Let's talk about Edge Computing. It is a way to streamline the flow of data from IoT devices and provide real-time local data analysis. Edge computing is done at or near the source of the data, instead of sending data across long routes to data centers or clouds.
With data being processed at the edge of the network, you can do more analytics on the devices themselves. We are at a point where almost everything that can be centralized has been centralized. So, the real opportunities for the next generation of cloud computing lie at the edge.
Edge computing triages the data locally, therefore some of it is processed locally, reducing the backhaul traffic to the central data center or cloud. It can help reduce connectivity costs by sending only the information that matters, instead of raw streams of sensor data. It’s like hypothetically not showing up to any college classes except for the midterm and final reviews. Except, that’s still just as expensive.
We now know we can trust Facebook and Amazon with our personal data. So, the natural next step is to give them access and control over everything in our house, like our refrigerators. Edge computing also brings future proofing to these systems by allowing over-the-air updates for the device software and the list of local commands it can run. If Amazon starts to make Alexa-enabled refrigerators, that refrigerator can be updated without anyone coming to your house. We’re living the dream.
Your voice assistants, like Google Home, Alexa, and I guess Cortana, typically need to resolve your requests in the cloud. The device has to process your speech, send a representation of it to the cloud, process it in the cloud and send it back. Edge computing will help reduce that lag time to almost zero. Since there isn’t a large, constant data transfer taking place, latency will decrease wherever edge computing is being used.
Bandwidth issues will also decrease. If you have a smart security camera, you can upload all of that data to the cloud. But, if you manage a network of 40 security cameras, you can run into a bandwidth issue. Edge computing will allow you to only push your “important” footage to the cloud, like boomerangs of you and your friends striking a silly pose because you’re unpredictable and fun.
To give you a sense of scale, by 2020, it’s expected that there will be more than 5.6 billion smart sensors and connected IoT devices across the globe. If you give it another three years, the IoT market is expected to reach $724 billion by 2023.
Edge computing has significant applications for corporations as well.
For example, oil rigs in the ocean have thousands of sensors, which constantly produce large amounts of data. But, a vast majority of that data doesn’t need to be sent over a network as soon as it is produced. With edge computing, the oil rig can compile the data and send daily reports to the cloud for long-term storage. This dramatically reduces the amount of data needed to be transferred, which cuts down on costs and time for all parties.
Those applications are less interesting than the benefits of asking Alexa to order your bacon, egg and cheese while lying in bed, hungover in your pajamas. But, there’s more money in oil.
There is a lot of talk about how edge computing is going to be great for privacy, but I don’t buy it. Until I stop getting ads for Peloton when I open Instagram 30 seconds after a “biker” mentions how life changing getting one was in a meeting, it isn’t worth talking about. Try it out for yourself, say the word Peloton three times out loud right now and click your heels, and I am willing to bet you’re going to be seeing an ad for Peloton pretty soon. ComedySeller is getting interactive!
And think about who is spreading that news that this will be better for privacy… Google, Microsoft and Amazon. As comedian and camping-hater Jim Gaffigan said, they say you should play dead if you come across a bear in the woods. Who came up with that? Probably the bears.
To be fair, it will mean that there will be less data in a corporate data center or cloud environment, so theoretically there is less data to be vulnerable if any of those gets compromised. But the edge devices themselves can be more vulnerable.
Lastly, there is a new layer called fog computing that comes along with edge. It refers to the network connections between edge devices and the cloud. I know, boo on the name choice. Edge refers more specifically to the computational processes being done close to the edge devices. So, fog includes edge computing, and fog would also incorporate the network needed to get processed data to its final destination.
I am a 25 year-old venture capitalist and amateur stand-up comedian living in NYC.