by newer technologies but by real-life applications. Though, security does remain a concern, but there are multiple solution providers in the space that can aid organisations safely process their data closest to their users in real-time and based on precise insights.

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