Many industrial sectors go through a transformation process right now. Industry 4.0 describes the next evolution step in automation and digitalization. Edge computing will play an important role here.
What is Edge Computing?
Before we look at the benefits of Edge Computing for Industry 4.0, let us first understand what it is.
Edge Computing is one of IT’s new decentralization megatrend. Looking back in the past, we can see that IT has repeatedly swung back and forth between the poles of “centralized” and “decentralized”. From mainframes over client-server to cloud computing.
Edge Computing follows the logic that more and more data will be generated at the edge. This includes locations which might even be temporarily offline.
An often mentioned example is driverless cars with enormous amounts of data that must be processed in a very short time.
More generally, the Things on the Internet of Things like sensors and machines are also good examples of edge computing scenarios.
In particular, for time critical or sensitive data the locality principle applies. Data will be processed more and more directly on site with Edge Devices.
An easily comprehensible application example is a deep learning application. Let’s say for quality inspection in a production environment. It makes sense, in terms of latency, to do the decision-making and processing of images directly in the process on site. However, the training of the neuronal network strongly benefits from the cloud.
This example shows that Edge Computing does not replace the current stack, but complements it.
How Industry 4.0 Benefits From Edge Computing
Looking into many industrial sectors today is like a look into the past of IT.
Operating Systems are outdated, infrastructure and connectivity is unsatisfactory and management often conservative regarding new technology trends.
Especially the cloud in particular is often met with suspicion – at least outside the USA.
Nevertheless, the cost and scalability advantages are too immense to ignore.
However, to move the industrial sector forward, it needs an integrated stack. With freedom of choice in data. In addition, latency is also very often a killer criteria. Especially for many factory related applications.
Big tech companies such as Microsoft or Amazon have recogized this. Therefore they push their respective products like Azure Sphere (Microsoft) or AWS IoT Greengrass (Amazon).
Another approach to connect the Edge with the cloud is the open-source project EdgeX Foundry, which addresses mainly the edge part, chasing the goal to enable Cloud-native workflows at the edge.
Still in its early shoes is the franco-german push towards Europe’s connected data infrastructure with Gaia-X. Let’s see how the strength of Europe in terms of data protection will flow into this new data ecosystem.
Europe has the Things like Sensors and Machines, but lacks the appropriate software stack.
Edge Computing is the missing piece of the puzzle, in order to move many industrial sectors towards Industry 4.0.
Latency and choice of data processing place are the most important requirements.
The previous chapter shows the major projects and products in this context.
Many innovations and new business models emerge in this area in the coming years.
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