The industrial internet of things is rapidly becoming a reality as the spaces where we live and work begin to become cyber-aware and react to events happening in its environment. In these spaces are “things” of varying complexity which include sensors to measure values like temperature, CPUs capable of sending things like text messages, and antennas to communicate over protocols like Bluetooth — all at the physical edge of our networks.
Many vendors take an elementary approach to building the internet of things by simply connecting everything to a single server in the cloud. This approach certainly simplifies the solution but fails to realize the ultimate vision of a connected world.
The following examples illustrate the gaps in a solely cloud-based IoT solution:
Safety alerts must be issued in real time and cannot wait the communication delay of 15 seconds or longer.
To solve the real challenges of IoT, we need edge-based computing. With IoT edge computing we benefit from five immediate and measurable results. Products like Amazon GreenGrass for consumers and ClearBlade EDGE for enterprises are targeting to deliver these results.
One of the most important things for any IoT solution of real-world consequence is to have 100% availability and uptime. For end users this means a positive, reliable experience. For industries and companies building IoT solutions it means that factories stay operational, workers stay in safe zones and processes run at optimal efficiency. In order to achieve 100% uptime in an IoT solution, a device must be located near or within the actual location where the solution is running. It must be capable of performing all the fundamental tasks of alerting users, rerouting packages and tracking orders without the need for a large cloud server infrastructure. Edge-based processing allows for running the IoT solution in the physical location of the devices. The edge processing can keep the rules running that optimize fuel consumption during low-usage periods, cache data to map RFID tag IDs to work order systems, and allow messages from switches to go directly to the lights they control. Without the edge, all of these valuable, lifesaving capabilities can be turned off the moment a router needs to be reset, the internet gets overloaded with traffic, an ISP has a server upgrade problem or a cloud vendor gets hit with an outage. To achieve the real vision and value of our IoT solutions, we must guarantee 100% uptime leveraging the power of the edge.
Ability to communicate with everything The next challenge of an internet-only IoT solution is that it fails to include so many of the devices we would want included. It takes a tremendous amount of expensive compute power to communicate with the internet. Smartphones today send a constant stream of information back and forth to the internet, but come with an expensive upfront cost of hundreds of dollars for the device as well as hundreds more in annual connection and service fees. It is impractical to empower every device to have the communication capability of our smartphones. Alternatively, we should leverage reliable M2M solutions of the past that use protocols like OPC or CANBUS. Newer devices are using lightweight protocols like ZigBee and BLE. For all of these devices to come together we must adapt them to an edge-based device that can speak all protocols.